I was recently invited to join a Whatsapp group of coaches for the SheLeadsChange women's leadership programme.
When the other women introduced themselves, I was overwhelmed and deeply impressed by the calibre, experience and passion of the group.
And yet, as someone who had been invited to support and provide opportunities for development and supervision to the group, it also, unexpectedly, triggered a huge impostor response.
It took a couple of days to figure out what the feeling was, but then I sat down quietly and faced, explored and challenged it in much the same way I would with a client: using deep listening, compassion, questioning enquiry and postive reframing. I've mapped below my thoughts, responses and mental and emotional process as an illustration of how coaching works, in this case internally, to shift aspects of ourselves.
How do I respond to all the amazing introductions in a group like this?
Do you hear how everyone sounds like you, but in a good light, perhaps on a good day, maybe on one of your best ever days?
Do you assume the others must have been in bright, shiny groups for so long they’ve forgotten how not to be confident, polished, gifted and self-aware?
Do you, like me, find your mind comparing their skills and experiences to yours (and finding yourself lacking)?
Do you wonder if you are in competition, that we may be playing at collaboration ('cos when the buck stops, whose interests are gonna come first)?
Blinded by the bright, shiny light of the multiple lenses of leadership champions, change consultants, directors of social enterprises, published academics, executive coaches and positive champions of everything important and meaningful (that you would have championed if you had only thought of it first), do you feel your own bright, shiny light dimming?
Does it make the doubting, introverted part of you escape into its swirly shell or put on its performer’s cloak? (Neither of which really help you be truly authentic, which further reinforces the self-critique)
Or, when you look more closely, do you see in yourself only the distorted reflections, the warts, the bulges and the scars of your less salubrious and traumatised angles? Because when we look deeply enough the whole world reveals this (Climate Crisis? Refugees? False news?)
When I am supposed to be there to support, guide and inspire you all, and am intimidated by the phenomenal weight of that task?
So… I decide I need to shift the lense, to acknowledge but guide this old voice that has surprised me again, as its perspective is too weighty, too ancient and hung low in the rusty habit patterns of my mind.
I ask myself to draw on my inner wisdom, act as a coach to myself, recalibrate as I help others to.
The questions flow…
What unmet need may be colouring my response from a quite unrelated part of my being? (These beautiful, sunshine-filled mornings have filtered through the bedroom blinds at 5am and disturbed my final hours of deep sleep. And yes, I’ve been a bit too busy and with a house full of visitors and crave some quiet time. And, if I pause and listen further, there’s a shiver of residual trauma from a few years back, almost healed but sometimes its ghosts re-emerge where there's a lack of safety suspected…).
What beliefs or assumptions are you making that may not be valid here? (That I’m not sufficiently experienced or qualified – an old but deeply engrained habit, and I know this immediately to be untrue).
What does this part of me need right now? (to be acknowledged, soothed, and calmed. I invite compassion to flow towards the voice, softening the edges of the physical sensations, offering kindness and a space to feel).
The final question - what might be possible if I were to step beyond this old way of thinking? - is no longer required. Because once acknowledged and calmed, an insight naturally arises that it is amazing that all these brilliant, shiny women are able to sustain themselves in our imperfect world – whether this is emotionally, financially or both. And that means that the world is recognising that what we offer has value.
I can now appreciate how wonderful it is to see that others hold a similar faith. I can now believe that we can begin to harmonise and balance the dark underworlds we may have traversed or know deep in our ancestral bones (and which often feed those unhelpful inner voices). To do this requires many of us to meet, and expand, our desire for good into its rightful place as a foundational pillar of the way we live.
We certainly can’t do that alone. The world is held up by all of our shoulders.
So… isn’t it amazing that we can come together to celebrate what we have already done, share what we are doing, and support each other in what is to come?
For not all corners of this world have the right pillars, and many spaces are still dark. It will take a whole band of bright, shiny women to light those places up.
Guiding the old impostor voice in this direction helps me see all your resplendence, and reveals its shimmer within me, too. I can now honour your difference, and welcome you - on your best days and equally on your worst (because I know what that’s like, too). Now I am ready to co-create a space with you all and help us reach further than the doubting voices within would ever consider possible.
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