While it might not be easy to detect, many professionals struggle with the belief that they are good or qualified enough, regardless of their education, achievements and experience. This feeling of fraudulence impacts each person differently and can show up in many ways.
As a new life coach, you are not immune to this unpopular, but pervasive pest known as: Imposter Syndrome.
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking…
- I don’t think I have what it takes to coach other people
- I have no idea if I can deliver the results my clients need
- I don’t know what I’m doing
- I don’t have enough experience
…you are not alone. Many life coaches have found themselves dealing with these sort of self-defeating thought patterns at various points in their career. As a new life coach, it can be particularly challenging to overcome such thinking as you are in the beginning stage of building your experience and expertise in this field.
Imposter syndrome is not limited to life coaches, however. In fact, according to one study by the International Journal of Behavioral Science, as many as 70% of people across all industries have experienced this feeling at least once in their lives. This means there is a strong chance that many of the clients you will be working with will also need guidance and support to overcome the challenges of imposter syndrome.
So, What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Merriam Webster defines imposter syndrome as “a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success.”
Although nobody seems to know exactly where these negative thoughts come from, there are some ideas that may offer a little insight. Research has found that imposter syndrome can be traced back to childhood. According to these findings, women who struggle with imposter syndrome fall into two groups: those who were raised with high expectations and those who were underestimated as being capable of achieving much success.
The first group, those who were raised with high expectations, were subjected to pressure to perform well in various contexts. Rather than excelling in areas that came natural to them, this group dealt with ongoing pressure to excel in all things, even when they didn’t feel properly equipped.
The second group, those who were underestimated, were more likely to strive harder throughout their lives for recognition and validation from others.
Because the effects of imposter syndrome can be devastating to your mental and emotional well-being, it is very important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may be showing up in your life. Once you know what to look for, you can take action toward overcoming these dangerous and unhealthy thought patterns.
Signs and symptoms to look for:
- Lack of self confidence
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Excessive comparison to other people
- Insecure about capabilities
- Negative self-talk
- Dwelling on the past
- Irrational fears of the future
- Minimize or discount accomplishments
While it’s normal to experience these sorts of thoughts and feelings at different points in your life, once it begins to interfere with your health and/or ability to do your job well, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.
In the coaching community, it is common for new coaches struggling with imposter syndrome to grow so great in their doubt that they either delay launching their business or quit altogether. Rather than using their unique gifts and talents to help others, they succumb to the doubts and fears that tell them they’re not good enough.
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you step into a new career as a life coach:
Facing Imposter Syndrome Head On
One of the most effective ways to conquer any challenge is to face it head-on. When you acknowledge the presence of a persistent negative thought or emotion, you are in essence saying to it “Okay, you are here and so am I and there is only room for one of us…”
To become a successful life coach, you will have to figure out how to replace these limiting beliefs with confidence and certainty whenever they come up. A great strategy to practice is making a list that is easy to access with reminders of self-worth and achievements.
For example, you can create a list on your Google Drive or Notes on your iPhone of all your client testimonials, text messages, social media comments, and even verbal feedback you’ve received. Don’t worry about how old some of these things might be- the point is to focus on validating your achievements with actual proof.
Additionally, you can keep the following things in mind as powerful reminders:
You are not alone. As an emerging industry, life coaching is full of talented people like yourself, who are all figuring it out along the way.
You are unique in every way. Can you imagine if every life coach provided the same type of coaching? In this field, diversity in every sense of the word is not only preferred, but desperately needed.
Comparison is the thief of joy. As much as you admire other professionals in this field, be careful to limit your exposure so that you do not begin to diminish your coaching skills and abilities. It’s perfectly fine to learn what you need from others, but avoid falling into the trap of comparison.
Using Imposter Syndrome to Be a Better Coach
As a life coach, dealing with imposter syndrome isn’t all bad. You will find that many of the clients you work with also struggle with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt and will turn to you for guidance and support. By having personal experience, you will be in a better position to offer encouragement and empathy from a place of understanding. If it’s something you’ve been able to personally overcome, you can use your new knowledge to help your clients create a plan of action to combat their own fears.
In addition to the effective strategies you’ve added to your coaching toolkit, here are some other ideas you can keep on hand for yourself or your clients the next time imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.
Talk it out with a coach, friend, or family member. By openly sharing your thoughts, you may be able to more easily filter through any irrational fears. Having the ear of another person can prove to be all you need to reset your mind and re-shift your mindset.
Journal. Take pen to paper and begin writing about your fears and doubts. Be as thorough as possible and include evidence that proves or disproves each fear. Use this opportunity to be vulnerable and raw about your current state of mind. This process will allow you to separate fact from fiction.
Practice affirmations. Affirmations can be a powerful tool when used correctly. These should be short, specific, and positive statements about yourself and your abilities. Affirmations such as “I can help my clients achieve powerful transformation”, “I am a great listener”, or “I am qualified and equipped to do my work well” can work wonders for rewiring negative thoughts into positive and uplifting ones.
Self-talk. Unlike affirmations, self-talk is when you have pep-talks with yourself. This can include reminders about your achievements, experience, knowledge, and more. Imagine you are speaking to a client, but direct it towards yourself and do your best to take it in. Over time, you will default more quickly and naturally to positive reminders when imposter syndrome unexpectedly shows up in your life.