Win the Battle Against Imposter Syndrome with Lisa Hinz

How to Win the Battle Against Imposter Syndrome with Lisa Hinz

In this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, Jenn DeWall talks to Lisa Hinz, CEO of The Confidence Track, about how to win the battle against imposter syndrome. Lisa has 25 years of corporate leadership experience. She’s led large teams spanning across the U.S. and Canada and overseen change and organizational management. Having seen and experienced the challenges that professionals navigate throughout their careers, she decided to start her own coaching company called The Confidence Track

What is Imposter Syndrome?

As the episode opens, Jenn DeWall introduces Lisa to The Leadership Habit audience, and they both share their passion for the topic of imposter syndrome. It is estimated that about 80% of people struggle with self-esteem or confidence at some point in their careers, so this is a topic that affects everyone! 

Lisa defines imposter syndrome as “a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are due to luck or fraud rather than skill. So they believe that they really don’t deserve the success that they’ve achieved, and they feel like a fraud.” 

Signs You Are Struggling with Imposter Syndrome

Next, Jenn and Lisa discuss how to recognize if you are struggling with imposter syndrome. Lisa provides three signs that you may be experiencing it:

  • Crediting good luck or good timing for your successes
  • Feeling like people are mistaken or lying when they compliment you for being smart or talented. 
  • Fearing that others will find out you are a fraud or find out you aren’t really right for the job. 

Imposter Syndrome Isolates Us

One of the worst aspects of imposter syndrome is that it isolates you from other people. No one talks about struggling with imposter syndrome, even though so many people do. We tend to not talk about it because when you feel like you are a fraud, the last thing you want is to bring attention to it, so people struggle in silence. 

The Cost of Imposter Syndrome

The cost of imposter syndrome is quite high, both individually and organizationally. Struggling with imposter syndrome increases the incidence of anxiety, depression, burnout and overwhelm. It can prevent you from trying to get that promotion or asking for that raise, costing you lifetime earnings. 

It also impacts organizations. The increased stress, anxiety and burnout increase health costs and decrease productivity. It also reduces innovation and creativity, which can lead to poor performance across the organization. 

Who is Vulnerable to Imposter Syndrome? 

A Crossover Health study of imposter syndrome found that it truly affects everyone. The study found that men and women are equally affected by it, although they cope with it differently. They also found that age is not a predictor, so it affects people at all stages of their careers. 

What Causes Imposter Syndrome? 

Lisa explains that there are many triggers for imposter syndrome, “It originates differently for so many people. There’s not just one cause. It could be anything from how you were raised. Maybe you are in a household where you had these amazingly, incredibly high standards set on you for getting the perfect grades and doing everything perfectly. 

It could be from being the first of one. And when I say that, I mean, for example, maybe you are the first and only woman that is in a meeting or within a division or task force, and you’re surrounded by people who are not like you. So that can dredge up feelings. 

It’s not uncommon for a lot of people to experience it when they do achieve success. When you get a promotion, and you become a first-time manager, when you take on a lot more responsibility, even becoming a first-time parent can cause one to have imposter-like thoughts.” 

How to Combat Imposter Syndrome

Later in the episode, Lisa provides some tips for battling imposter syndrome. 

1. Track your triggers.

Lisa suggests tracking the events that trigger your imposter feelings. When it happens, make a note in your journal or your phone notes, whatever works for you. This builds awareness of your emotions and thoughts.  

For example, it might be when you are asked a question you aren’t prepared to answer, especially in a meeting or in front of people. Or, it might be when you are tasked with something you have never done before. 

It might be when you are in a room with very smart or successful people and wonder if you actually deserve to be there. It may also be when you spend time on social media. Are you constantly comparing yourself to others and find yourself experiencing those imposter feelings? 

2. Take action. 

Once you have identified your triggers, instead of going down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts, what is one simple action you can take? Creating a plan of action when you experience a trigger will help you counteract those negative thoughts and feelings. 

For example, if you were tasked with something you have never done before, you might reach out to someone who has to get some advice. Or, if your trigger is being in a room with people who are smart or successful, you might prepare some conversational questions to learn as much as you can from those people.  

3. Remind yourself, “I’ll figure it out.”

Another powerful tool is to remind yourself that you will figure it out. Try to remember other times you have solved problems or learned new things. If there is something you aren’t sure you can do, repeat to yourself, “I’ll figure it out.” This cognitive technique prevents those negative imposter thoughts from taking over your mind. 

4. Let Go of Being Superhuman.

Lisa explains, “I think we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves for the most part. And I think what we tend to forget is that, for example, the CEO of your company, that person has made mistakes. They’ve overcome challenges. They haven’t always had the answers, nor are they expected to always have every answer. And that’s why they hire very smart people to put around them who can make up for maybe the strengths that they don’t have.

It’s using your resources and just knowing that no one can possibly know every single answer. It’s not humanly possible. And I think sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that and also have a little grace and compassion with ourselves. Think about how you are talking to yourself and your mind right now. Would you talk to your best friend that way? Would you talk to a coworker the way that you talk to yourself? Probably not.”

5. Make a Record of Your Successes and Strengths.

Take the time to write down your successes and strengths. What accomplishments have you had? What accolades? What awards? What opportunities? This will become physical evidence of your abilities, talents and successes. So when you are feeling like you are not good enough, you can look at this list and prove to yourself that you are.

How to Win the Battle Against Imposter Syndrome

Finally, Lisa and Jenn agree that the key to overcoming imposter syndrome is to talk about it. Knowing that you are not alone in this struggle is the most powerful way to battle imposter syndrome. 

Lisa shares, “When I speak in public about imposter syndrome, I always ask the audience to stand if they’ve ever experienced it. And typically, 95 to 100 percent of people are standing. So that goes to your point again, how many people around us could be the person we work with every day? We have no idea. And, I will not promise that imposter syndrome goes away completely because it doesn’t. There are ways to manage it, to help minimize it so that it just doesn’t overpower you to the point where you feel stuck and you can’t take any action.”

Where to Find More from Lisa Hinz

If you would like to find out more about Lisa or connect with her online: 

Thank you for listening to The Leadership Habit Podcast!