This week on The WarriorU Podcast, Trent and Bram are joined by Organisational Psychologist and career path strategist, Gaj Ravichandra, to unpack ‘imposter syndrome’ – what it is, how to spot it in yourself and your team, and what to do about it. By the end of the episode, you will not only understand why 70 per cent of the population feel anxious and unworthy in particular social situations but also how to choose a better, more productive way of thinking that allows you to perform at a higher level.
A Glimpse of the Guest
Name: Gaj Ravichandra
What he does: A qualified and experienced Organisational Psychologist and Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Kompass Consultancy, Gaj is recognised for his effective leadership training techniques, and for his passion for helping clients from all around the world reach their highest potential. For over 20 years, he has worked with leading organisations and individuals to maximise performance and accelerate growth, leaning on his psychology training to deliver the most effective evidence-based solutions.
Food for Thought
[6:21] “Acting authentically requires a heck of a lot of freedom in your mind, and provokes a lot of anxiety because you can’t blame anyone else if you choose to live authentically. You can’t blame your parents, you can’t blame your genetics, you can’t blame your culture – you need to take responsibility for that. So, all of a sudden…you are looking inwardly.”
Top Tips from this episode
Swap the ‘syndrome’ for ‘experience’: “Syndrome is one step away from a disease…so I think in the minds of people it can be quite dangerous. So, I call them imposter experiences.”
What imposter experiences are:
- Feelings of being unworthy or a fraud in particular social settings (such as a workplace) or when something is new (such as meeting new people)
- More common in women, but a growing issue in men
- Driven by our need to belong and linked to insecurities that already exist
- A choice
- Varied in intensity.
What imposter experiences are not:
- A mental illness
- Something that occurs frequently, in all facets of your life.
Check your attribution bias: A good way to manage (or avoid) imposter experiences is to reflect on where you are attributing your success. Is it to internal factors, such as your hard work, character, intelligence and skill sets? Or to external factors, such as luck, legislation, other people and situations? [18:39] “If you attribute all of your successes to all of these external things…you aren’t reflecting on the fact that you have some internal capacity and capability to deliver.”
Gaj’s top tips for combatting imposter experiences:
- Preparation – having a plan builds confidence and eases the anxiety associated with imposter experiences.
- Embrace and unpack the thoughts associated with imposter experiences – what are those feelings of anxiety telling you about the additional skills, knowledge or experience you may need to feel more confident?
- Find your lane – think about the internal attributes or strengths that have made you a success to date. Have two or three key moments of success (anchors) in your arsenal to draw upon when imposter experiences set in.
- Have the right support system – Find people who support you and challenge you, and make you feel comfortable enough to be your authentic self.
- Pay it forward – Supporting and teaching others in their own endeavours reminds you that you’re capable.
Reframing the illusions of the ‘magician in our head’: At [10:35], Gaj describes our mind as a magician that’s creating illusions that we can choose to believe or to ignore. You have the power to take that unhelpful thought or feeling, and replace it or reframe it with a thought or feeling that’s nurturing. “High performers take a negative situation and flip it over.”
Value in seeing others be their authentic self: At [39:42], Gaj recalls a diplomat for Australia who presented to year 11 students at their former high school. Now highly successful and representing her country, the diplomat told the students recalled that every recess and lunch during her childhood, she would run to the art room and hide from her school mates. For Gaj, it was an important lesson for those students that normalised imposter experiences and general social anxieties, and gave the kids hope for a successful future. “I saw a collective relief from 140 students…that sense of vulnerability, was leadership for me. It took a lot of courage and I don’t think she realised the impact she had on those kids. It’s going to be profound.”
[9:30] “We are all social creatures. We want to feel a sense of belonging and feel validated in terms of the work we do, and that drives a lot of the behaviour and how we feel about things.”
[23:53] “Give yourself respect, and the opportunity to make mistakes and learn. Be willing to do that – none of us are perfect.”
[42:37] “You are the only centre of the universe for yourself. Nobody really thinks about you for that long.”