Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally. Leaders are no different and can easily fall into the trap of impostor syndrome.
Kris Kelso is a keynote speaker for leadership conferences, corporate events, universities, and has been both guest and host on television and radio programs. He is the author of “Overcoming The Impostor: Silence Your Inner Critic and Lead with Confidence“.
Trained and certified as an executive coach, Kris has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, business owners, and their leadership teams. He is an advisor and instructor at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, is a Facilitator / Coach with The Alternative Board, and is a contributing writer for The Nashville Business Journal.
During this interview Kris and I discuss the following topics:
- What imposter syndrome is
- Has social media worsen the impact of imposter syndrome
- The impostor we wall have
- How damaging impostor syndrome is
- How important community is to silencing the imposter
If you are interested in learning more about Kris’s resources be sure to check out the following links:
- Check out Kris’s Website
- Buy Overcoming the Impostor on Amazon
- Connect with Kris on LinkedIn
- Follow Kris on Twitter
For the transcript of this episode scroll to the bottom of this post.
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Chris, my man welcome to the show it’s so good to have you here now. Thank you. Scott is great to be here, so we’re talking about a important leadership topic and that is overcoming the imposter which, as I told you before we hit record, is a super interesting topic to me, because you know what me as a leader I
dealt with it myself, so to sit actually read a book written completely on this topic was like yes, yes, I I like this yeah we’re getting this on the show forget the soda, yeah yeah yeah, it’s it’s super prevalent in more so than most people realize idea.
I think it’s one of those things, because it’s a sort of an insecurity in an internal fear of being exposed that that in itself keeps people from acknowledging it and talking about it. And so then you go around feeling like you’re the only one cause. No one else is talking about it, and so it’s sort of a self reinforcing problem. Impostor syndrome
linda and that’s part of why I wrote the book is just try to to crack that open and say: hey look. People deal with this: let’s, let’s open up and talk about it, it’s okay!
So with that for the list out there maybe like what is this? So from your perspective, what is impostor syndrome in the first place of yoga get on that young, even keel, saint pierre thing, yeah so impostor syndrome. The term was coined in the nineteen seventies end by a group of psychologists in
it’s um. It’s a pattern of thinking where a person doubts their own accomplishments and their success, and they they tend to overvalue other people’s accomplishments and undervalue their own. And what you know what happens is
I may look at scott? Is they will gosh? Scott is successful because he’s smart and savvy and he’s got this great podcast and he seems to really know what he’s doing and he’s got it altogether in, and my success, on the other hand, has been the result of a lot of luck and timing, and maybe I just knew the right people in in deep down. I know
the thousands of ways that my story could have gone horribly wrong in in and it didn’t somehow I made it through, and you know the underlying fear is that sooner or later
everyone around me is gonna figure out that I’ve just been making it up as I go and that are really am not truly qualified to do whatever it is, I’m doing or to hold the title that I hold, etc and and once already realizes that you know the the jig is up and it’s gonna come crumbling down around me and and people who struggled a possible imposter
central, don’t necessarily think of it in quite that extreme
of terms and terminology, but but they have this nagging voice inside their head. That says, you don’t really know what you’re doing and these people think you’re the expert but you’re you’re, not you’re, just figuring this out as you go in in in in some ways you may even be making it up as you go along in and just learning on the fly.
Now it’s funny as you mention that need talked about the comparison thing in right away.
Little tangent a gasser, well, it’s I tend to because it’s still relevant to it
through this talk is that I feel like social media is like an amplifying us, because we we hear people talk, move impostor syndrome, yeah even in daily lives. I gotta keep up the joneses, because you see all these great things they have they’re doing is great trips, while all by yourself, you you see the highlight reel is what I liked or four attacks lately, but you don’t
see all the editing that goes on in the background or the crap. That’s on the background, the cuts and all this stuff. So is that, like amplifying the amount of or the intensity of impostor syndrome to dave- and I think it definitely is- you know impostor syndrome- is it’s been around for a while,
because it’s based on to some degree it’s based on self editing and assumptions that we make in just interpersonal relationships, but when you take it to something like ah like social media, where people are empowered to present a very polished and filtered mean if we litter
really have filters on our social media posts strike, and so people can make their lives look any way they want to. And if you spend a lot of time on social media and you believe what you’re seeing it’s really easy to feel like man, my my life and my work is really boring
and really mundane. While everybody else seems to really have it nailed on the head and and and is just killing it I mean there’s so many people that are just kill it on social media and they’re, getting killed in real life and in that exam that exacerbates that problem of ah of individuals just feeling like a fraud.
Now I definitely can see that, and I know I I, if resonates with me for sure, and I can even go into leadership brown or were talking to day now in your book. You talk about. Everyone has young their individual imposter
uk dive deeper into that than you know what you mean by that and how does that affect reactors on a daily basis?
So when I talk about the imposter,
I’m I’m talking specifically about the voice of the inner critic that that voice in your head. That’s trying to convince you that you’re, an impostor that voice trying to convince you that you’re a fraud or that you’re not legitimate, and I said I very intentionally flipped that and said: I’m gonna call that voice the imposter because
cause the voice itself is not real. It’s it’s a mind game and in, and I call it that to remind me and to remind my readers and and my listeners and people that I work with and talk to that that that voice sounds like reason. It sounds like prudence, it sounds like wisdom and caution, but it’s now
not it’s just the voice of insecurity and it’s the voice of fear and it’s the voice of doubt in, and so we have to call it what it is, and so everybody’s got their own version of that impostor and
I’ve seen lots of examples where what causes one person to be very insecure is the exact opposite of what causes someone else to be insecure
right eye for a long time. In my own journey as an entrepreneur, I felt insecure about the fact that I don’t have a college degree. I never went to college,
so I don’t have a degree and until just recently didn’t have any kind of certifications or anything like that to my name now, I’m a lifelong learner. I’ve learned a ton and have put a lot into practice.
I just didn’t learn a lot through a lot of traditional, formal education,
but I was a I often early in my career, especially felt inferior to people who had duo, advanced degrees, nimby, india and things like that.
On the other hand, I’ve met people who feel like their education is a crutch and that they’ve gotten jobs and gotten opportunities just because of their degree, but they don’t feel as smart as some of the people around them, who don’t have those degrees, so the the practical degree
can be a source of insecurity. If you don’t have it and then it can be a source of insecurity. If you do have it, and- and I’m not saying that everybody has a degree, is insecure about that- I’m just pointing out that what you think is your crotch. Someone else may see as your superpower and- and so you know it’s important to to
to blow off those inner doubts and those fears about one particular aspect of your life or career- that’s different than everyone elses or seems to be different than everyone else, because that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s that that’s crippling you or that that’s gonna hurt you. In fact, it may actually help you in the long run.
That’s that’s super interesting and I liked how you put that double edged at double sided aspect to happen, and it just kind of I guess, normalizes the point that in all anyone can can go through. Listen everyone and, through certain extent, does go through this. Now,
I’m sure from your experience I know I’ve. It’s really not that big of a deal, though right like doubt yourself. Anyone doubts themselves can’t be harmful. It can’t be destructive right, well, yeah it it can be a middle. You know a little bit of self doubt I think is: is healthy right eye in one of the things in the book that I talk about his idle idle
one ever come across a saying. You should work to eliminate this completely and never have I never have a doubt or fear ever again.
A lot of doubts and fears are healthy. They’re they’re there to protect us but um, but when doubt becomes when self doubt becomes very pervasive in and dominate in our minds when it’s all we can think about, it can be debilitating and in particular
it can prevent us from taking the risks we need to take in order to learn and grow. It can hold us back. It can prevent us from you know from putting ourselves out there from stepping up where we need to step up, and it can prevent us from taken advantage of a great opportunity to
it’s presented to us
that we are tempted to pass up because we don’t feel worthy or adequate, and those opportunities are things we should grab hold of in, even in at the times when they true, we truly are in over our head. Just a little bit at a great way to learn is to dive into the deep end and figure it out as long as you’re, not taking
you know, risks with people’s lives and and- and you know, you’re being dishonest in a way that puts someone else at risk. So you’re not doing that, I think taking risks and and getting in just a little bit over your head is a is a great way to learn and grow and stretch yourself in too much impostor syndrome too much self doubt
will just keep you from ever feeling comfortable doing it.
Yeah I’m at home as leaders. We need to get past these things. We need to dive at these opportunities me to go for headfirst and, yes, a is self doubt. Logo real force, reflection, question now is just right. Call yeah can be a good thing, but it can be also detrimental
because then also it takes me your decisiveness and then suddenly people look at your liking. I don’t think the boss knows: what’s? Is it wise donor she’s doing here because you’re taken forever to make this call and we needed we needed to call you three days ago and are still humming. I hung over, so a debts were gets damaging right,
yes, but we need. We need to get past this. So, let’s, let’s dive into you, know the cream of the book and how do we start silencing this inner critic and putting them into the corner same down here? Ah, let me do what I’m meant to do here that has led my team lead. My organization,
yeah part part of it is a shift in your mentality and a specific shift that I that I outlined in the book is moving from what I call a tour guide to and explore and all explain that those too
concepts really quickly a tour guide is a is a person who has a mentality that I want to build a very safe, comfortable space that I understand really really well and I put boundaries around it. I’m stay in my comfort zone
in a particular ominous stay in the area where I feel like I’m the expert. So you think of a tour guide on you know some kind of historic tour or a landmark or something. The tour guide usually knows more than everyone else, and the tour guide is the leader, because that’s their role and no one else can do it like the tour guide and we all have areas
in our lives where we are the experts and where we are the leader in where we know more than everyone else. But when you adopt the mentality of that’s my safe space and I want to stay there, then you put these really hard and artificial boundaries on your life.
On the other hand, if you adopt the mindset of an explorer explores, go new places all the time, that’s what they do and explorers are very comfortable with trying something outgoing in a certain direction. Realizing that that’s not the way to go. That’s not gonna get us where we want and having to turn awry
brown and double back and try something else.
Explorers don’t see, failure as fatal. They don’t see a ah
effort expended only to learn that that’s the wrong way to go as a waste of time or a waste of resources. They see it as learning. They see it as education, they see it as part of the exploration process and so by changing your mindset from I’ve gotta protect myself by staying in the boundaries too,
I need to become an explorer and push those boundaries and move in areas that I that I don’t know and get comfortable with failure.
That’s a key point: you remove the fear of failure, so much of impostor syndrome is about a fear of failure and, in particular, a fear of failure in public, and if you eliminate the fear of pivot failure, because you convince yourself that failure is part of learning and failure is actually part of success. Will
then you’ve essentially taken away a lot of the ammunition that the impostor has to use against you to threaten you to to hold you back, because the that voice can no longer hold the fear failure over your head and cause you to step back when you need to step forward. So a lot of it is a mindset, shift in and thinking differently about, success and fame
So what I’m really hearing from you is embracing a growth mindset, absolutely yeah in in in in in a growth mindset, accepting failed, not failures and don’t even leave label them as failures label. As learning experiences are opportunities because, because that’s what it is,
is it it’s not a failure because failures, you get it’s all negative, but if yeah you mess up, you make a mistake, a home okay. What did we learn at? It is, but that either notice, but the team learn at us- that’s no lie urge is wasted. Time are wasted, opportunity, you’ve learnt something from it. You’ve grown from.
What’s that a growth mindset is crucial. That’s exactly right. Failure is only truly failure. If you learn nothing,
if you you know, if you try something and it doesn’t work and you get absolutely nothing out of it, then you can call that a failure. But as long as you take something away from it and there’s almost always something to learn from an experience, then it’s not failure. It’s learning and it’s part of the process. Every every sick
access is built on multiple failures. Every success is built on learning that has come often from failures, and so, if you look at any successful person- and you can go back through history from abraham lincoln who lost multiple elections before he became the president of the? U
I’d states to the o, thomas edison’s famous quote about how he didn’t fail to make a light bulb thousand times. He found a thousand ways that it doesn’t work, and that was all part of the learning process that helped him to create the light bulb, and there are thousands and thousands of examples of people who just kept pushing
through quote failure,
but recognized it as part of the process of success and- and they eventually got to the point where most people would call it success. They knew that it was success all along. It was just success. Success in motion. The process of success involves a lot of the stepping stones of failure.
Now I love it so now we become more vulnerable. We accept who we are. We put ourselves out there and knowing that hey, I’m not alone here and everything that I see out of everyone else is the highlight reel. I don’t I don’t see them going to the crap that I go through, because guess what
they’re doing a great job hiding it I become explore. I develop a growth mindset and then you know what: where do we go from? There
cause the extols ticket around this imposter thing? It’s the it’s still lingering. In the background kind of nipping at our heels yeah, you know overcome in the impostors, not a one time event, it’s not something that you just make a decision or adopt a growth mindset or decide that you know okay, I’m an embrace v
earlier and then all the sudden it’s gone. It’s no longer a problem.
It’s a discipline! It’s an ongoing process of
taking those thoughts that come at you arresting them holding them in encountering them with the right thoughts in identifying the wrong thoughts and are encountering them with the right thoughts until they’re several things you can do to help to help that process. One of them is to be
part of a community of people
in in that are on a similar journey as you and and are walking through some of the same struggles that you are so you know my world is a lot about entrepreneurship, I’m an entrepreneur. I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and we have entrepreneurial communities, peer groups and organizations where entrepreneurs can get together and share
their struggles and their challenges and learn from one another
in a pure setting. There’s there’s great value in learning from mentors and advisers and coaches and those kind of things. I think everyone should have those influences in your life that have expertise, but that’s not enough. You also need a peer group. You also need a community of people that are on the journey with you and that
are learning in real time alongside you cause
the relationships with those people are where you get a proper perspective on your own situation.
I’ve been in many peer groups with entrepreneurs where someone would come in feeling like their business was just you know, completely flailing and struggling in, and they were so worried about the future or about their personnel issues or cash lower. Whatever the case may be, and as they talk to other entrepreneurs, they stop
to hear stories and examples, and people saying oh yeah. I’ve dealt with that. Let me tell you what I did and and even just the fact of sources. Oh yes, I’ve been through that and it really wasn’t as big a deal as I felt like it was at the time
it resets your perspective and gives you a realistic view on the fact that the struggles you’re having right now, other many many other people have had before you. Many other people are having alongside you and many other people will have after you’re done with it and it’s part of the process, part of life. But you don’t get that
perspective reset if you’re isolated and if you’re alone, so the imposter that that voice of the inner critic will will try to convince you that you can’t be with other people. You don’t deserve to be with other people, you’re, not good enough to be with other people, it’ll isolate. You pull you away from that community, but
here’s what you need. That’s part of the the one of the key tools and and part of the power of overcoming the posture is being connected with those people. I think one of the reasons that impostor syndrome is such a
sort of an insidious psychological mind game is that it tends to cause you to fear the very things you need: community vulnerability, embracing failure. All the stuff that is the antidote to the two impostor syndrome is the are the very things that impostor syndrome causes you to fear and a
void and try to stay away from. So it’s a self reinforcing a problem.
I love the saying you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and this is exactly yeah, no wonder situations where yeah it makes sense, and if you want to get rid of this impostor syndrome, you want to silence them. You can’t put them away,
they’re, always there in the background a little bit, but if you knew put it put some duct tape on them in time to a chair that maybe eventually I’ll get out, but hopefully not on it- is surround yourself with people like minded people, people who are going through life whatever. That is whether that’s work or new school business.
Kids family. At your pick, one at going through life with the same struggles, you are you’re going to silence a critic. You surround yourselves with those people and they’re going to find yourself in a much better place. Yes, yeah being connected being in community others. One key um does one key ingredient, that’s important
to making that community work for you and not against you, and that is, we’ve already touched on a little bit. It’s vulnerability because if you get in a community- and you know you could call social media community- and we just talked about the problem with social media- is that very few people are being real and genuine law.
People are only showing a very polished and filtered version of their life or their business or their career, and so, if you get into a community where everyone is posturing, everyone is, is promoting and bragging and gloating in and trying to one up one another.
That’s actually gonna feed your impostor syndrome. That’s gonna, make it worse because gonna make you feel more and more, like you don’t measure up to what you’re seeing around you. So it’s critical that the community that you join, that you’d choose to be a part of that there is a level of vulnerability there that there’s enough trust that people can be
honest with one another and, if you’re not seeing that again, this is where it’s counterintuitive.
The way to get it is, is to be vulnerable. When you step out and offer you an honest view of your life and career and work, and you open up with people, if they’re the right people, they will in turn begin to open up your build trust through vulnerability and rather than destroying,
but the vulnerabilities gotta be there or that community will actually work against you rather than working for you
love it absolutely love. It couldn’t agree more, and
I say like some sad to say, but my experience personally, it’s in those paid communities- ones that were done, put a pay wall up for you to get in make it actually force people to be vulnerable force. People to have that mindset that growth mindset vice going into a group of both eighteenth.
I was people on facebook,
it’s nothing but chaos and gloating and look at me and I’m so great, come by my service by e book or whatever. But when you get behind the pay wall, communities in there and a month and now don’t get me wrong. All pay walker mean these are great fantastic. Not all three groups groups herb horrible yeah, but my ex
parents, though pay ones, is where okay, I’m here for a reason, and I’m going to open up to this group of people. For these reasons here yeah, I think it’s critical to know what the intent is of the group
who’s leading in facilitating the group. If there is a facilitator or moderator or something like that, and what their goals are, a what kind of community they’re trying to foster ah
and you’re right often when people have put some money in there, gonna be more intentional about what they want to get out of it.
Nick anderson, chris man, this has been short but punchy like boom, no knock on those targets down one thing after another at the book was fantastic. Thank you again for a copy I thoroughly enjoyed it with my coffee over christmas break.
Word very well actually crushed it, ah, but red wine down here now, because I don’t want to dilute your message by jury if it’s a solid message, and so as we do wind down, I got a couple of questions for you and took one. Is a question ice all the guests here, moving for leadership and has, according to chris kelso what may
x a great leader.
I think that a great leader is authentically and it comes back to that vulnerability. Peace right. One of the things that I’ve learned in my own career and leadership is that people respect a leader who is genuine and honest
and transparent so much more or that they respect a leader who appears to be perfect,
and so, when you are transparent and an open about hey, I have strengths and weaknesses. I’ve had wins and losses. There are things I really know well and things that I don’t know so well, when you’re honest about those things you you, you gain a lot more respect as a leader in europe.
Effectiveness as a leader is often limited by how much people do or don’t respect you, and so it’s counterintuitive again like many of the things we said but being vulnerable will build trust, not erode it, and I think that’s really key to good leadership.
Awesome love! It and final thing is: how can people find a hug defy? You feel free to give yourself a shameless plug plug the book is all but yeah absolutely will. Thank you.
Easiest way to find me is chris kelso dot com, and that is chris with a k, k, r, I s, k e, a esso, and the book is overcoming the impostor. The website is overcoming the impostor dot com
also available everywhere, that books are sold all major outlets and I’m on a lot of the social media channels, particularly linked in, and I’m easy to find. If you just search for chris kelso with a k,
it’s always it’s always easy for you to luster they’re, just go to moving for leadership, dot com, four slash one, six, two one! Six two and points are all shots for you,
chris. My man, thanks for coming out, thanks for talking me about this super topic that that doesn’t get a whole lot of white but needs to, and we need to have those conversations for all the reasons that you talked about an interview. So we can put this thing today,
yeah thanks again, absolutely I’ve enjoyed it. So much. Thank you for having me, and I look forward to talking to you again sometime.