One of my values is growth so I have put my money where my mouth is and am currently studying for a Diploma in Coaching and Mentoring. It’s pretty hardcore and quite frankly, I underestimated the time I would need to commit to it. In addition to the days in the classroom, there is the reading, sessions with my mentee and coachees, the developmental, reflection and learning notes I’m to keep, let alone the 3,000 word assignments I’m to write during the duration of the course – all seven assignments.
I mistakenly thought that as I write blogs, this wouldn’t be a problem. Writing is writing, surely? Nope. I haven’t written an essay or handed in an assignment for 25 years. Yes, 25 years. Yikes. When I thought of it like that, I really did start to wonder what had I done?!
What you think about isn’t nearly as important as the way you think about what you think about
Isn’t it funny – well no, not really – how when things get a bit tricky, rather than power up, put on a suit of armour and mentally ready ourselves, far too many of us put up the barriers and we instantly think we’re not good enough, that we’ve made a mistake. Those nasty little gremlins start their whispering and the self-limiting beliefs are activated.
The thing is, most of the time, we know the stuff we need to know but once the gremlins move in and set up camp, we forget everything. The analogy I liken it to is that all the knowledge we have, or the resources we possess to solve a problem, are behind a row of doors in our brain. When we feel calm and in control, the doors swing open and we have access to all that we know. However, when we’re full of negative thoughts, our brain cannot be open and resourceful, and all those doors slam firmly shut.
On a hen night recently (yes, just about young enough to be invited), one of the activities was putting ourselves in an Escape Room, or a Panic Room as it became known as. Five of us found ourselves in a themed mad professor’s office and had to discover his magic serum. There were combination locks and padlocks everywhere, random things written on the wall, batteries to a UV light torch strategically hidden and numerous books which we weren’t sure as to whether they held clues or not… We had 60 minutes to solve the riddles. We earnestly cracked on and made great headway to begin with but then we seemed to hit a brick wall and couldn’t seem to move forward. As time ticked by, we became more panicked about not being able to solve the clues. The simplest things seemed to fox us.
There was CCTV so if we got stuck on something for a long time, the guy outside would type a cryptic clue on the small TV screen for us. A bell would sound indicating he’d sent a message. I think the most laughable moment was when we realised we’d kept moving between two rooms by crouching down and crawling through the fireplace door that we had revealed, only to be told there was a full length door we could open and walk through into the second room – the very same door we had been staring at for 30 minutes because on it were names of chemistry elements which we attempted to link together somehow. Our panic meant we hadn’t even put two and two together and turned the handle of that door to move between the two rooms…! We’d got to the point where we couldn’t see the wood for the trees and that of course meant we reached stalemate. We plateaued and it was quite literally Game Over.
The quality of my actions cannot exceed the quality of my thinking
Self-limiting beliefs can be hugely debilitating. They can cripple us in terms of not being able to move forward. If we believe the voice in our head telling us we’re not good enough, that we can’t do it, why would we even think we could achieve such a thing etc etc … If we believe that voice, then we’ll stay exactly where we are, in that Panic Room.
Sometimes, we manage to conquer those self-limiting beliefs and go for it but sometimes, we allow those self-limiting beliefs to manifest themselves in another guise - the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. We get good at what we’re doing, too good by all accounts because we then feel things are going too well and surely, we can’t be that good at this… We have thoughts of inadequacy, we’re here because luck has had a hand in it and someone sooner or later is going to suss us out, we’ll get a tap on the shoulder and be told our promotion was a mistake, that the job we were employed to do isn’t working out for us, that our performance isn’t quite what was hoped for.
This is when you don't feel worthy of your success. You don't feel able to take the credit - you think it's all a fluke and you're unable to realise you're where you're at due to your skills, qualifications, experience and personality. Very often high achievers find themselves feeling an Imposter, including the fabulous Michelle Obama!
Strategies to reframe your mindset
So why think of yourself as an Imposter? It's about looking at your self-image – the combination of your self-competence and your self-worth. You need to think about the way you think about yourself and what you can do to realise you’ve achieved where you're at through hard work, tenacity and skills. You need to realise you deserve this success!
So, here are my top tips to get yourself out of the Panic Room:
We're all worthy of success, whatever that might mean to us, we just need to allow it for ourselves. Then great things can be achieved and celebrated!
Here's to you and all you achieve!