Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Have You Felt Like An Imposter?

One of the top viewed TED Talks of all time is Amy Cuddy’s June 2012, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. Watch it and you will understand why it has had over 34 million views! Her message is about how body language is an important part of our communication. Negative body language (arms crossed, facial frown, etc) creates judgment, unnecessary phantom rules (assumptions) and ugly stories.

Cuddy makes the point in her talk that we are influenced by our own body language. When we feel powerful, we physically open up much like animals do
Open on the zip-line
when they display power. Think of a bear standing up on its hind legs, a cat arching it’s back or a partially coiled reared up snake, all are postures of power. On the other hand, when we feel powerless or lack confidence, we close up and make ourselves smaller.

If we tend toward a lack of confidence in our body language and are aware of this behavior, Cuddy suggests we learn to “fake-it-until-we-make-it” to help overcome how our non-verbal actions govern how we think and feel about ourselves. In other words, begin with positive body movements and let our minds and hearts catch-up! It's about focusing on our presence.

Presence is how you show up including being authentic, confident, enthusiastic and passionate. But if you “fake-it-until-you-make-it,” you may feel like a fraud or an imposter. Cuddy suggests you “Fake it until you become it!”

When Lee Reading, Director of Camp Joy, Clarksville, OH, was giving me a tour of Camp Joy for my job interview back in 2000, we came across a group doing the Pamper Pole, a high ropes element. I hate heights! I asked Lee if I’d be required to experience these elements. I believe he could sense my fear and assured me the staff would work with me. With help from the Camp Joy staff, especially Tim Eppstein, I did “fake-it-until-I-became-it!” This helped me appreciate the large number of adult participants who got into their panic zone when it came to high-rope elements.

SMILE! If you're smiling, you're breathing!
I experienced adult participants on high-rope elements who would freeze-up and felt like they could go no further. I discovered if I could get them to first create body posture that was more open, including letting go of their death grip on their sling-lines, and then answer two projection questions about the future based on possible outcomes to get in touch with their feelings, I could help them take another step forward. They could let go to zip-line or be belayed back to the ground. It was all about dialing down their self-induced stress and fear.

Cuddy’s TED Talk led to her writing Presence, a NY
Made it through faking it!
Times bestseller in December 2015. I read Cuddy’s book. When I got to the chapter, “I Don’t Deserve To Be Here,” where she thoroughly explains the imposter experience, I cried. I had been there and felt I was an imposter on several memorable occasions. According to Cuddy, “Imposterism steals our power and suffocates our presence.” page 89

The truth is, no one is immune to the imposter experience. The good news is we can overcome the imposter experience by developing our personal power … “the power to act with confidence based on one’s beliefs, attitudes and values and having a sense that one’s actions will be effective.” Page 115

Since reading Presence, I’ve been sharing my imposter experience with people I trust. They have revealed some of their imposter experiences to me. Powerful! What could this do for a group trying to become a well functioning team? I believe it could have a huge positive benefit!

I would encourage you to read Presence and explore the imposter experience. Have a conversation with people with whom you feel you can be vulnerable. Discover the imposter experience is not something to be ashamed of. As Cuddy writes, “… the more we are aware of our anxieties, the more we communicate about them, and the smarter we are about how they operate, the easier they’ll be to shrug off the next time they pop up. It’s a game of whack-a-mole we can win!” page 109

1 comment:

Amy Climer said...

You worked at Camp Joy! I led some staff training for them last year - great group of facilitators. So glad you are sharing this. I learned about the Imposter Syndrome on my first day of my PhD program at Antioch. The director explained it to us and then assured us they did not make a mistake in accepting any of us into the program. It was a cool moment and understanding the Imposter Syndrome has been very helpful to me. In case you are curious, here is a podcast episode I did about it: climerconsulting.com/episode-26-is-the-imposter-syndrome-decreasing-your-creativity/