How to Handle Imposter Syndrome (As A Life Coach)
John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux of Lumia Coaching discuss why imposter syndrome is a common experience in the life coaching industry, and how you can combat it.
The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!
Ever found yourself thinking:
- “Who am I to think I can coach other people?”
- “I’m not qualified enough, I have no business being a life coach.”
- “I’m not sure I’ll be able to deliver the results clients are looking for.”
- “I’m not nearly as good as (insert another coach’s name here)!”
If so, you’re not alone. These self defeating thoughts are so common, there’s even a name for it: Imposter Syndrome. And wow, is it ever pervasive! Across all industries, 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives (International Journal of Behavioral Science).
What is “Imposter Syndrome”?
Let’s begin with a straightforward definition of imposter syndrome:
"Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy that makes you think that you're not good enough or won't succeed." Sam Parr, founder and CEO of The Hustle.
How and why these doubts creep into our thoughts can be difficult to pinpoint. It’s a little different for everyone, but the likely culprits are often related to: family expectations, anxiety, depression, or our relationship with educational institutions. It may even trace back to skewed ideas of what people in given roles are "supposed to look like" based on cultural expectations, the media, or social comparison.
What happens when we experience imposter syndrome?
- Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity
- Wondering if you are a fraud
- Self-sabotaging behaviour that can manifest fears into reality
- Stunts creativity and originality - as we look to others for feedback or modeling, we lose trust in our own ideas
- Slows productivity with second guessing and fear
The effects of imposter syndrome can be devastating. Left unchecked, it can even result in a failure to launch. Prospective coaches never start, or worse, they leave a field where they are genuinely talented and could have made a real impact.
We see this inside the coaching community all the time, especially amongst new coaches. It’s important to recognize the difference between situations where you may legitimately need to build up some new skills, and times when your mind is simply echoing limiting beliefs and voices of diminishment.
Combating Imposter Syndrome
It’s one thing to understand what this is, and quite another to know how to get over imposter syndrome. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.
- Life coaching is a new and emerging field. Everyone in this space is truly just figuring it out as they go. It’s OK that you are too.
- You ARE good enough and your ideas are important. If we all had the same voice and perspective on coaching, discourse would quickly grow stagnant in this space. Diversification is imperative if we want to progress beyond white-washed, corporate dominated fields.
- Comparison is the killer of joy. Don’t believe everything you see on Instagram. It’s OK to admire and be inspired by other people’s work. But if you find that following what other practitioners are doing has the effect of diminishing your trust in your own work, it’s time to unplug.
- Social construction can work to your advantage... if you reverse it. Instead of listing off the things you think a coach is “supposed” to be, and noting the ways you may be falling short of that mark, try this. Ask yourself: “Why? Why not be something different? Why not me?” If other people have been successful breaking the molds and sharing fresh ideas, you can too.
- Supportive environments help silence the inner critic. Mentorship, partnerships, and community are game changers. They hold up the mirror to show you the value you bring, especially on those days when you can’t see it for yourself.
- Seek role models that resonate for you, or remind you of yourself. Finding similarities between yourself and those you look up to will bolster your “I can do it too” self-concept.
- Keep in mind that everything - even a false start - can be re-written. Even perceived missteps can likely be corrected. Walk forward with open eyes and an understanding that everyone makes mistakes, judges themselves, and is a bit clunky out of the gate. It takes time to build new skills and develop professional confidence in any field, and that includes life coaching. The saying “fake it until you make it” has become a well-worn cliche for a reason.
Focus on the people you are meant to serve. There is room at the table for all of us. We need your voice and your story in the coaching industry. Your unique style, approach and perspective does help others, and will create ripples in ways you can’t possibly predict.
Stay the course!
Ready to Coach With Confidence?
If you’ve not yet completed your life coaching certification, it’s a great way to kick imposter syndrome to the curb. To enhance your skills and confidence, why not check out Lumia Life Coach Training? Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and fellow students dedicated to becoming a force for good in the world.