What do Tom Hanks, Michelle Obama, Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Agatha Christie and the CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz all have in common with me (and probably you)?
Well, only Kate Winslet grew up in the same county as me so that's not it.
Jodie Foster and I share a surname but that's not it either.
And boy I wish I could say we've all got the same level of money in the bank.
Of course it's experiencing Imposter Syndrome at least once (or more, or always) in our lives. And we're in even more good company because according to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, 70 percent of people go through those feelings.
As Seth Godin so eloquently put it
“Yes, you’re an impostor. So am I and so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best.”
We are all just doing our best and whilst that is good enough it doesn't always feel this way. So in this episode I want to talk about imposter syndrome in the podcasting world.
I've just hopped on to Amazon.co.uk and typed in "imposter syndrome" it's come up with 588 results.
So it's a thing.
What I will add at this point is although my surname is Foster and I introduce myself many a time (including at medical places) as "Foster, like the doctor" I am in no way shape or form medically qualified. So if you are worried about anything you hear in this episode please see somebody who actually went to medical school or at least has the relevant training and qualifications.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Whilst researching this I discovered the term is actually much older than I thought it was. I'll admit I assumed it was something dreamt up by Millennials. Turns out it's older than Gen X me. It comes from a study conducted in 1978 by Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes of Georgia State University, titled “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”.
I've had a quick look at the study and depressingly nothing much has changed in 43 years. Imposter Syndrome can be summed up as a feeling that you have only got to where you are by fooling everybody else. You are waiting to be found out. You are a fraud, luck has got you this far.
According to the dictionary the full definition is
"the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills."
There's a few ways this can show itself and I'm fairly certain this is not an exhaustive list but it's one I've found online...
Extreme lack of self confidence
Feelings of inadequacy
Never being good enough, always wanting more
Constant comparison to other people
Distrust in one’s own intuition and capabilities
Dwelling on the past
Irrational fears of the future
Shrugging off accolades
If you're anything like me you've nodded your head or mentally ticked off a fair few of them right? And that's ok. In my 100% unqualified mind I think it's normal to experience some of these - although negative self talk can DO ONE!
Also I'm fairly sure all my irrational fears of the future don't feel so irrational in the pandemic.
People with Imposter Syndrome tend to be utter perfectionists so nothing is good enough - including them. So they spend ridiculous amounts of time, effort and energy making sure everything is done perfectly.
OR they procrastinate the days away because of THE FEAR of it all and then say they were lucky to get it done.
Does any (or all) of this sound familiar?
And if you feel like this with your podcast you're not alone.
I started this podcast with a huge sense of "I'm not good enough". I was worried people would listen to it and "find me out" they'd discover my whole life has been going from one fluke to another. That I only got my jobs in radio because I fooled the interviewers.
That I'm just making it up as I go along when it comes to podcasting, that I don't really know what I'm talking about.
That's why it took me 18 months of my own podcasting business to actually start this podcast. And why when I first started doing this podcast I actually committed one of the worst podcast sins - thou shalt not be inconsistent with your publishing schedule. I was all over the place - because I felt like a fraud.
And I thought I'd lose business because of it.
So I get it.
But what changed?
A couple of things.
I went to Pods Up North - a podcast event in Manchester, this was in 2019 when we could sit in a room together. And I say this with absolutely no disrespect to the speakers but I was in the audience listening to them and thinking "I know all this". Not in a smug way, not in a they're not good way but in a "I do belong here" way.
And then I went to Radio TechCon an event for radio and audio tech engineers people. I was expecting it to be WAY above my knowledge, so much so I almost bailed and didn't go. But again when I was sitting in the audience surrounded by predominantly men who don't see an awful lot of daylight I had a revelation - not the same "I know all this" moment I had a Pods Up North, but "I get what's being said here".
These two conferences were the start of my journey to shushing the imposter syndrome.
A conversation with fellow podcaster and one of the Pods Up North co-founders Ant McGinley on News Eve 2019 (into 2020 oh the innocence...) and hanging out with podcasters in general, but also in particular at MICs Podcast Club (on Zoom) which was created by another Pods Up North co-founder Vic Turnbull.
But also the pandemic forced me to have no choice but go all in on the podcast.
And as I mentioned in last week's episode, the more you do something the more you start to believe in yourself.
Don't get me wrong there are weeks that I think I'm not good enough, that I worry about what I've put out, that I worry I'm going to get found out.
But I've stolen lots of advice about believing in yourself and this is what I do to shush the podcaster imposter syndrome.
I list the things I've achieved which prove I am a "proper" podcaster - for example I've recorded and edited some audio and uploaded it to a podcast host for distribution. That's what a proper podcaster does. So that makes me a proper podcaster
Remind myself there's no such thing as a "proper" podcaster. Just podcaster. It's a bit like running. Even after completing half and full marathons I would tell people I'm not a proper runner. There's no certification for becoming a proper runner - you putting one foot in front of the other vaguely faster than if you were ambling along? That's running. You are a runner. Same with podcasting, but less moving
If I'm worrying I'm not as clever as other podcasters I'll give myself some time to learn what I don't think I know. Normally after a short time I realise I do know what I didn't think I knew.
But there are of course times that I didn't know what I thought I didn't know (known unknowns...) so actually recognising I didn't know something and learning it is beneficial.
I also quite like reading testimonials and reviews left by clients and listeners to remind myself that actually I am good.
So how can imposter syndrome affect your podcast?
There's a few ways imposter syndrome can de-rail your podcast.
First, if you don't believe in yourself, your authority or your ability then you will struggle to start and keep being consistent with your podcast because you won't want to do it.
Even when you do manage to get it out, are you going to tell people it's there? If you don't tell people it's there nobody is going to listen and your inner voice that's telling you you are a fake and you're lucky to have got this far is going to be proved right.
That's not what you or I want.
Or perhaps you're on the perfectionist level and you spend so long making it "over perfect" you'll never get it done on time each week. You end up hating it and you stop. Again that's not what you or I want.
So how can you deal with this and overcome these feelings?
First create an achievement list. I have blatantly stolen this from one of my clients TeeJay Dowe who has The Spark To Your Success Podcast. It's aimed at teenagers but this not a teenager gets a fair bit from it too! A couple of weeks ago TeeJay explained the concept of an Achievement List.
It works like this - you write down everything you have done over a certain amount of time. It could be the last hour, day, week or whatever.
It can and should be everything that you've achieved - and I mean everything from got out of bed, made my bed, had a shower, ate breakfast, made a cup of tea without injuring myself, got to work safely. Then I want you to do a podcast achievement list.
Shush now if you're saying "but I've done NOTHING to my podcast, you can put reading this blog as an achievement. Not because it's a toughie to get through but this is a positive action you are taking in your podcast journey.
So put that down on your podcast achieved list.
Then everything else you've done to move your podcast in a positive direction - that could be listening to other podcasts, coming up with ideas, downloading chapter 1 of my podcast planning toolkit (yeah I'm that shameless) maybe you've followed me on socials Or any other podcast coaches. Maybe you're further down the line and you're recording your podcasts. Note those down.
LOOK AT ALL THOSE PODCAST ACHIEVEMENTS.
That deserves a pat on the back and cake. Podcast cake.
I also want you to look at the facts.
I love a fact.
If you've started your podcast what's been the consequences of that so far? Have you had any feedback? Reviews? responses from people? What are they saying? I'm going to suggest it's in the main positive.
If you've not had any reviews ask people for a review on your podcast. It's as simple as this - "if you like this podcast please leave a review"
(PS I'd love some more reviews of the podcast. They truly make me do a little dance. If you leave a review I will do a dance and put it on my instagram reels. Deal!)
PPS - next week's episode is looking at how to deal with negative reviews and trolls - so please don't let the fear of a negative review stop you from asking for reviews. Spoiler alert - you're not everybody's cup of tea. It's ok.
The other thing you can do is look at the cold hard facts - are there things you should improve on? Make a plan to do so. And then add that to your achievements list! And have more cake.
Essentially if you podcast you are a proper podcaster. Celebrate all your achievements, ignore the negative nellie voice, or even better tell that voice to shush by replying with all the factual reasons why Negative Nellie is wrong. You've got your achievement list and some feedback from others to prove your point.
Decide what bits you do actually need to improve on and make a plan to that and get better. Celebrate getting better.
Self doubt is a natural part of life and of course you're going to experience it in podcasting. I mean you're putting yourself out to a worldwide audience (that's meant to sound exciting not terrifying by the way). If you're not a bit nervous about that then what is wrong with you? But nerves should encourage you, not stop you.
So let's flip imposter syndrome round and look at it as encourager syndrome, encouraging you and me to grow, to learn and be better. Encourage you and me to look at how far we've come and celebrate those achievements. And encourage the consumption of cake.