I had a great day yesterday. A GREAT day. I had my first really big speaking engagement as a Leadership Coach, speaking at the Women into Leadership Conference in Glasgow.
And I nailed it. I was confident on stage, I engaged the audience, I was authentic, I had impact, the audience each took something for themselves of value. I’d know that even without any feedback – and I had a lot of great feedback and thanks afterwards.
I felt comfortable on stage in front of 150-200, successful, high impact women. I enjoyed myself. I trusted the content I had and the value I was delivering and it worked. I didn’t perform, I led with heart and power. I came out beaming, and buzzing with energy and happiness.
But how long did that feeling of joy last?
For me, about 3 hours. On the train home, I ran into a problem. The wifi that had been so reliable on the way travelling to Glasgow was non-existent on the way back. I had a mess of a call with a client, which we eventually gave up on and rescheduled to Monday. Then on an important leader team call for the coaching and leadership program I help to lead, I was asked to leave the call because me cutting in and out was a distraction.
Suddenly in that moment, all the celebration of my day slipped away. I was back into thinking that I screwed up, I shouldn’t have said yes to the speaking as it has messed everything else up. That’s my fault, and I’ve now let people down, something I hate to do. That moment I was asked to step off the call I felt about 2 inches tall, a pain, a distraction, no longer adding value but taking it away.
It’s a beautiful irony given that the workshop I delivered was on the impostor syndrome. Here was me, just a few hours later, blaming myself for not being 100% perfect, 100% of the time. Making that mean I’m worthless, that I don’t deserve to be here, and letting it ruin my wonderful day. Meet my inner perfectionist, who sets the bar so insanely high I can never, ever reach it.
So I’m going to take some of my own advice for when impostor syndrome shows up…
1. Speak up – what I’m doing right now, getting this “story” out of my head where it grows and grows, and shining some daylight on it to help it wither.
2. Forgive myself – remind myself it’s OK. I’m human, things went wrong, it doesn’t mean anything about me, my commitment, or that I’m somehow not an awesome human.
3. Celebrating the wins – I’m consciously reminding myself of the 98% of yesterday that was absolutely brilliant, not the 2% that went a bit wonky, and celebrating the huge win. My brain may be trying to persuade me otherwise – but I’m not listening!
Our brains are hardwired not to celebrate, because it’s dangerous. We might miss the next lurking danger, so it’s safer to be in a constant state of vigilance for what has or will soon go wrong. But while that was useful in a land of sabre toothed tigers, we don’t need it today. It takes practise to break that habit, but I’m right here, practising.
Where do you notice you can’t “be with” your own success? Where joy turns so rapidly to fear and doubt? Where your focus is so much on what’s not working, that you can’t celebrate what is? What if you practised celebrating your awesome self a little bit longer today? Go on, I dare you!