What’s on the other side of feeling like an imposter?

feeling like imposter


Sally Grisedale

“Our history is on a seemingly inexorable trend toward higher levels of complexity, specialization, and sociopolitical control.”

I was reminded of Joseph Tainter’s quote whilst coaching an extraordinary leader this week. She has a PhD from an Ivy League school and 15 years work experience leading high-profile teams for a leading technology company.

She is a wife, mother, and a published author. Recently promoted, she was asked to join an executive think tank that explores the future of technology.

Among this group of executives, my client feels like an imposter caught up in this trend toward higher levels of complexity and specialization.

  • How should she communicate with senior leaders to earn their trust?
  • Are the skills that got her to the executive table enough anymore?
  • How will she learn how decisions are made or be included in the decision-making process?

When stepping into an unfamiliar high-stakes business environment like my client, you don’t know what success feels like yet. And since you haven’t yet achieved success, you feel the need to prove yourself. Under this kind of stress it’s easy to feel like an imposter and think you are a fraud.

To prevent this, Valerie Young, in her TED talk Thinking Your Way Out of Imposter Syndrome, recommends reframing the negative conversations going on in our head by replacing unhelpful thoughts with more positive or adaptive ones.

  • Instead of thinking “This is too hard” try thinking “This may take some time and effort.”
  • Instead of thinking “I’m not good at this” try thinking “What am I missing?”
  • Instead of thinking “I made a mistake” try thinking “Mistakes help me learn.”

The good news is that you don’t need to feel confident to act confident; the body doesn’t know the difference between fear and excitement. So one thing you can do is reframe your thinking.

What’s on the other side of getting your professional happiness back?

  • Getting your confidence back and feeling great about yourself again
  • Feeling connected to the people around you and yourself
  • Having the confidence to speak up and know your voice will be heard

Extraordinary leaders, like you, who shatter glass ceilings, don’t allow themselves to remain hostage to imposter syndrome for very long.

Are you interested in shedding your limiting beliefs as you step into your next level of leadership? Please book a free a free coaching call below and learn if coaching is a fit for you.

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What Is the Leading by Design Newsletter? Great question.

Leading by Design is a blog for creative leaders working in tech. It’s not a “Why You Should Use AI in Design Thinking” or “How to Hire and Retain Product Design Teams with Impact” type of blog. There are enough of those.

I write about the challenges you can’t safely discuss as creative leaders working in tech. The stories come directly from my experience leading teams at Apple, Meta, Yahoo!, and some start-ups and from the executive design leaders I coach today.

I have written about the stressful magpie boss, hateful cross-functional peers, creative burnout, the shame of job loss and survivor guilt, and the fear of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace.

I publish once a week and offer strategies to reframe your challenge so you can return to being the creative leader your team loves you to be.

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