Guest blog post written by Lori Bumgarner, M.Ed., Passion & Career Coach at paNASH
In my previous post, “How to Gain Success Via Your Authentic Personal Brand,” I had you assess what others think of when they hear your name. If you completed the exercise in that post, you now have an idea of the personal brand that’s floating around out there about you. The feedback from this exercise can occasionally create some anxiety, even when it’s positive feedback. This anxiety typically comes in the form of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is defined as self-doubt making you feel like a fraud and causing a fear of being “found out.” It can make you feel like you’re living a lie and you’re not as capable as you say you are or as good as others think you are. You start to think it’s only a matter of time before everyone figures out your “lie. ”Business owners and entrepreneurs are extremely susceptible to imposter syndrome and frequently suffer from its emotional effects. It can often make them feel stuck, both in their lives and in their careers. The next steps in determining your authentic personal brand are designed to help you combat imposter syndrome and the negative feelings associated with it.
How to Determine What Makes You Unique
Can you relate to feeling stuck or suffering from imposter syndrome? The first step in combating imposter syndrome is to spend some focused quiet-time reflecting on and honestly answering some challenging but helpful questions. Below is a list of suggested questions. These are some of the same questions I ask my clients when I first begin working with them. Feel free to add questions of your own to this list.
Record your answers some place you can easily access again later. Your answers will come in handy when we tackle some additional exercises in future posts.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What do you want to be known for, or as? (Hint: think in terms of traits instead of accomplishments.)
- Do you reflect this in your life?
- Do you reflect this in your work?
- What are your long-term and short-term goals?
- What are two of your passions?
- How can you combine your two passions? This “marriage” of passions could be part of what makes you so unique!
- What are your differentiating factors – unique characteristics, traits and/or experiences you have to offer which set you apart?
- What one word best describes you?
- Most importantly: WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO? Do not move forward until you can answer this question, even if it’s just in a rough draft. A great resource for this question is the book Start With Why, by Simon Sinek (watch his TEDTalk here).
To get an idea of how this process works, let’s walk through answering question #8, “What one word best describes you?” This can be a difficult question to answer. Try to think about the first thing that comes to mind. Also, think about what others have said about you from the fieldwork you did in my previous post. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything brimming with positivity. Examples can include opinionated, insightful, cynical, optimistic, etc. It can be positive or negative. Or it can be something that could be negative in others’ opinions but positive in your own opinion.
Creating a Mind Map
Now, write your word down in the middle of a piece of paper and circle it. Next, create a mind map by drawing branches out from your circled word and write out as many synonyms as you can think of. While doing this you might find some more positive words for your original word which may have had some unwanted negative connotations. For instance, I had a client who first described herself as a “rebel.” She wasn’t very excited about this word but knew it was how she’s often perceived. Once she started branching off from the word “rebel,” she realized she’s more of a change agent and a “catalyst” for change. These synonyms made her feel more confident.
Does Your Life Match Up With Your Mind Map?
Once your mind map is complete, look at it and ask yourself:
“Do I reflect this in all I do?”
- …in my life?
- …in my work?
- …in how I communicate and interact with others?
- …in my status updates on social media?
Hang on to this mind map because we’ll use it again later in future exercises.
Take an Inventory
The next step in combating imposter syndrome is to take a personal inventory of the strengths you have to offer to your various audiences, including those in your personal life and your career. You’ll also want to take a hard look at your weaknesses so you can know what you should invest time improving upon and where you shouldn’t waste time trying to be something you’re not. The reason why it’s important to know your weaknesses is so you can avoid saying “yes” to the wrong things and learn how to say “no” when necessary. You don’t want your personal brand to be “The ‘YES’ person.” When this happens, you are the one everyone will turn to for everything. You’ll be the dumping ground for the things others don’t want to do. I saw this happen with a former supervisor of mine. She would get asked to take on a certain project or head a committee and she’d always say yes. As a result, she was the one who always received such requests. Eventually, she was working on projects which had nothing to do with her own goals and mission, or even her own job description. She quickly got burned out and became resentful.
If you’re someone who also has a hard time saying no to things you shouldn’t do, the following exercise will be very helpful for you, along with the personal mission statement exercise we’ll do in upcoming posts.
Make a list of the following items:
- Your past accomplishments.
- Your strengths and skills (not just work-related skills).
- The ways your skills benefit others.
- Your limitations/weaknesses.
- Your biggest failures and their redemptive perspective (meaning, what’s something good that came from each of your failures?).
- Your reasons for why you like to do the things you do best.
Making Sense of It All
While we’re going to use your list and your answers to the above questions later in this process, you should start to see some patterns that reflect the authentic YOU. This should also give you confidence in your skills and gifting, while also giving you the confidence to accept your weaknesses. Understanding what makes you unique gives you freedom from the insecurity and discouragement that comes from making unnecessary comparisons to others. Comparing yourself to others only leads to imposter syndrome. But when you’re finally able to stop making comparisons you start to break free from imposter syndrome.
My follow-up post will discuss the next step to this freedom, so stay tuned!
Lori Bumgarner is the owner of paNASH, a passion and career coaching service that helps people get unstuck and pursue their passions and find work they love.