Imposter syndrome can strike at any time. It can hit you just before you give a presentation, when you are in an important meeting, or pitching to a prospective client or customer. It pushes all your negative self beliefs to the foreground making you anxious. Your brain becomes overloaded with self doubt, and your self-confidence plummets. You start to think “What the hell am I doing?”, “Why would they believe me?”, or “They’ll think I don’t know what I am talking about” and you feel like a complete fraud.
When you get hit by imposter syndrome it can be devastating. Suddenly you go from a confident person to someone who is shaking at the knees. You stumble over your words and can even start rambling. You think the people you are talking to are judging you and are not impressed. You can feel utterly humiliated, wanting nothing more than to run and hide.
Those doubts that cause your meltdown exist long before you actually go into the meeting, or start the presentation. You may have been ignoring that negative little voice, or at least pretending to, but unfortunately by not confronting it imposter syndrome can strike when you are feeling most vulnerable.
Confronting your self doubts
The first preventative measure is to acknowledge your doubts. Actually listen to that inner voice and hear it out. Write down all the negative self beliefs until the voice quietens down. Then go through your list and challenge ever single one of those self doubts. Prove to yourself that each and every one of those doubts are invalid. You can do this by looking at your past experiences from both your personal and work life to show that you are capable.
Once you have done this put the list, together with your challenges, somewhere you can see it. Every day look at the list and remind yourself that you are capable, and you are an expert, and you can do it. By repeatedly challenging your self doubts, you will eliminate them.
Just because you finished school or your tertiary studies, doesn’t mean that you should stop studying. You don’t have to sign up to a college course but you do need to keep filling your brain with your subject matter. For instance if you are a business owner who isn’t confident in sales, then read as many books as you can on the subject and apply what you learn. Read newspapers, journals and magazines to help refine your skills, or get a mentor or coach.
The point is the more you learn and understand, the more confidence you will have. The ‘fake it until you make it’ approach can backfire if you really and truly doubt your abilities. So go ahead buy those books, get a coach and build up your knowledge and skills.
Leaving your meeting or presentation preparation to the last minute will only increase your stress and anxiety. The chances are that you will head into your meeting ill-prepared leaving you feeling vulnerable and open to imposter syndrome. This will ultimately decrease your chances of success.
Make sure you give yourself sufficient time to do research, prepare your scripts and rehearse what you want to say. The point of preparation is to clarify your message and ensure that you know it off by heart. If public speaking is a nightmare for you, first practise your speech out loud alone, then practice it in front of people you trust – like family or friends. Get them to give you feedback on what you presented and incorporate it into your notes. Keep practicing until you are completely confident in what you are presenting.
Just like a flu vaccination, these strategies will limit the likelihood of you suffering from imposter syndrome however they can’t completely eliminate it from happening. The only true way to rid yourself of imposter syndrome is to do the above and keep doing it. As they say practice makes perfect so if public speaking is your nemesis, then keep doing it. Grab every opportunity you can. If you hate sales pitches, keep pitching. List clients you really want and those you can live without. Start pitching to the less important clients first and build up your self-confidence with each pitch you give.