A few weeks ago, I walked into a crowded room of lawyers, barristers and judges. It was a champagne reception for the Nicholas Bacon Law Society 50th Anniversary Alumni Dinner at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The majority of people in the room were men of a certain age. Almost all of them were white.
I felt the familiar knot of anxiety forming in the pit of my stomach. Panic rising in my chest. The voice in my head whispering, “Caroline, you don’t belong here. You need to leave!”
As an undergraduate, walking into the same room left me so paralysed with fear I could barely speak. Today, walking into rooms like this empowers me.
The first thing I did that night was remind myself that nothing had gone wrong. I knew that standing in a room like this with people like that would trigger my Imposter Syndrome. I saw all of this coming.
The second thing I did was use my Imposter Speech to remember who I am. On that occasion, my Imposter Speech recalled a memory from many moons ago:
A sports field on a cold winter’s day. The opposing team are going for goal. A small, heavy ball comes whizzing overhead at alarming speed. Even allowing for the lacrosse stick in my hand, it feels way out of my reach. Except that suddenly and without really knowing how, I am flying through the air at an impossible height. I hear the sound of a ball hitting leather and then I feel the weight of the ball as it surrenders in my net. The air all around me feels cold but, internally, I am on fire.
I am Caroline Flanagan.
I observe all the suits standing around me. I hear privileged accents and roaring laughter. It’s the same room I walked into a minute ago, but everything is different. I don’t feel like the only one in the room. I am so confident, so at ease in my own skin, I feel like I own the room. I approach people I‘ve never met before and in some cases, I’m the one making them feel comfortable. I join pockets of people deep in conversation and include myself in the discussion. Sometimes I contribute. Other times I lead. I ask questions. I am not in my own head. I am in the room. Listening and responding.
I am not faking this. I am enjoying it.
When you know how to solve your Imposter Syndrome you can walk into any room. You can find your voice at any table and speak to anyone. Not in spite of your Imposter Syndrome. Because of it.
Remember who you are. Trust that you are enough.
P.S. In Imposter Speech Coaching, the first thing you do is get to know what triggers your Imposter Syndrome through a technique called Imposter Syndrome Mapping. Then you learn how to experience negative emotion so that when you walk into a room full of people you don’t know and you are flooded with anxiety and panic, you can calm yourself down and experience those emotions without letting them take the wheel. The third thing you do is create your unique Imposter Speech and learn how to use it to get out of your own head and into the room. Enrolment for the next class of Imposter Speech Coaching opens in June. This is your chance to build the confidence to walk into any room.