Dealing With Imposter Syndrome
You might be very familiar with imposter syndrome. In fact, that may be the very reason why you gravitated to working with me. You may know my story and know that despite all my years in the industry, despite my certifications and degrees, experience writing for different magazines, running seminars, all my sporting accolades and authoring books I STILL struggle with imposter syndrome. I freaked out the night before my first staycation and messaged my business manager and said I was suffering massive anxiety. I wondered if I was good enough to add a ton of value to someone who was staying over at my house for 2 days and paying good money to learn.
Memo to self!
After that staycation I said to me friends and to my manager “please give me a kick up the butt if I say anything like that again” because I KNEW it was an amazing stayover and that she was absolutely over the moon with what we achieved in our time together.
What exactly is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. However, after my staycation thoughts and feelings the night before I really wondered how hard it must be for the new personal trainer who doesn’t have all that social proof that I have? No wonder they feel like “who would want to hire me?” “Am I likeable enough?” “Can I add value to their sessions?” “Am I good enough to even be doing this as a career?”
An Ingrid Truth
I don’t know why but I had imposter syndrome in my late teens and 20’s right into my 30’s but not pertaining to my fitness career. It had to do with me for some very odd and imperceptible reason, feeling that my parents didn’t think that I was bright and intelligent. So, I did an Arts/Law degree at Melbourne University. Then, because I didn’t think I was still clever I did a Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Technology. Something I detested. But I was trying “to prove I was not an imposter” with my intelligence. Upon finishing that I decided to then do an Honors degree back at Melbourne University in Sexual Politics. And then because clearly, I still wasn’t bright enough, I enrolled at Victoria University in a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement. Upon completion of that I STILL wasn’t clever enough so I did a Post Graduate Diploma in Secondary teaching.
After 18 years of full-time study, I was burnt out, sick of studying and decided to focus solely on my personal training. Talk about imposter syndrome bad. The above example is a sub-group of imposter syndrome know as “the expert” and I think a lot of personal trainers can suffer this.
Experts measure their competence based on “what” and “how much” they know or can do. Believing they will never know enough; they fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.
How Does It Feel?
Imposter syndrome feels like crap. You feel like a fraud and it churns your stomach and it feels like the pit of your stomach is about to fall out. It feels at least to me like anxiety and you are totally plagued in self-doubt. Apparently around 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their life. “I don’t know what I’m doing” said fabulous actress Jodie Foster, when she spoke at the 2007 Women in Entertainment Power 100 event where she was actually the guest of honour.
The Correlation to Real Knowledge
Here is an interesting bit of fact for you. People who actually don’t know much but think they do, don’t suffer from imposter syndrome. Yet most people who suffer it are actually quite knowledgeable than they think.
High levels of self-confidence can be a result of the “Dunning-Kruger effect”, which essentially means you can’t recognise your own ignorance. Yup true story, some people are too “dumb” to know they are “dumb”. Eek. So, they don’t feel like frauds – they feel they know exactly what they are doing and how could other people not know what they’re doing. But as it happens, they don’t know enough to know how little they know!!
The Big Lie
Can you trust me when I tell you that your favourite fitspo, the world champion figure girl you follow, the bloke who transformed his dad bod into mad bod, none of them “have it all together”. Truly. None of them! They just look like they do. Everybody struggles!
Perpetuating the idea that you should can be shredded all year round, only spending 3 hours in the gym while also raising the perfect family, having a career, doing the garden, keeping pets, ironing, cleaning, housework, making time for friends sleeping 8 hours a night AND be fun, and outgoing, and smart, and beautiful, and successful and independent and basically perfect IS THE BIGGEST crock of sh%$te in the world.
We Often Just Don’t Feel Worthy.
And yet, we feel this way, don’t we?
We don’t feel good enough.
We stress about not being able to do and be everything we think we SHOULD do and be. Often, we blame other people, a demanding boss, poor friends, a bad spouse, unsupportive family, blah blah. Oh, whilst we are at it, we can blame poor genetics and a slow metabolism that’s a real favourite. We like to point external blame for why we don’t feel good enough. It’s natural.
What Can You Do About It?
In my opinion you probably will never fully get over it. But you will learn how to handle it better. The idea that you’re not good enough is COMING FROM YOU.
The idea that you suck is actually not a fact 🙂 It’s rather your interpretation of life. It’s how you choose to see what’s going on. It’s the gap between where you are and where you think you SHOULD be and it’s you who’s perpetuating the idea that that gap means you aren’t a worthy contributor to the fitness world.
You have your own story, your own take on things, your own opinions and people want and need to hear from you. So, you need to “big girl” it up and honour who you are. Honour your process. And honour whatever shows up as “your best” today.
GIVE YOURSELF THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.
Self-perception is everything. It determines whether we feel motivated or discouraged. The way we see ourselves is completely subjective and the story we tell about who we are and what we are doing has the power to make or break our power.
Understand and accept that you are never going to know everything about everything and not even everything about fitness/strength/personal training. It’s just absolutely impossible and honestly there is no need to do endless certificate after certificate.
You shouldn’t show fear or comfort with where you are at with your knowledge. Good luck and remember to try to trust yourself a little more. People want to hear what you have to say.