“What if they don't believe anything I have to say?! What if I stumble through my stories and main points and look stupid?”
Those are the thoughts that kept me anxious this morning before I presented my Tame Your Imposter Monster program to a group of nearly 200 employees. The organization hired me as their keynote presenter as part of an organization-wide career day event.
This is my most requested presentation. I've delivered it dozens of times. Most of my 15 year career in Corporate America included leading training events. I've spoken in front of people nearly my entire career, and even though I may look like I have it together, I STILL get nervous. I wrestle with imposter syndrome (the feeling you'll be “found out” as a fraud or fail miserably despite healthy qualifications).
I know that public speaking is downright fearful for many people and would prefer to avoid it as much as possible. I want you to know that three things that still happen to me when I speak publicly:
I feel like an imposter. I wonder, “Who am I to be up here talking about this? What if I'm exposed for knowing nothing?"
My body has a mind of its own. Sweaty armpits (so embarrassing!). Bathroom runs. Inability to eat food beforehand. I've learned to hide the symptoms well as long as I've planned the right shirt :)
I mess up. I forget a key point in a story. I miss a statistic. I forget to say an important bottom line. I repetitively use weird filler words. I likely notice this more than the audience ever does.
Here's the process that calms me down a little (but not all the way!) before every presentation:
Notice it: I've learned to just notice my racing thoughts and body drama without judgment
Name it: “There's that imposter monster again!”
Normalize it: “Even the most successful people feel this way, 70% of people experience imposter syndrome.”
Reframe it: "This is what growing and stretching my comfort zone feels like. I feel anxious because I care about doing good work." (Or, as Brene Brown says, imposter syndrome is a sign of humility.)
Here's the thing - you can deliver an amazing presentation while also feeling imposterish. You can share your idea without feeling 100% confident. You can nail the interview while feeling anxious.
One bottom line I remembered to hit for the group today is that stalling and procrastinating in hopes that your imposter syndrome will fade is the ultimate career killer. Stop overestimating others' intelligence and underestimating your own.
🔥 Somebody is counting on your unique calling, idea and contribution. Who will you nervously share it with today?
Want me to speak to your organization? Check out my speaking and training programs here!