What is Imposter Syndrome

Episode 89: What is Imposter Syndrome, with Kris Kelso

podcast photo thumbnail



View this episode on:

What is Imposter Syndrome? Discover the true meaning and strategies to overcome imposter syndrome by exploring this article.

On today’s episode of Sell With Authority, we are leaning into what might be an uncomfortable topic but crucial for business growth. We’re talking about conquering imposter syndrome — that nagging voice of doubt that can derail your journey to success.

If you’ve ever wondered how you found the courage to start your business, battled the persistent inner critic, or questioned why you’re pushing yourself so hard, you’re not alone.

Our guest expert today, Chris Kelso, is a business owner, executive coach, keynote speaker, and an imposter syndrome expert. He’s here to guide us through understanding, confronting, and ultimately conquering this obstacle many high achievers face.

What is imposter syndrome? In this episode, we uncover the underlying fears fueling imposter syndrome and explore why it’s particularly prevalent among entrepreneurs. We shed light on a common trap that successful people often fall into and discover how imposter syndrome weaponizes our unique gifts against us.

Plus — Chris will equip you with the tools to redefine success on your own terms and identify when imposter syndrome is at play in your team.

It’s a tall order, but we have the perfect guest guiding us through it. Chris is the author of Overcoming The Imposter: Silence Your Inner Critic and Lead With Confidence and has worked with countless business owners and their leadership teams to navigate obstacles to growth.


What you will learn in this episode is about the true meaning of what is imposter syndrome:

  • What is imposter syndrome and why it’s more prevalent among high achievers
  • A key strategy Kris uses to combat self-doubt
  • Why leaning into the fear and doing repetitions will propel your success
  • Why Kris recommends going out and sharing your ideas
  • The difference between false humility and real humility
  • How to recognize imposter syndrome happening in others and help them conquer it


Additional Resources:


What is Imposter Syndrome: Full Episode Transcript 


Welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast. I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI. And my team and I, we created this podcast specifically for you. So if you’re an agency owner or a strategic consultant, and you’re looking to fill your sales pipeline with a steady stream of right-fit prospects and get the at-bats that you need to build and scale, well, you’re in the right place. Do you want proven strategies for becoming the known expert in your niche and attracting all the clients that you need? Yep. We’re going to cover that. You want to learn how to step away from the sea of sameness so you actually stand out from your competitors and own the ground you’re standing on. Yep. We’re going to cover that too. Do you want to future-proof your business so you can successfully navigate the next challenge you know will come your way?


Well, absolutely. We will help you there as well. I promise you each episode of this podcast will contain valuable insights, tangible examples, and best practices, never theories from thought leaders, experts, and owners who have done exactly what you’re working hard to do. So, I want you to think practical and tactical. Never any fluff. Each of our guests has built a position of authority and monetized that position by growing their audience, nurturing leads, and converting sales. But all the while, they did it by being helpful. So every time someone from their audience turned around there, they were given a healthful answer to an important question. So their right-fit prospects never ever were made to feel like they were prospects. I also promise you that every strategy that we discuss and every tool we recommend will be shared in full transparency in each episode. So, you become the known expert in your niche.


You fill your sales pipeline with that steady stream of Right-Fit clients, and again, the clients who are never, ever made to feel like one of your prospects. Okay, so for today’s episode, I’d like for us to lean into what might be an uncomfortable topic. But I promise you this obstacle can be conquered and silenced. And if you do so, you and your team are going to crush 2024. So here’s what I mean. If you’ve been in business for a while now, or even if you think back to when you were first starting out, my guess is that people inside your inner circle, or even complete strangers, came up to you and asked you how you found the courage to start your business. How did you get past that nagging voice of fear in your head? There was urging you, maybe begging you, and maybe even insulting you enough that you would quit that voice that told you every day to give up and go back to being quote-unquote comfortable.


Or maybe making you ask yourself, why in the world am I pushing myself so hard to grow? Why in the world am I taking on these risks to build this business? And yet, somehow, you found a way to push through the fear. You found a way to push through the daily doubt, and you found the courage that you needed in order to be here today. That voice and that voice, you may still hear today from time to time in your head, and you may already know this: it’s the imposter syndrome, or maybe you’ve heard it called the inner critic, or maybe some other term. Regardless, if you let it, it will derail you from your path. The path that you’ve worked so hard to build, the imposter syndrome, can be one of your worst enemies. So, when I thought about how to structure this episode, I decided we ought to focus on conquering the imposter syndrome and how best to kick it to the curb in 2024.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by tuning in to this keynote speech by Kris Kelso 


What is Imposter Syndrome: Kris Kelso’s Introduction


I mean, seriously, if we talk to someone on our team the way that we talk to ourselves in our own heads, we wouldn’t have a business; everyone would leave. So, let’s fix that. So, in today’s discussion, we’re going to identify the underlying fear behind imposter syndrome, and we’re going to talk through why it’s more prevalent among entrepreneurs and high achievers, people just like you. So we’re also going to shine a bright light on the biggest trap that many successful people fall into and to understand better how imposter syndrome weaponizes our unique gifts, gifts against us. And lastly, today’s discussion will give you the tools to redefine success on your own terms and the ability to recognize when the imposter syndrome is hard at work within someone else. So let’s think maybe a teammate of yours. Okay, so I know all that is a pretty tall order, so I invited Kris Kelso to be our guest expert today. Kris is a business owner, executive coach, and keynote, and he’s an imposter syndrome expert. He’s the author of the book entitled Overcoming The Imposter, Silence Your Inner Critic, and Lead With Confidence. He’s worked with hundreds of business owners like you and me, alongside their leadership teams, to work through constraints and obstacles or obstacles, excuse me, and grow inside their business. So, without further ado, welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast, Kris.


It’s great to have you here clearly. I’m so excited to start this conversation. I started tripping over my words because I can’t wait to get through the introduction so we can get into all of the great things you’re going to share with us. So, I abbreviated your bio, and certainly not with the intent of trying to minimize your accomplishments because there are many. So, actually, take us behind the curtain here for a couple of minutes and give us a few highlights along your path and journey, and then, we’ll dive in with what I’m sure is going to feel like a bra of questions that are going to be thrown your way.


Yeah. My career has been a bit of a twisty, turning road fueled by curiosity and following what interests me. That led me through a little bit of the music industry, a long stint in technology, and some healthcare, and eventually, I became an entrepreneur. But, a key part of that journey is that for years, I said I had no interest in being an entrepreneur or owning a business. I didn’t want the risk and the headaches and the challenges and, and, and all of that. And then, one day, if I woke up and a switch had flipped, and nothing else made sense to me. Hmm. I couldn’t imagine continuing to work for someone else. And I just had to go out on my own. And so that’s what I did. , about 17 years ago, I started my first business, and I have since founded multiple companies and consulted with some large, really large organizations. And now, after running a couple of different businesses, I have turned to professional speaking. I wrote a book, as you mentioned. I’ve done some executive coaching and leadership development work, and I’m on faculty now at a coaching school and at a public speaking training organization. So, doing a wide range of things, all of which I absolutely love and enjoy, and I get a lot of gratification from the work that I get to do today.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Recognizing Success


What is imposter syndrome? It is a big topic, and I’ve learned much from you. This is the second time that we’ve actually had a chance to do an interview. Our first one was for Onward Nation several years ago. , in fact, I think that was even pre-pandemic. So I’m really looking forward to this conversation, not technically in Encore, but it’s a chance to spend more time with you, which, yes. Which I love and appreciate. So let’s go high level first. I would love to get your expert definition of imposter syndrome, what it means, how to maybe know if it’s happening, and how to maybe see or detect it in others. So, let’s first go to a high level to set some foundation.


What is Imposter syndrome? It is a psychological term that was coined in the 1970s, actually. So it’s not a brand new concept, though it’s being talked about a lot more here recently. It refers to the tendency of many people to overvalue other people’s accomplishments and undervalue or even doubt the reality of their own success. So what happens with imposter syndrome is I look at somebody like Stephen Woessner, and I say, man, that guy’s got a great business, and he seems to really know what he’s doing, and he’s smart and savvy, and he has a plan, and he executes it well. And man, he knows how to make all the right moves. But, you know, my business and my success as an entrepreneur involve a lot of luck and timing. And boy, I sure have made a lot of mistakes along the way and somehow managed to muddle my way through it.


And there have been some people that have really helped me out. And the underlying fear is that sooner or later, someone, or maybe everyone, is going to figure out that I really don’t know what I’m doing. Still, I’m just making it up as I go. I’m not legit like the other people I see around me, but I’m just an imposter and a fraud. And that if that happens, if someone realizes that I’m just making it up as I go, and I’ve just been lucky that it’s all going to come crumbling down around me, and that’s going to be my undoing. And, of course, it never comes to some dramatic end like that for most people. But there’s this underlying fear. And, as you mentioned, the voice of the inner critic that tries to tell you you’re at risk, your success isn’t real. You don’t actually know what you’re doing; you know how to sound like you know what you’re doing, and you don’t have all the answers. And that means you’re not qualified to be called an expert or to be doing the things that you’re doing.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Why High Achievers Are Most Vulnerable


What is imposter syndrome? Okay. So take us behind the curtain again a second time because when you said that, I thought, gosh, I think about that. I think about myself like that all the time. Yeah. Right. And it isn’t abnormal to have those thoughts. No, studies have shown that up to 70 or 80% of the population experiences imposter syndrome at some point in their career. Wow. And Stephen, here’s the kicker. It’s more prevalent among high achievers. Okay, but why do you think so?


So that’s counterintuitive at first, right? And, when I talk especially about entrepreneurs experiencing imposter syndrome, people say, no, entrepreneurs are bold, they’re brave, they’re risk takers. They’re, they don’t have self-doubt, or self-confidence issues. In actuality, the more you push your boundaries, the more you try new things, the more you are, as many entrepreneurs are trying to create something that didn’t exist before or reinvent something, the more likely you are to find yourself in a position where you feel like you’re in over your head, you’re outside your comfort zone, you’re in new territory, you don’t have all the answers because you’re, not only are you making it up as you go, you’re creating it from scratch. Like you’re inventing something new. And so innovative, driven, ambitious people are more likely to find themself in that place where they feel like, man, maybe I’ve gotten it over my head here.


I’m, I’m a person who loves to learn and loves to stretch myself. I love to develop new skills and try new things. And that means on a regular basis, I feel like, man, should I really be doing this? Like, am I qualified? Because I have done very little for most of my career for decades, right? There are some things I’ve done for a long time, and I’m very confident in those areas, but man, I’m always trying something new. And so I’m always running into that voice of self-doubt that says, do you really have what it takes to get this done? Are you really qualified to do what you’re doing right now?


And isn’t it funny that, so you have this track record of always trying something new? Yeah. And that you try something new, you get past that, try something new, get past that, try something new, get past that. You would think, yeah, but you would think that maybe we could reverse that and say, but I do this all the time. I always try something new, and then it works out. Or if it doesn’t work out, then I learn something new. So, the next time I try something new again, there may be a higher probability of success. Isn’t it funny how we don’t, we don’t tell ourselves to look at the track record, but we believe the doubt.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Finding Confidence in Growth


What is imposter syndrome? That’s actually a key strategy that I use. Oh, to combat self-doubt is to be Okay. Is it because the problem is we try to draw our confidence, or do we want to draw our confidence from a track record? I’ve done this many, many times, so I know I’ll be good at it. Okay. But if you’re constantly doing new things, you can never rely on that history of doing that thing over and over. So you have to do what you just said: draw your confidence from your ability to learn new things and conquer new obstacles. So I don’t know when I will try something new. I can’t think. Well, I’ve done this before, so I know I’ll be good at it. I have to think exactly the way you described it I’ve done many things for the first time and figured them out. Now I don’t always get it right on the first time, and I don’t have to put that kind of pressure on myself. That has to be perfect right out of the gate. Mm-Hmm. But knowing that, I have over and over started new businesses, explored new ventures, developed new skill sets, moved into new areas, studied something, and then been able to teach it in a class later. I rely on my learning ability and my ability to grow more than a track record, and I’ve done this repeatedly.


What is imposter syndrome? Okay. Litmus test question because you’re professionally trained and you are a professional, so paid keynotes, that kind of thing. Context. Yeah. , so when you step on stage, and you’ve done it a bunch. Right? And you’ve trained with the best. Yes. So when you step on stage, do you ever, does the imposter syndrome ever tap you on the shoulder and say, you know, should you really be like, like do you, do you question yourself getting on stage even though you’ve done it lots of times?


You know, it, it’s situational. Okay. There are some circumstances, you know, maybe a particular audience, maybe a particular type of event or organization where it’s new. , but less and less, the more I do have that experience. And I’ll say this too, Stephen: I have done some form of public speaking since I was a teenager, and I love it. So sometimes people will ask me, “How do you deal with the nerves of getting up in front of an audience? And I’ll say, you know, honestly, I don’t really get that nervous. I actually enjoy it. I get a rush. I get an adrenaline rush, and I get pleasure from getting up in front of an audience. And, then, they’re disappointed that I can’t share my tactic for overcoming those nerves or that self-doubt. But this is one of the sinister things about imposter syndrome just because you don’t share the same fear as someone else doesn’t mean you’re not having the same experience, just in a different way. Right. I may have imposter syndrome about something very different than someone who has a fear of getting in front of an audience or speaking with authority.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Overcoming Your Fear and The Power of Repetition


What is imposter syndrome? Well, but in one of the words I just wrote in my notes here, I’m curious if you’ll agree or disagree with this if this is a strategy to combat imposter syndrome. And that word that I wrote down and encircled was repetition. Yeah. Like giving yourself the opportunity to do it over and over and over and over again at a level of excellence. Yes. And, the first time you do it, not as excellent as the 700th time that you do it, but giving yourself the comp or giving yourself the opportunity to sort of do a crucible, if you will, of over and over and over again. And maybe then the imposter syndrome will decrease.


Yeah. You do. You have to push through the fear Mm-Hmm. to get the experience that helps you to overcome that fear. So, the thing that you fear is often what you need. So, for instance, for public speaking, oh, for public speaking, what you need is reps, you know, what you need is, and confidence comes from the reps, the experience, not the other way around. People want to think, how do I get confident to get up on stage? The answer is to get up on stage, and you’ll build your confidence. I love that. Do the thing that you’re afraid of to overcome the fear.


I think that it is great for building muscle and getting the repetitions. Yeah. Minimizing the fear and doing it over and over again will increase your skills and so forth. Then, imposter syndrome gets diminished. I think that’s amazing, especially because, like, you and I were chatting about it in the Green Room before I hit record, and because we hear this oftentimes from agency owners, strategic consultants, insider community, and especially as it revolves around content building their authority position. They don’t want to seem like they’re self-aggrandizing, that kind of stuff. You and I have this really cool chat about pride and humility, which we’ll get to in just a second. But I think I’m hearing you say if you’re creating content for the first time, and that might be scary, how are you going to show up on camera? How are you going to show up on a podcast episode? That kind of stuff. I think what I’m hearing from you is if you want to feel more confident about that, and if you want to get better at it, the best recipe is to lean into the fear. Yeah. And let the fear be your friend to do it over and over and over again.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Practice Makes Perfect


Yes. The other day, I was talking to an aspiring author, someone who came to me because I have written a book and was asking me for my thoughts on some content ideas and things like that. One of the things I said is that if you want to be a writer, you need to write every day. Just do it. Just write. And a lot of it will be bad. A lot of it will be mediocre. You’ll write stuff and throw it away because it’s not about producing top-notch content every time you put your pen to paper or touch the keyboard; it’s about getting those reps and building experience. Similarly, I’m on the faculty at a coaching school. I teach ICF coaching and leadership coaching, and I tell new and training coaches, great. Coaching comes from experience. Experience comes from not-so-great coaching.


What is imposter syndrome? You have to do it poorly in order to do it well. Yeah. So do it. Just get in and get the practice because all the learning and all the education in the world will not prepare you, especially in something like coaching. And listen, I teach coaching. So training and education are important, but you’re never going to become an expert coach in just classes alone. You have to do the work and get the experience. And that’s the way much of life is. You don’t get qualified, credentialed, or certified without having done anything just by book knowledge. You have to go out and do it to develop the skill. And in doing that, you’ll develop the confidence as well.


So, amazing. In day two of our intensive that we just hosted a few weeks ago, we’re working through a lot of sales tactics and that kind of stuff for our clients and other guests in the room. And, and, and some of that sales stuff. Some of those sales tactics, Yeah. Can make someone go, oh, I don’t know if I want to hit send on that. Right. Like an email or something like that, or whatever. So, a story I shared was about the Beatles, called the Hamburg Crucible, way before Beatlemania, just after they graduated from high school. The Fab Four were the Fab Four, but they didn’t really sound very fabulous. And so, yeah, I’m sure you know the story, but for our audience who might not, their agent was savvy enough to recognize the talent of the Fab Four but also knew that they needed to grow into that talent.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Repetition and Mastery


And so he took them to Hamburg, Germany, and in several months, they played hundreds of shows. And it wasn’t from like six at night to like eight at night. They would play from six at night to three in the morning. And they did that day after day, week after week, month after month. After several hundred shows had come back to Liverpool, they played again for a public audience, but it was still not great. They went back to Hamburg for a second stint, went back to Liverpool, then went back to Hamburg for a third stint. In the course of 18 months, they played over 2000 shows. Mm-Hmm. And that, and then, and then The Beatles were The Beatles, and then Beatlemania, blah, blah, and all of that. Oh, this fantastic sound. But, you know, just two years before that, they sounded terrible, but it was because they did all of those repetitions and leaned into the fear that you’re talking about. That’s what produced the Beatles. John Lennon said if it wasn’t for the Hamburg Crucible and the reps, like what you’re talking about, yeah. We would’ve never been The Beatles.


What I love about that story is you might think, man, if we can record a great album, that would allow us to do thousands of shows, and it’s the exact opposite of that. If we do thousands of shows, that’s going to enable us to make a great alb. Okay. Amazingly well put. Because I think a statistician who has been following this or followed it said that most great bands might play 2000 shows in their entire career, which might span decades. Yeah. And yet the Beatles squished it into 18 months. And that’s what Yes. Forced them to do that. And then, to your point, they recorded Great Alb after that work.


Yeah. That propelled them to greatness. In a similar vein, this is just coming to mind. I’ve talked to many professionals and aspiring authors about both writing and speaking. Okay. And, sometimes people ask if I write a book, then I can be a  and get on stages and go. And I often advise people to do it the other way around. You need to talk about your ideas before you commit them to print. And I did this with my book. I was thinking about imposter syndrome for several years before writing my book. Okay. And I think the book is much better for it.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Go Out and Share Your Ideas


Because I was able to refine my ideas, get feedback from people, and improve them verbally when they’re still malleable. Because once you commit them to print, the book is published, and it is what it is. Sure, you could do a second edition and update down the road, but it’s a lot easier to change a speech than a book. And so, if I know some s who’ve written a book first, and then they go to develop a talk, and they start getting in front of audiences, and they start consulting, and they get feedback from people, and they say, well, you know, it would really resonate better if I said it this way instead of that way. But that’s the way it’s in the book. And I don’t want to contradict my book. I don’t want to change it and do it differently than what’s in print.


It’ll feel like I’m contradicting myself. So I recommend that people go out and share their ideas. That’s another thing that entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of: I don’t want to share any of my ideas because I’m afraid of them being stolen. And I say, no, if you don’t share your ideas, they’re going to continue to be weak. They’re going to continue to be incomplete. They’re going to continue to be, you know, limited by your imagination. You need to bounce them off of lots and lots of people to make them better before you fully commit to those things. So, I think it’s a similar principle of, you know, the Beatles probably refined their sound through a lot. All of those thousands of shows, they probably, changed a lot of their songs and the arrangements and the way they put things together, they learned what resonates with an audience before they committed to some recordings. And that’s scary stuff. You want to go out into the world with all of your ideas fully baked, perfected, and clean, and you want to know that it’s a plus, but it doesn’t get there until you go out into the world and try it and improve it. So there again, the thing that you fear is exactly what you need.


I think this is such a brilliant point. And when, and when you were saying that like, you know, testing it, that, that literally reminded me of, a documentary that Jerry Seinfeld put out. I think it’s on Netflix; maybe it’s Prime. Anyway, but the point is, is that, so after, you know, the claim show Seinfeld and all of that, you know, and, he decided that he wanted actually to get back out on tour, but it had been a long time since he’d built material. And I didn’t realize how long it takes. I don’t mean to diminish it in any way; it’s just my ignorance. I didn’t. Yeah, I like how long it takes to create material for a comedic routine, how long, and the timing. And anyway, so they, the film crew, actually followed him around to several nightclubs that he used to perform at before he was quote-unquote Jerry Seinfeld. Right. And now he’s back up on stage again, and he is literally testing the material. He’s got flashcards, that kind of stuff, whatever testing material. Yeah. What bombs, what resonates, and that kind of stuff. And I’m like, oh my gosh, this is Jerry Seinfeld.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: From Idea to Book


Right. And this Is what he is respecting: the process of how to do it. Yeah. It’s hard to think of him telling a joke poorly or him, you know, telling a joke that bombs or something. But that is the only way to make it good. Yeah. And so, yeah, somebody like Jerry Seinfeld, like, you know, like any good athlete who they, they do the fundamentals, the basics. They get the reps; they do the work. , yeah. It’s amazing what goes into a good comedy routine, especially the easier and more casual and off-the-cuff it looks often; the more work was put into it to get it there.


Amen. So, let’s go back to something you just shared about your experience writing the book and how you were talking about it first. I really like getting the audience’s feedback and, sort of like, a living laboratory, which is really cool. And, then, you got to the writing. So I’m, I’m going to ask you to share the story that you shared with me in the Green Room. ’cause then when it came down to you writing the book and, and you were talking back and forth with, I think you said book coach maybe?


That’s a book coach, a writing coach. And you’re like, oh, I need to find an expert, blah, blah. So please share that story because now, hearing you talk about how you spoke about it first really makes this story even more impactful, in my opinion. 


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Trusting Your Own Knowledge


So, I’m writing the book, and I read as much research as I could get my hands on before I wrote my book. I wanted it to be well-founded and grounded in science, not just my own observations. , I didn’t want it to be one of those books that’s like, oh yeah, that’s just the one perspective, you know, one guy’s opinion of thing. So, I did a lot of studying and tried to ensure that what I thought was widely applicable. But there was one particular section I remember writing, and I was talking to my writing coach about, Hey, for this, you know, I have this idea here, and I think it’s pretty solid, but I can’t find a research study or another expert that would back this up. Like, I need to quote somebody or this or that.


And he said, Kris, you are the expert. You know this better than anyone I’ve ever met. You have studied this. You’ve talked to hundreds of people. Thousands of people have already talked to me about this topic. And he said, there, there’s nobody who knows this better than you. Quit trying to find other experts to back up your knowledge and experience. And that was so helpful. , just to have, you know, an expert on writing and an expert on content development, who he was, tell me that I had some expertise, that I had developed some expertise on my own. And the thing about expertise is expertise. We develop it really gradually; you build a knowledge base, and you even build your experiences over such a long time that it can be easy to lose sight of how much you’ve gained.


You know, we’ve all talked to that expert in something that, that just asses that everybody knows what they do. You, you know, you get good at something, and then you devalue it because it seems very mundane. It seems very good, and that’s just easy. Well, of course, it’s easy for you. You’ve been doing it for years and years and years, and you’ve practiced, and you’ve studied. But that’s what happens to us: the areas where we develop expertise. They become mundane and easy. And so then we devalue them. We don’t recognize our own experience as we’ve as we build it. And so, it becomes difficult for us to accept the label of an expert. Finally, I told you earlier, Stephen, I’ve finally come to the place where I’m willing to accept being called an expert if they ask what imposter syndrome is. I have written a book on the subject, studied it, and talked to thousands of entrepreneurs about it. And that was hard for me because I was doing it to learn. I was doing it for me. Because I wanted to figure this out. And, so, I didn’t feel like an expert. I was looking for the experts. And in looking to the experts, I eventually became one. And I had to accept that.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”


I want you to take that what you just shared now, owning the expert seat. Teach us about humility. Take that piece and teach us about humility. Again, we had such a great chat in the green room. Teach us about humility. Let’s talk about the CS Lewis quote that you shared with me because I thought that that was profound. So teach us about humility because I don’t want somebody to feel like if they’re listening to you right now, like, oh, I have to crown myself as an expert. I could never do that. So take us through that.


Yeah. So, this CSS Lewis quote is one of my favourites. He said that humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less. And there’s this false belief that humility means degrading or debasing yourself to downplay yourself and your accomplishments. And I don’t think that’s humility. In fact, in some cases, that false humility is a form of pride.


Suppose you are trying to appear humble by downplaying yourself by, you know, being self-deprecating. If you’re trying to downplay your accomplishments in an effort to look humble, you are managing your image, which is an act of pride. And so, false humility is just another form of pride. True humility, in my humble opinion, is just taking a really honest look at yourself and being realistic. Do not over-inflate or try to exaggerate your accomplishments. But neither is it downplaying. So, downplaying your accomplishments, success, knowledge, and experience can be just as bad as over-hyping or exaggerating it. , and true humility is just walking right down the middle; this is what I know; here are the areas where I have developed some expertise. And by the way, expertise is one of those things. If you’ve gained it, you’ve usually worked hard to get there. Yeah.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Embracing Honest Acknowledgment


You can acknowledge the work. Yep. We don’t have to treat expertise like this natural gift we’re born with. And, oh, look at me. I’m amazing. And I don’t even try. No. If I’ve developed some expertise and worked really hard to get there, I can acknowledge that I’ve studied this topic for years. I’ve had thousands of conversations, I’ve spoken to large audiences, and gotten feedback. I’ve, you know, a lot of work has gone into producing a book like this so that I can acknowledge that work. And that’s humility, which is just being honest. It’s just being real and not faking it in either direction, better or worse.


I think that’s fantastic because none of that is thing your own chest.


There are no self-aggrandizing statements in there, right? It’s just accurate and factual. It’s representative of the body of work—and again, not in a prideful manner but in an accurate, helpful manner.


One of the symptoms of imposter syndrome is to tie this back together, okay. It is the inability to accept a compliment at face value.


Oh, okay. Tell tell me more about that.


When someone pays you a compliment, I know that for many years, my default response when someone complimented me was to downplay the compliment or make a joke or say something sarcastic, you know? , and in fact, I have a friend who is a writer, has written multiple number-one bestsellers, and has sold millions of books that he’s written. And when someone compliments his writing, he has the standard line that goes something like, oh, you and my mom must have been my two readers on that one. You know? And he downplays that very obvious success. And I had this aha moment as I was studying what imposter syndrome is, recognizing this symptom, and trying to think about what we are really doing there. I realize that when you downplay or dismiss a compliment someone gives you, you’re insulting that person.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: A Path to Genuine Humility


Hmm. They gave you a gift, and you’re saying, eh, it’s not valuable to me. Right. You’re either telling them their opinion doesn’t matter, their standards are low, or they don’t know what they’re talking about. And it’s sort of an insult to the giver. And so I have built a practice. This was an intentional habit that took a while to change my behavior, but when someone pays me a compliment, number one, the first thing out of my mouth is thank you. I really appreciate that. And then, number two, going back to what we just talked about earlier, I will acknowledge the work. So if you tell me, Kris, I really enjoyed your book, I will say thank you. I poured a lot of myself into that book, and it is so gratifying to know that that work is having an effect on you.


And I appreciate it. And so I am not saying, well, of course, it’s an excellent book. I’m amazing. You know, I don’t, I don’t have to, I don’t have to over hype and aggrandize my capabilities, my abilities. I can acknowledge writing that book was hard. Mm-Hmm. It took a lot of effort. It was, you know, a couple of years of research and five really intense months of some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. And I’m so glad to know that that has benefitted you, others, and people that have read it. And so, I’m grateful for those compliments, and I make sure to reward the giver of the compliment by acknowledging that their compliment is valuable and appreciated, that I’m gonna take that gift and I’m going to cherish it. So thank you.


That’s brilliant. Really brilliant. So, I know we need to come in for a landing here, you know, pretty quickly, but I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you how we see this happening in others. So maybe the scenario is observing your team or how a teammate is interacting or working alongside a client, maybe a client that you’re serving. Are there any tell-tale signs that the imposter syndrome might be at work and others? And if so, what are some easy ways to detect it?


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Signs and Supportive Responses


Yeah, there are a number of signs. , I mentioned, you know, the inability to accept a compliment. Okay. Certainly, they downplay their capabilities or success. For instance, someone is up for an award, or they’re up for a promotion, and they say, oh, I could never, I’m, I’m not qualified. I don’t have what it takes to do it. I don’t deserve that. Well, who says you don’t deserve it? First, someone says you deserve it because they’re offering it to you. Right? They’re giving you an award. There must be some reason. But you’ll, you’ll hear people say, oh, I couldn’t, I couldn’t do that. Someone says, oh, I could never, well, really never. Why not? Why not ever? And so, people will make those kinds of definitive statements about their worth or their capabilities. Or they’ll just be resistant or fearful of taking a risk.


Well, I don’t want to talk to that person. Well, I don’t want to apply for that group or organization. I don’t know if I deserve to be at that conference or event. And so when you recognize that, when you hear someone basically disqualifying themself for something that they haven’t even tried yet, you can, number one, you can be encouraging, but don’t placate them. Don’t say, I believe in you. You got this. I know you can do it. I’m behind you. That kind of empty praise tends to fall flat on someone who’s really wrestling to know what imposter syndrome is. Okay. Instead, I would encourage you to counter their statements with evidence.


And you don’t have to be confronting or combative about it. You don’t say and don’t tell them. That’s a crazy way to feel. Why do you think that? Like, don’t tell them they’re stupid on top of feeling inadequate. Right. But say, you know, I think you do deserve that because you’ve done this and this and this. You know, I think you would be able to do that because here are some other things you’ve done, Stephen; going back to our earlier conversation about doing things for the first time and figuring them out, that track record is really valuable. You know, if, if you, Stephen, told me you were, you were really nervous about trying something new, getting on a stage or whatever it be, I might say, yeah, but Stephen, you started a podcast, and I’m sure you had to learn a lot to do that.


Learn more about what is imposter syndrome by joining our “ROI of Community” Framework


What is Imposter Syndrome: Tackling Imposter Syndrome with Evidence


You founded a company, and I’m sure you had to figure out a lot of things to do that. And you’ve, you know, I can name some other things you’ve done and say, this is no different. You’re going to have a learning curve. You’re going to have to figure some things out, but there’s no reason you can’t do that just like you did all those other things. So don’t counteract imposter syndrome by telling them they’re crazy and they shouldn’t think that way. That’s not helpful. Don’t counteract it with empty platitudes. I believe that you counteract it with evidence. Give them the empirical facts that show you can do this. It’s going to take some work. It’s not going to come cheap and easy, but it is totally possible, and there’s no reason for you to think otherwise.


Yeah. That’s brilliant. , counteract there’s statements with evidence that’s so, that’s so, so helpful. , really, really awesome. And, as you’re sharing that, I’m like, oh my gosh, that’s exactly what his writing coach did for him.


Yes, it is. It’s exactly what he did, and it was immensely helpful in that moment. It totally changed my mind at that moment.


That’s so, so spot on. Awesome. Again, I know we need to come in for a landing, wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for your generosity. Before we go, before we close out, Kris, anything you think we might have missed? I know we covered a lot, but anything you think we might have missed? Then, please share with our audience the best way to connect with you.


We might have missed a dangerous question. ’cause I could end up going off on a tirade for another 20 or 30 minutes, so we’ll save that. Because there’s a lot of ground we can also cover, maybe in a future conversation. Okay. But, the best way to connect with me I am really easy to find online. If you remember, my name starts with K-R-I-S-K-E-L-S-O. So, I’m Kriskelso.com. Kris Kelso is on most of the major social media platforms, certainly very active on LinkedIn. And, then, the book itself can be [email protected]. And in fact, on that website, you can get a free chapter of the book. Hmm. And, if I may, I’m going to say it’s one of the best chapters in the book. I’m not a fan of just giving away chapter one, where all you do is set up the problem and don’t actually offer any real solutions. This is chapter seven. It’s really meaty. I chose it because it stands alone and will be valuable even if you don’t read the rest of the book. So please go visit overcoming the imposter.com and get that free chapter. It’ll help you out a lot.


Amazing. Okay, everyone, no matter how many notes you took or how often you re-listen to Kris’s words of wisdom, which I sure hope you do. You have to take what he so generously shared with you, take it, and apply it because when you do, you will accelerate your results. And Kris, we all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day. And I’m grateful that you said yes to come onto the show, to be our expert and guide, to help us move our businesses onward to that next level. Thank you so much, Kris.


You are incredibly welcome, Stephen. Thank you for the opportunity. I always love it when you and I get to have a conversation, and this was no different. So thanks.

Fill Your Sales Pipeline Q&A

LIVE Wednesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern / 12 Noon Central

Sell with Authority Podcast

The Sell with Authority Podcast is for agency owners, business coaches, and strategic consultants who are looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that seems to be our world’s reality.

Follow Us