I spent some time last month in the company of a group of dynamic and forward-thinking women. It was a fascinating, uplifting experience—but it proved to me that nearly all of us is hiding a toxic secret.
Although we delegates were drawn from different walks of life and stages in our careers, we had lots of different things in common. Some of us found it hard to accept compliments. Only one of us could manage to say no to taking on too much work. Most of us said we would go out of our way to avoid conflict, and confessed to wasting too much time on our phones.
Over four days, post-graduate women on a personal development course offered by the University of Gloucestershire were shown techniques for coping with life and the workplace.
There was one thing that every single person in the room—guest speakers included— admitted to suffering at least once in their lives. It’s called Imposter Syndrome.
People with Imposter Syndrome can’t accept that they’ve succeeded on their own merits. They’re convinced it must all be down to luck, or that they are frauds. Convinced they’ll be exposed sooner or later, people with Imposter Syndrome can’t enjoy their achievements. They are always worried someone is going to “find them out”.
Life shouldn’t be like that. Once you realise almost everyone feels the same way you do, it’s a great relief. A little bit of shock and awe when you achieve something is natural. Just make sure you learn to accept that some things in life are down to your talent and hard work, rather than luck.
You were the best candidate who was called for that interview. Somebody spotted something special in your application form. Then on the day you proved you were the best person for the job!
Your book was accepted by a publisher, not because they were feeling sorry for you but because they thought people would love to read it. Everyone in business wants to make a return on their investment. You must have earned that contract!
You can shake off Imposter Syndrome, but it takes work. Try listing five of your achievements. Here are my five: I learned to swim, I learned to ride a bike and drive a car, I’ve sold nearly three million books, and I was accepted onto a post-graduate course last year despite leaving school at 16 (a long time ago), without so much as an A-level.
Not everybody wants to be a writer, or go to university as a mature student, but most people learn to swim, ride and drive. Those are all great and useful achievements. The important thing about them (and many others) is that no-one can do them for you. There may be a dash of luck involved on the day, but 99% of your success in those skills will have been down to your hard work.
Fight back against Imposter Syndrome right now. Post a comment on here about something you’ve done that has made you feel really proud of yourself!
Writing is my dream job, and has been from the moment I could hold a pencil. When I discovered I could spend hours shut away on my own thinking about stuff, writing some of it down AND getting paid, without having to do any of that scary human interaction stuff involved in retail (my mother and sister’s speciality) or tricky computing calculations (like OH) I threw myself into my career. That was fine in the days of posting manuscripts out to magazines, agents and publishers. The cycle of sending new work out every week and getting cheques, acceptance letters or rejections in the post was leisurely, and anonymous. Things have changed. The old publishing model has gone forever. There’s so much on offer online for free, writers must become a brand. We have to sell ourselves as well as our work if we’re to have a hope of making a living. I’ve been struggling when it comes to self-promotion. When I saw a book called Instant Confidence mentioned online on the same day I got a £5 credit from Amazon, I wondered if it could help. Instant Confidence is a book and hypnotic trance system (yes, I was highly sceptical, too) by Paul McKenna. It is subtitled The Power To Go For Anything You Want. It was also on offer, reduced from £12.99 to £9.99. With my Amazon credit bringing it down to the positively tiny price of £4.99, I took a gamble. I’ve never seen any of McKenna’s TV appearances so I had no idea what to expect. You listen to a 30 minute audio download each day, then read the accompanying book. I listened to the audio every morning before I got out of bed. It’s very relaxing and at first I was worried I’d go back to sleep, but that never happened. McKenna wakes you up at the end, in any case. His voice is pleasant, persuasive—and here’s the really clever thing—what he says is simple common sense. It’s the kind of thing most people put into practice every day. McKenna’s skill lies in peeling back all the layers of uncertainty, misapprehension and self-doubt that stop people like me having a fun time all the time, like the rest of you.
I read the accompanying book each evening, working through the exercises. Although I finished the book within days, I carried on with the CD for nearly a month. The reason I stopped when I did was because of what happened when I read a business email one morning. It involved some photographs I’d taken years ago, when I was writing non-fiction for magazines. I was asked to contact the magazine, and get some information from them. Until I read Instant Confidence, I’d have spent a day or two agonising about whether the publication that printed the photos would remember me, then I’d have drafted a detailed email, before deciding the query would be better explained over the phone. That would start me worrying I’d be interrupting them, and they’d be annoyed at having to pay me more money. I’d then write out a script of what I would say, for fear of taking up too much of their time and making mistakes. And I’d have put off the awful moment of actually talking to them for as long as I could.
This time, I picked up the phone straight away. The amount of time between me reading the initial email, and picking up the phone to get the information was about a minute. I didn’t think twice about taking action. That would never have happened in my pre-Instant Confidencedays. The conversation I had with the editor on the other end of the line was so relaxed, I found myself pitching for more freelance work, and this was after a decade away from that side of the writing business. From discovering a problem to grabbing a job opportunity in under ten minutes is a record for me.
The Instant Confidence system hasn’t only worked well for me in a business setting. Until last week, I always chose the same lunch option at every meeting of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Marcher Group. I’d had quiche and salad every time, from the first meeting I attended. I definitely love quiche and salad (and our venue, the Courtyard in Hereford offers a delicious variety of both), but it’s also true it was my default option. I felt uncomfortable with the idea of trying something new—until I read Instant Confidence. When the waiter arrived at our table last week with fish pie for me, the regulars thought there had been a mistake. We all laughed. That doesn’t sound like much of an anecdote, but only a few weeks ago I would have stuck with my usual option, and the thought of people laughing at any decision I’d made (no matter how minor) would have crippled me with embarrassment. The fish pie was delicious, by the way. Will I have it again next time? I don’t know. It depends what else is on the menu—and I wouldn’t have said that before readingInstant Confidence! It’s obvious this book and CD approach really worked for me. It may not work for you, especially if (like my son) you relax so well you sleep through McKenna’s wake-up call. It definitely won’t work unless you can suspend your initial disbelief (my sceptical OH didn’t manage that). However, as OH has never lacked self-confidence, he wasn’t the target audience. I do have a couple of reservations about Instant Confidence. £12.99 is a high price to pay for a book with so many blank pages, and very large type. At a rough estimate, I’d say it only runs to 20-30,000 words. If you can’t get this book at a discount, only you can decide whether increasing your self-confidence and self-esteem is worth £12.99. I would never have bought this system at full price, but within weeks of shelling out that £4.99, I’ve obtained some spectacular results. It would have been a good investment for me, even at the recommended retail price. My other point concerns the whole Paul McKenna oeuvre. He is a very clever man, who has capitalised on his skill to produce a range of self-hypnosis systems. Good for him—although I suspect many of the things he says in the hypnotic trance for Instant Confidencecould be easily tweaked to create hypnotic trances for all the other subjects he covers. Flushed with success after tackling Instant Confidence, I might try another of McKenna’s book-and-trance combinations when I’ve got some spare time. I’ll be posting about my progress on here, and on my facebook author page athttp://bit.ly/FacebookAuthorPageCH . Follow me, and like my page to find out what happens…