If you haven’t used Powerpoint in over ten years and if you’re giving a 90-minute talk for the first since, well, ever, then there are no words to explain how highly I’d recommend choosing Impostor Syndrome as your topic.
If you don’t know what Impostor Syndrome is, in a nutshell, it’s a fancy way of saying insecurity. It’s when you feel like you’re out of your league, like you might fail at any moment, or like you are a fraud. It’s extremely common. A recent study found 70% of people experience it. Everyone I mentioned my talk to said they have felt it. And now that you know the term, you will hear it everywhere. I was probably way more jubilant than was reasonable when I heard Lena Dunham mention it in the post-show interview on a recent episode of Girls.
About six weeks ago, a friend asked me to submit a proposal to present at the 21st Annual University of Denver Women’s Conference. I was flattered. I was thrilled. I love talking. The idea of talking to people who had an idea of what I was going to say and who would willingly show up, just to hear it? Amazing. I should add that just a couple weeks prior, a good friend got me to admit I have a secret desire to someday get paid to be a speaker. So this felt like the universe telling me, “Great idea, Pam!”
So after hours and hours of researching, then writing and rewriting and Google searching various aspects of Powerpoint, and practicing alone, trying again on a friend, and then another friend, and practicing it I swear for the last time in front of Dan, and telling Dan I hated him and why did he have to be so mean when he told me part of it was boring and then apologizing because actually I wouldn’t want to be married to someone who has low standards, poor taste, or who would rather yes dear me than challenge me, and then re-writing the boring part… the day arrived.
I was nervous and I was excited and I felt confident but not confident to the point of arrogant. I wasn’t afraid I’d forget what I was supposed to say because I’d been engrossed in the material for a month. I wasn’t afraid people wouldn’t be engaged because I was going to make them pair up and converse every so often (and converse they did. I heard lively discussion, laughing, and even sniffles). And every time I did get afraid…
How am I qualified to talk about Impostor Syndrome?
Why should anyone listen to me?
I’m never going to organize all this information and give it to people in a way they’ve never heard before?
And Oh My God the person who basically INVENTED the term Impostor Syndrome gives talks on Impostor Syndrome so why should I bother??
… I was able to avoid spiraling down the self-doubt spiral because all of my reading, copious note-taking, TED talk viewing on the topic of how to keep Impostor Syndrome from holding you back, served as my mostly impenetrable Impostor Syndrome armor.
The talk was Friday. I will have to wait till later this week to receive any feedback from the attendees, but I think I nailed it.
-I got a lot of eye contact.
-Phones remained out of sight (which I did not specifically request).
-People took notes.
-One of the organizers said she heard people saying it was great.
-Several people stayed after (on a Friday afternoon) to chat with me.
-Three of the twenty attendees bought my book. (I would have been happy to sell one. I schlepped twelve along, just in case).
Dan gave it a B+. (Dan came!). I don’t think that means I didn’t nail it. I just think it means I could improve (he gave me a few specific pointers), and that Dan is like a Russian judge when it comes to certain things. Also, I know a B+ isn’t a bad grade. I’m just used to getting A’s or working at jobs where no one has a clue what I am doing so my performance review is like, “You were not late too many times. So… that’s good. And no one is getting raises this year, which includes you. Thanks for everything you do for our team.”
I’ll write a few follow-up posts to share some of the content of my workshop but for now, here is my first slide.
This was the description of my workshop on the conference website:
When the term Impostor Syndrome was coined in the late 1970’s, it was largely considered a women’s issue. Subsequent research reveals that most people- regardless of gender- experience Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. If you’ve ever doubted that you deserve your success, didn’t feel you truly earned your title, or attributed your achievements to luck and/or an error…. you’ve been victimized by Impostor Syndrome. But you don’t have to be anymore.
In this workshop, you will:
• Learn to identify Impostor Syndrome
• Discover strategies you can start using NOW to minimize it or even eliminate Impostor Syndrome
• Be able to determine when Impostor Syndrome can in fact be useful and how to let it motivate you.
• Take action to start moving toward your dreams and goals today.
I am available to do this talk, or a version of it for your group. I am also happy to speak on other topics, so let me know if you have else something in mind. Feel free to email me at pam(dot)sinel(at)gmail.com.