STB 029 | Jen Coken | She's Talking Back

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Jen Coken

Jen Coken is an executive coach and recovering stand-up comedian. Jen at an early age knew that she had to be the funny one because she never fit into the traditional archetype of the ‘pretty girl.’ She went down a journey of self-discovery a few years ago and discovered all of this was a byproduct of imposter syndrome. Today’s episode covers what is imposter syndrome, why everyone has it, and how to overcome these thoughts that are weighing you down.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Jen Coken

Hello, beautiful lady! You are in for a treat today. I am speaking with the beautiful Jen Coken. She is a friend of mine, a colleague, and an amazing executive coach for bad-ass boss ladies who are ready to smash obstacles, jump over hurdles and grab snarling dogs by the ears. If that doesn’t set the tone for the type of interview, this is going to be, I don’t know what really does. Jen for 20 years or so has been beaten down the BS. That’s bullshit with a velvet sledge hammer tasseled with humor. She is an international speaker bestselling author. And when all of that isn’t happening, you can find her performing standup comedy or eating Nutella by the spoonful in the nearest grocery aisle. You want to hold onto your panties, ladies and gents, this is a wild ride of an interview packed with goodness all around the concept of imposter syndrome. So let’s do it.

All right. One, two, three, you know, I’ve got at least 2 cents to offer you before we hear from Jen.

Oh, I was thinking about this. First of all, I want to say this. I really wanted to have Jen on the show after one of you reached out to me and said, Hey, I’d love for you to deep dive on this thing called imposter syndrome. What is it? How’s it show up? How do we recognize it for ourselves? So, I knew exactly the person I wanted to talk to on this topic, and it is Miss Jen Coken and she knows the stuff in and out. And so you’re going to hear a slightly different type of interview. We’re really diving into the details around imposter syndrome. The fact that you are not born with it, and Jen’s really fascinating, kind of the way she outlays the process of how we develop it. I’m going to recap that at the end for you to make sure you didn’t miss it, but you’re also going to hear something that I found probably the most fascinating. Listen for this discussion around Jen and I talking that the higher up you go, as you further yourself on the ladder of success, the better chance you have or the better chance, or the more likely it will be, that you will struggle with imposter syndrome at a greater, an even greater degree. Fascinating.

Listen for our discussion around that. She’ll tell you you’re no different than Oprah. I’m no different than Oprah. And then, of course, there’s going to be a segment where she turns the tides and coaches me on my own show. Of course, I actually somewhat expected that to come up. And my favorite part not to be missed is a really powerful statement by Jen when she says “what you can’t be with robs you of your power.” Write that one down lady, “what you can’t be with robs you of your power” and listen for that when Jen and I are bringing it up. Okay. Without further adieu, we’ll hear from Miss Jen Coken.

One of the things specifically that some of the listeners asked me about is they even brought to my attention. One person said, I’m not quite sure what imposter syndrome really is. Can we start with that? How do we define that?

Well, so it’s a psychological term that was coined by two women back in the seventies where you feel like you are going to be found out that you are always worried that someone’s going to question you or undermine you. And that you’re not going to know enough or you’ll be found out. So, for example, Mya Angelou on her 11th book still worried about, Oh my God, someone’s going to be like, yeah, you’re just fooling us all, these books aren’t worth much. Albert Einstein, right? Albert Einstein was worried that he never knew enough. And therefore, all his life’s work was a sham. And somebody who was going to knock on the door and say you’re full of it. I mean, really famous, accomplished people have imposter syndrome. But as a coach, I have found it in everybody. It’s basically self-doubt. Do you want to use it really simply, it’s questioning yourself and doubting whether you have the goods.

Yeah. Now you said something really interesting. You said as a coach 100% of the people have it. When did that light bulb go off for you? Because you didn’t arrive in this world at age five, knowing that everybody has self-doubt.

And I would say before I answer your question, nobody was born with self-doubt. We didn’t come out of the womb going, do I really want food? Do I really need to poop? Do I relate in my diaper for change? No. You just were yelling for what you needed.

Okay. So, let’s dance with that. How does it creep in?

Yeah, it doesn’t creep in, so I will answer that question by answering your first question, right. As a coach. What I work with people on is the future, right? The distinction between a coach and a therapist, the therapist is really working with you to root out your past. How past experiences and traumas have impacted you and are stopping you from going where you want to go.

As a coach. My assumption is that stuff is already handled. And so what we are working on is what’s out there in the future for you. And what future do you want to create? Whether the kind of leader you want to be at work, whether the kind of manager you want to be for your team, whether the kind of business you want to launch as an entrepreneur.

If you feel like you have to do it alone because if you asked for help, people would know you really didn’t have what it takes — that’s imposter syndrome. Click To Tweet

However, we always have the past mis-located in our future, because what happens to us as we grow up and our brains are forming, you know, our brain it’s only job is to keep the thing. It’s a brain of alive. That’s you, that’s me. My brain’s job is to keep me alive. Your brain’s job is to keep you alive. It’s the amygdala, that reptilian portion of your brain that determines flight, fight or freeze. So it’s also kind of like a smoke alarm. It’s letting you know, Hey, there might be danger, wait a minute. The traffic light might be yellow, but that car is about to blow through the traffic lights – step back. Okay. But that your brain doesn’t know the difference between that car blow in through the yellow light. And, me about to speak to an audience of a thousand.

It’s still ringing alarm bells for me, because your brain won’t know the difference if you are at the Grand Canyon or you’re at a movie about the Grand Canyon, or you close your eyes again, it’s determining threat. What’s the threat and not the degree of threat, the threat itself. So when we feel threatened or when our brain gets a signal, that there’s a threat, and that could be, and I don’t know, the science behind this, whether that means that’s when our heart rate raises or what the reactions are from the brain to the rest of the body, or vice versa. When it perceives threat, it is going to figure out, can I eat that? Or is it going to eat me? Right? And so any level of threat, it’s going to react in a particular way, which is to keep you alive.

What does that look like? For example, Oh, this is a good one. First grade. And all of us have these issues that have happened to us as a kid. And this is separate from major trauma kids have had, or growing up in the inner city where they’re under precedent, stress, and pressure of gun violence, and potentially be, you know, this is not, I’m not talking about psychologically, deduced anxiety. I’m talking about normal every day activity. So as kids growing up, I’m growing up. I’m in first grade. Seven years old. I’m best friends with Michelle. Michelle has blonde hair, blue eyes, super popular, super perky, super pretty.

She’s not talking about me by the way.

Yeah. Michelle actually blonde hair, blue eyes, but it could have been you, my point was she and I liked the same boy, Keith.

So, what did we do? What do you do in first grade? When you like boys, you’d chase them around the playground so you can kiss them. That’s what you do.

I would have not done that. I was so shy and no way, but you, I can see that.

Well, no, Michelle kind of drew it out of me, right. Be like Michelle, that was, Michelle was my best friend. And I wanted to be just like her. So, we chase Keith around the playground. And when he let himself get caught, he looked at me and went ewe, and he looked at Michelle and puckered up, Oh, it’s a boy. He’s seven years old. What’s the big deal, get on with your life. Except, I didn’t realize until I was in a program this past weekend, working with a team of coaches that in that moment, I couldn’t be like Michelle. I’m Jewish.

She was a wasp blonde hair, blue eyed perky. Pretty. I could never be that outgoing. Cause I was shy inside. I could never be a wasp. And so I decided, well, then I’ll just be the funny sidekick. I’ll just be the super funny, friendly, smart sidekick. And wouldn’t you know, all the boys, friends, you know, I friend zoned them. Right. I never got the guy. I was never leading lady. I’ve always been the funny quirky side kick. And then I look at my career because when you make those split-second decisions, when you add meaning what happened was Keith went ewe and then puckered up with Michelle and master where I landed was, Oh, I can’t be that way. I’ll just be the funny sidekick. Not knowing it. It’s been a blind spot. Now it’s brought into view. I can look at my career in my life about how much I have relied on other people to be out front.

I’ve always been uncomfortable being out front. I managed other people’s campaigns. I wrote speeches for major people. It wasn’t, it was their words. Not me. I wasn’t out front because I’m a funny sidekick. And now what there is for me to deal with is to be the one, because that’s, you know, I have a voice. I know who I am. And most people wouldn’t suspect this of me because they think of me as very outgoing and perky and speak my mind. And as somebody said to me, you just seem like you don’t give an F what people think. And I said some days, and then, you know, other times, right. But now there’s an opportunity for me to be the one and really get, no, I can, I am the one. I can be the one because I can be perky and I can, it doesn’t even matter what the, what I can or can’t be.

But see that one split second moment as a little kid, I added that meaning I didn’t know that, but if I looked out into my future and I was working with a coach about what was and what was possible, it wouldn’t be, it might be speaking in front of large groups of people. But if I was going to say lead a program to that many people, I would have to have somebody with me. I couldn’t do it by myself. Oh it, you know, and if I look at some of the other places in my career, that’s been the way it is. And then if I look at my love life, and guys have said to me, why I always had a crush on you, but you just wanted to be friends.

And you’re like, Oh no, I didn’t, Damn it!

Damn it, seriously. Seriously. So, how did I know when imposter syndrome was in? Because see, I didn’t come across the thinking around imposter syndrome till a couple of years ago, you know, when there’s like an amorphous thing and then somebody coins a phrase and it all comes out, you know, unconscious bias for example, Oh, that’s what it’s called. When I’m walking down the street late at night. And I see a young black man walking toward me and I hold my purse tighter. That’s unconscious bias. Okay. Now that I’m aware, how can I consciously root that out? Imposter syndrome kind of, Oh, and Dr. Valerie Young, who’s done a Ted Talk and all this work, her doctoral thesis was about imposter syndrome. And what I liked about her work, she makes it far more accessible because she has five types. And that’s when I began to see, Oh, everybody has imposter syndrome.

If you don’t like delegating, that’s part of imposter syndrome. If you things have to be a hundred percent, a hundred percent of the time, that’s me, imposter syndrome. If you feel like you got to do it alone, because if you asked for help, people would know you really didn’t have what it takes, took imposter syndrome. There’s all these different characteristics. So, her work made it far more accessible to see the degree to which every single human suffers from it, no matter what.

Isn’t it fascinating, Jen, that, you know, because one of the reasons that I love talking to women on this show is because I wanted to shine the light on the fact that no matter, you know, new level, new devil, no matter where you are at and your success journey and successes, whatever defined for you, you still struggle with this. And I find it fascinating that you’re saying on one hand, everybody struggles with it.

And on the other hand, most people are walking around going. I’m the only one, like it’s harder for me. Or I’m the only one. They all look amazingly successful doing amazing things. But I can’t seem to get my crap together.

You know, why? Because we’re full of shit because

I’m so glad you said that.

Because, you know, we pretend that we have it altogether. Look at Facebook, Instagram, you don’t see a lot of authentic leaders out there who are speaking truth and going, you know, and I’m having a crap day.

Well, they’re on this show.

Exactly, exactly. That’s why this show is so important. I also think the higher level you go the greater the degree of imposter syndrome, potentially why it’s like the front of the hand and the back of the hand, I create this possibility, to be a bad ass boss, lady leading a multimillion-dollar company. But, I’ve only been a VP, but I can see this whole idea of had to start a business and launch a business. But I’ve been afraid. Let’s say you get the business plan together. You get the angel investors, you get the funding and boom, crap. I’m now playing at this bigger game. So those doubts are even bigger because when the possibility of something arises, the level of resignation is a match. And it really is the universe giving you opportunity to keep transforming your relationship to what’s possible and who you are in the matter of what’s possible so that you continue to bring yourself forth and be way more committed to what you want to cause in the world. Then your crappy little voices inside your head.

Like, I don’t know someone’s going to come in and tell me all my data is crap. Accomplished people. Oprah has talked about this. So, you know, the people listening to show, just know you’re no different than Oprah, right. Except for the billions of what her net worth is.

So, do you want to have imposter syndrome and hold yourself back? Or do you want to have an imposter syndrome and go for it?

Exactly. Knowing that it’s going to come along with you now, you don’t have to have it run the show. How do you not have it run the show? You’re able to identify those case issue or issues where it snapped into place. You made something up when to identify that once you see that blind spot, you’re no longer blind to it. Then we look at well, what triggers it?

What are the moments that trigger it? You’re in a meeting and you have something really important to say. And, you’re the only female leader among in the C suite or you’re the only female of color in the room of white people or whatever it is that triggers it in that moment.

Okay, great. Let’s look at what triggers it. What are the warning signs that it gets triggered? Okay. So what practices can we use to break through?

Can we talk about one, one specifically, because I think that it’s common for women and it’s common for a lot of leaders. And you started to go at, in your example of being in the room and afraid to speak up.

This is whether you’re the only woman in the room or not. I find with a lot of women they’re afraid. And I know for my I’ll just go with myself.

I’m not afraid to say what I think in one to one, but as soon as I’ve got a lot of players in the room and I can’t keep my eye on everybody at the same time, I really, I know for myself, that’s when I hesitate. And it’s a safe, it’s a mechanism. Right. Cause I can’t assess everybody at the same time.

Do I have your permission to coach you?

On my own show, Absolutely! But you know, I want to, I don’t want to lose this. That should be different for everybody. But I thought I’d just throw myself out there because a lot of women struggle to say what they think to the group.

Yes. And I would say a lot of men do too. They just don’t talk about it the way that women do because men aren’t, they just don’t talk about their feelings. They’re supposed to man up.

That’s awesome that you said that.

Yeah, absolutely. And what you’re talking about as you were talking, it’s interesting. My throat chakra was tightening because this, you know, women have more TMJ than men, our jaw opening to speak. It’s where we hold anger. But also I could feel my fear. People don’t know what a chakra is. It’s an energy center. Okay. In your body. That’s the easiest way to say it’s been around for thousands of years. Look it up, Google that, you’re all good. So I could feel it tightening on you. When you are in a meeting.

I knew you were going to say that! Yeah. I just knew, just toss it out there. I felt that on you. All right. Give it to me, Jen.

Okay. So just first of all, when you’re in that meeting, what is it you’re afraid of when you say you can’t see everybody. That was interesting to me. What’s the difference? Why do you want to see people?

I want to assess their reaction to what I’m saying.

Okay. And what do you make it mean when people, so you want to assess their reaction? You’re looking at their faces, body language?

All of it.

Okay. And what do you notice? What are your tells that people maybe don’t want to hear? What you have to say are uninterested, bored, whatever. What are the tells?

Oh, there’s so many. I mean, lean in or lean out, crossing the arms. I can see the micro, I read micro expressions, right? Like how their eyes are and their brow and yeah.

Yeah. What if they just have gas? What if they lean back to like give their belly a little room? Cause they just had a big lunch. What if they have something going on at home? And they are thinking about the fight they had with their spouse early in the morning and cross their arms. What if they are feeling vulnerable? Because it’s their idea they’re talking about. And so, they cross their arms to feel safe.

See, that’s what I want to point out to you, Michelle, is you have no idea what’s going on in people’s heads yet your letting people’s facial expressions, body language, determine what you’re going to say or not. You get that so far.

Oh, totally. Yeah. So, I mean, I have an awareness about this, so I’m comfortable talking about it, but I mean, it’s just interesting why we do this. Right.

Because as human beings we add meaning to every yeah. That’s just what we do, you know? And I think it goes back to what you said. I think you said this, I remember exactly how you phrased it, but you know, what’s going to be the bigger commitment to getting your voice or across or to holding back, playing big or playing small. We also could, if I was, if we were just ourselves and all these people weren’t listening, you’re like, all right, Michelle, let’s go back and figure out the first time that happened. And we’d get to that split-second moment. You know, I was coaching a client and she really had a tough time being connected with people and she just moved into the C suite and it was kind of sad.

If I wasn’t having all of these stupid thoughts questioning myself, who would I be? Click To Tweet

Like you need to get some coaching. Maybe you should get some coaching. And you really accomplished, really brilliant. Very well liked. Very well thought of, but her boss said, you know, she’s the one who came to him and said, I’m struggling managing some people. And why don’t you think about a coach? What we got to was so interesting when she was nine, I think you’re nine in third grade or eight. She came home from school with a C. She had all A’s one C first day. She gives it to her dad. Who’s a military guy. He goes, well, what’s with the C. She goes, what’s the problem. It’s average. Give me a 1500 word essay on what average means. Boom, right there. Everything’s gotta be perfect. Must be perfect. And people are going to criticize me no matter what I do.

So, she’s now got these glasses on that have, everything’s gotta be perfect. People are going to criticize me walking into a room. You think she’s wide open, ready to manage her team or meet with somebody. She’s looking for people being critical of her, which is completely shutting down her voice, keeping her small, keeping her small, you know, again, she’s very, very accomplished, but keeping her small from the perspective of making the difference she wants to make being the kind of leader. So when she saw it, I go, isn’t that funny? And upset Eight year old has been running your life.

Yeah. We all have it. Like we do. It took me a while to figure that one out for me. And you’re just giving another story and I have a suspicion. Everybody has a story, something like that.

Yeah. And probably stories. And the key thing is when that happens, we develop a brain pattern called Play it, safe, protect ourselves, whatever our flavor is. Yep. And then another threat comes up that feels the same. And we protect ourselves again and again and again, till it becomes this ingrained habit. And what I do with people is identify and root out. Those decisions you’ve made. So we can dissolve them. Because again, once you can see it, you’re like, Oh dang, all right. Now your job the next week is to spot that pattern everywhere in life. Cause it’s not just at work. It’s everywhere. You’re at the grocery store. And the woman says, you know, do you want a bag? Do you want me to help you to your car with your groceries. You’re like, what? I can’t do it myself and your head. Cause you gotta be a hundred percent perfect. A hundred percent of the time.

Yeah. And you can see that in a lot of the, just even in the women on this show that I’ve interviewed, they can recognize it quicker. They can can recover or they can adjust or, you know, fill in the blank, whatever they’ve done. It’s like kind of like going to the, I always say going to the mental gym, it is because you’re building.

It is exactly that you’re building up muscle. You know, I’m a cyclists. Lord knows my bike doesn’t think so. Cause I dry clothes on it. And I haven’t been out in a while, but when I walk or when I hike, there are totally different muscles that I use and that, and it’s painful. Like, Oh my God, well you do have to build up muscle. And that is the game. Exactly what you said, catch it quicker.

How quickly can you catch it? Maybe the first time it’s 24 hours. Maybe then it’s 10 hours. Maybe then it’s four hours. And guess what? That’s less time you spend beating yourself up, the less time you spend annoyed with other people, less time you spend squashing your voice

And it’s time to not squash your voice people.

Yes. Time to be a squash-less, time to be a voice time to be the one.

Is there something that you teach your clients because not everybody listening, has access to a coach or is going to maybe have the opportunity. What can we do ourselves? There are things that we can do.

Yeah. And I’m actually glad you asked that because I’ve come across so many people that have this at every single level I’m actually, so it should be next week. I will have on my website, number one, a quiz that people can take free of charge to get, to understand their unique blend of imposter syndrome.

I will have a webinar on imposter syndrome for like 47 bucks, under 50 bucks that people can watch with a worksheet and really kind of dig in to be able to identify it. And then if they want, they can do a couple sessions with me, just like three sessions with me to dial it in. So, because people have been wanting this, I wanted to make things accessible for someone at every level that doesn’t have the funds to hire an executive coach. And it’s totally affordable if you don’t want to do any of that. I think it’s really starting to notice. When am I holding myself? Because this is the thing. This is why I always say hire a coach because I will say to you start to notice when you hold yourself back and you probably will. And like you said, well, I already know, you know, I’m not, I’m good One-on-one not in groups. I know the signs, et cetera. Okay. Well then what if you were my client? I’d say, okay, what’s the next opportunity you have to speak up. How are we going to manage that? We’d role play in the entire conversation. And then we’d get back together. I’d find out how it went. So for people that are listening, you start to notice when you hold back, you start to notice when you doubt yourself. And I would actually write out because everyone has a different flavor. I questioned myself, you know, do I have what it takes? Do I have what it takes? Do I have to take, am I going to get this right? Am I going to get this right? There’s certain questions I asked myself, but I started with a list of a hundred things that just thoughts, you know, in my head. And you could even every day, there’s a great book. You probably know the author. The Artist’s Way.

Yeah. But we’ll link to it. I’ll look that up.

Yeah. I mean the key thing about this is she says to do morning pages, three pages every morning, just fill it, get up, get a notebook. It doesn’t matter what kind of notebook. I don’t care. Get some blank piece of paper and just fill three pieces of paper with all your doubts about yourself and then rip it up and throw it away. Because the point is to get present to the doubts you’re having about yourself. So you can be present and have presence, you know, at the line. So below the line is all reactive imposter syndrome, doubting ourselves, get to the line so you can create, all right. If I wasn’t having all these stupid thoughts, questioning myself, who would I be?

Oh, I’d be appreciative. Oh, I’d be loving. Oh, I be grateful. Oh, I’d be at home with myself. You know? Oh, well I would speak to inspire. I’d be inspiring. I’d breathe life into people.

You know, what you just called out is the present. Because when we’re in the present, we can’t be in the past and we can’t be in the feature. And one of the things that I was talking about recently is just a simple tool that people can do to get into the present. One is the journaling, but another is just simply breathing, like literally taking the deep breath in.

Right. Moving it through all the shakras. Out. You can’t be consciously breathing and living in the past

Or the future.

Or the future. Right.

Cause the future is all about comparison. You’re so right. Because we only have this moment.

Yeah. There really is. Only this moment. We just think we have, we’re just the future. We don’t know letting the distraction.

Yeah. Oh my gosh. And that goes back to kind of where we were chatting beforehand about inside out.

Yes, absolutely. That it’s the job of a leader to be congruent with oneself. What is congruence that is coming into alignment with your own authenticity, your own truth. So, and even if it’s difficult to speak your truth, even if you find yourself, you know, it used to be, for me, people would say, how are you? Fine, fine. Cause I had it that people didn’t care, didn’t want to know. And I certainly wasn’t going to be vulnerable. And I literally had to, it was like a vice grip around my throat that I had to like, almost like squeezing a tube of toothpaste to get the words out.

Like, actually I’m not that good today. You want to talk about it. Not really, but I’m just having a rough day. But thank you for asking or I am actually fabulous, to actually answering the question. So, whether you want to stay true to yourself, your authenticity congruent with yourself. So you can stand firm, be rooted as a leader and express and only then can you be there for other people? Because when you’re doubting yourself, it’s really difficult to be there for other people.

Otherwise it’s really just reactionary. It’s just outside in.

Yeah. But I think what you just said is important. You’re either reacting or you’re creating and pretty much assume we’re always reacting to something always unless we breathe and we’re present.

Then we have choice. Where do I want to go? I don’t want to keep having a tantrum. Maybe I want to keep having a tantrum. Yeah. Maybe I need a day to have a tantrum and have a choice about it of just at the effect of yeah.

At the effect of, and you know, the thing about this is it’s so simple. People are running around looking for these grandiose books, programs know massive changes when they have all the tools needed. Right here with Numero UNO.

It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. You know, that’s why I say get a coach, get into some personal growth and development classes, whatever it is because it is simple and we don’t need some grandiose idea, just get, we make shit up about ourselves. We make shit up about each other. We make stuff about what’s going on outside ourselves. That’s a given, sorry, folks. I always drop a little color to my vocabulary from time to time. And if we can assume that that’s always and forever going to be there, we can catch ourselves and stop making stuff up. We mix it. You know, I make stuff up about my shampoo. For example, you know, Oh, wow. It’s a good shampoo or bad shampoo. Oh, this one has whatever it would have in there. It makes my hair glisten. That’s a better one and having better. So then it must be better, good hair days and bad hair days that’s made up. It’s just hair. It’s made up. It’s all made up. We make stuff up all the time. Problem isn’t that we make stuff up about our hair. Shampoo problem is when we make stuff up about each other and then we’re truly not connected or seeing the divine light in each other, we just are seeing our views about somebody else or our view about ourselves. When we look in the mirror.

A lot of times what we see in others is something more, it has a lot more to do about what we see in ourselves that we don’t like.

Yeah, absolutely. What you can’t be with robs you of your power. And generally, I’ll say that again, what you can’t be with robs you of your power. So, with what’s going on in the world today, what’s going on around racism and murder and those kinds of things. If we continue to be angry and reactive robs us of our power to be proactive and to create and be creative. When somebody rubs us the wrong way. Absolutely. It’s either, usually something we got going on about ourselves or we’ve actually done something to that person that we don’t want them to know about, like gossiped about them or undermine them in some way or taking credit for their work or, cut them off because of some small thing they did. And we never got real about it or broke a promise to them and we never cleaned it up. And now think they’re the jerk.

I was, I wanted to bring that up because I mean, in the workplace, right. Like tensions in the workplace, tensions at home.

That’s the same thing right now, right?

Yeah, exactly. I love that. The workplaces, right? Yeah.

And trust that whoever’s getting under your skin, it could also be, they remind you of somebody. Like, you know, the grandmother or the grandfather or your mom or your dad, that sort of thing. We can get into those roles as well. Like mommy, daddy, and kid role. Right? So there’s all kinds of ways to come out. Why somebody gets our ire up, but it keeps coming back to do right to home. And if you keep looking out there for an explanation, which is by the way, what we generally do with our friends, my God, you wouldn’t believe what happened. Look, Hey, we gotta go out for drinks. Let’s numb ourselves and not be present. And let’s have this heart to heart about how angry you are.

So, we can all pile agreement on top of it to let you know how right you are, about how wronged you’ve been. Now my friends know they can’t do that with me. So they know that when they call me, you know, they will start and I’ll be like, okay, stop. Do you need me to hold a bucket? Oh yeah, I do. Okay. Let me hold the verbal vomit bucket. You can vomit into it. But you know, within five minutes, we’re going to be having a conversation for how, for you to have your power back now, how do you get your power back? You look within, okay. Where, what did I step over? Uh, where did I sell out on myself? Where did I sell out on somebody else? You know, all those things. But we call those friends that we have wine with and gossip, our friends, but they’re not. I mean, they’re there.

As you further yourself on the ladder of success, the better chance you have that you will struggle with imposter syndrome to a greater degree. Click To Tweet

You’re friendly with them. But if you gotta train each other to hold each other accountable. You know, my best friend who lives in Boston, I’m also her coach, which is interesting. And we have to have like, okay, we have our coaching session. And then all other conversations are friends. Right? And I remember sitting at the kitchen table when Saturday, and she is going off about something. And I just said, I screamed at her. I’m like, stop. You’ve now gone on about this for 15 minutes. I’m done. I’m not listening to it anymore. First of all, this is something we’ve talked about in coaching. Second of all, stop complaining about it. Do something about it or stop complaining about it. I’m done. And quite honestly, if I’m your coach, I would say that to my clients, stop, you know, no more.

And especially when people are talking smack about themselves. No more, you don’t get to talk badly about my best friend, Michelle. You don’t get to do that. I’m only here to have you see the light, but that’s, that’s why they always say I’m the velvet sledgehammer. Sometimes I’m just the sledgehammer, but I try to, you know, I have velvet wrapped around it. We really got to call each other out on this stuff. And don’t you want your friends to like, hold you to your greatness. And when we’re complaining and moaning, we’re not being great. We’re just being as a, was it man and Superman, I’m trying to think of the playwright. And he talks about how he wants to, his whole reason, his purpose for living has raised is to have his light shine. And life has only a brief candle.

And in this moment, we’re going to let it shine as brightly as we can, because I don’t want to be a sniffling clod of ailments. I actually have it on my phone. Do you want me to find it so I can read it? It’s a beautiful quote. It really is. I think it also speaks to imposter syndrome because when we’re feeling like an imposter, you’re being a sniffly clod of ailments and it doesn’t serve the world because you’re robbing the world of your greatness. How dare you?

This is from George Bernard Shaw. Just the playwright. Beyond the Grave.

“This is the true joy in life. The being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community. And as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it. Whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live, I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle. To me, it is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for the moment. And I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Right? I just want my gravestone to say used up. That’s what my life’s for to be thoroughly used up. Instead of being a little selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making us happy.

I know that is right. So good.

So, when we’re stuck in that imposter cycle, we’re complaining about ourselves to ourselves. We’re not complaint. If you said to me, Michelle, what you say to yourself at your lowest moments, I would smack ya. What are you talking about? Hey man, you know, we wouldn’t have,

We wouldn’t do that to somebody else. We would treat ourselves like crap.

We treat ourselves but needed to treat ourselves like our best friend, because we would never say to our best friend, what we say ourselves, we would never say to our significant other to our partner, what we say to ourselves, because you’d be horrified.

When did this really start incubating for you, personally? Your curiosity for this topic. One. Two, your decision to, you know, create more work, you know, and more content in this area and to continue to move in this direction. What was there a switch for you?

When I was 15, I would say, because for me, imposter syndrome gives me a framework that gives my thinking and my, how I coach people and where I come from a framework that makes this accessible in a way I hadn’t been accessible to people before. When I was 15. So I’m like middle class Jewish kid, right? 15 years old, I got stoned and robbed a house and been arrested and busted.

What do you have to complain about? Nothing. I was just being a brat. My parents got divorced and I was ticked off at the world. So I had gotten busted and I was in it. I was on probation for a year. My mother wouldn’t let me see my best friend. She thought she was a bad influence. I’m like little, do you know? Yeah, wasn’t that it was my idea, but I was like, yeah, let’s go. Are we used to take turns babysitting at the house. And we would go. And, and one of our friends was babysitting and we knew they had the ran a gas station. We knew they had all this change and the drawers. And so, you know why I wrote the house? You know what I wanted the money for?

It’s like 19, what is this? The seventies? I wanted a pair of light blue wide, well corduroys, Ooh, baby. And a belt. Really stylish belt, maybe a little blouse that goes with it. Yes, I do in ninth grade. So important. So I do this and I went and took a course that my mom and my brother had done. And I’m in the middle of the weekend. And I have this moment, I realize all the things, all this was related to me being ticked off at my mom for asking my dad for the divorce. And I forgave my mom. I was able to go back to her and talk about that. But I also realized I had begun to think of myself as a juvenile delinquent, the crowd that I ran with and because other people called me that because of what I had done, I began to cut school that year, like 129 classes.

I was sitting out the courtyard in school, smoking joints and smoking cigarettes and like flipping my teachers, the bird. It was just ridiculous because it was a ridiculous behavior.

This persona got attached to you.

I landed there. I landed there. You know, that’s where I land. It was like, I’m just going to be rough and tough. And you know, this is stupid and school is stupid because of the crowd I was hanging out with. And we all fed into each other. It wasn’t, you know, I could have been, I could have landed on continuing with marching band and drama and all the other things in the crowd that I had been with, but I didn’t. I landed, I put myself in with this other crowd. And in that moment, I realized I didn’t have to keep living out the life I’d already been living.

It was like, I got present. And I realized the future hadn’t happened because right then there was this future in front of me called juvenile delinquent, you know, get into maybe harder drugs because the people around me were doing pills and snorting, I think it was like THC back then. I don’t know. Meth. I don’t know, something like that. I don’t know. I remember there was different colors. I never saw him do it. I just heard him talk about it and they were doing LSD. And so when I got present, I realized the future hadn’t happened yet. And the past didn’t have to determine the future. I could say how life was going to go. And what I said was my life was about making a difference.

It was a first congressional race I worked on. I went off to college and majored in political campaign management. I ran campaigns for 25 years and I was coaching people at the same time, starting about 1999 for, one of the major personal growth and development companies. And eventually in 2016, 2015, I completed my tenure with them. Was still in the political game. And I got laid off from my job. The day before my book came out and a friend of mine called me and he was like, so what are you going to do now? And I said, what do you mean I need a job I’m talking. He was like, no, no, no, Jen, what are you going to do? It was my friend’s husband. And he’s wonderful. And whatever he said, within a week, I’m like, I’m going into business for myself.

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I’m going to be coaching women because I want people empowered and impassioned about their own light, their truth, their grace, their peace. And I want them empowered to make a difference in the world. And that’s how I’m going to make a difference is to have you make the difference you want to make. That’s my job just to have you make the difference you want to make. And my life will be thoroughly used up when I die, as long as I’m living from that moment. And I could die tomorrow quite honestly, and look back at my life and have a very fulfilled and complete life, tens of thousands of people that I’ve coached over the last 20 years. So I’ve always been in this place of how do I make a difference? How do I make a difference? I’ve always been very curious. You know, I’m always, I’m looking to see the connection between things.

You know, I use strengths finder as one of my assessments with my client, the assessment with my clients and connectedness is number one for me. So I always believe a bigger purpose, a bigger reason we’re here, the universe, God, dog, whatever you call it. So I’m always looking to see, I’m always, you know, I have a piece of paper on my little post it note that pops up. That’s my prayer every day. Show me where to go. Show me who to talk to, show me what to ask. And I’ve been praying since I was a little girl, let me be an instrument of your peace. God, I just want to be an instrument of your peace. And that has always been my one prayer. And so it started a long time ago, but I think the framework of imposter syndrome and my desire to empower women, it’s sort of like when you have the big picture of something and you’re looking at the entire shoreline of an Island, let’s say, and then as the camera goes closer, closer, closer, closer, closer, closer, closer.

All of a sudden you see this beach hut, you know, with a fun group of people hanging out, having a barbecue. And you’re like, Ooh, I want to be with them. That looks like fun. So I feel like it kind of started as this big picture and I’ve kept dialing it in. And you’ve helped me with this, too. I’m just kind of focusing, focusing, focusing, focusing until I’m crystal clear and that takes some time and some thought and some thoughtfulness and some intention.

And you know that too, from all the work that you’ve done, you’re brilliant at that. And you’re brilliant at helping other people with that too.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

The time is flying. So, I want to thank you for being on the show.

Thank you for having me here.

Before we call it a wrap for today there are two things on my mind, first and foremost, I want to make sure you got that process. I love teasing out the steps or the process or how, when I have someone on the show, how they’re logically thinking about some of these topics. And of course, this was all about imposter syndrome, all about the fact that really, it just comes down to self-doubt and that you weren’t born with it, but we all have it. And I loved how Jen walked us through this process of how this gets developed and ingrained into each of us. And if you didn’t tease it out in this way, let me walk you through it before we end the show.

So, she said there are split second decisions. These, there are experiences and moments in our lives where we make a split second decision and add meaning to something. It happens so fast. You don’t notice it. So, there’s an event. You make a split second decision, whether you know it or not, and you decide to add meaning to the event about what is and is not possible for you. And that creates a blind spot.

And those blind spots, you were not born with my dear. And they are layered in over time. And that is what feeds the self-doubt. So, so, so good. So very, very powerful. Okay. That was the first thing.

Last thing is I’m making the ask and I’m very clear on the ask week in and week out is that I would love for you to share this with one other person who you believe will find benefit. Now, this week, in my opinion, I know everybody, everybody needs to hear this conversation with Jen Coken, but if you would just forward it on, take the link and forward it on to one other person in your life, it could really, it not just could, it will make a huge, huge impact for them. So please share that as a gift.

We will talk to you next week. Aright, talk to you soon.

About Jen Coken

Jen Coken | Executive Coach

Jen Coken is the executive coach for Badass Boss Ladies who are ready to smash obstacles, jump over hurdles, and grab snarling dogs by the ears. For twenty years she’s been beating down BS with a velvet sledgehammer tasseled with humor. She is also an international speaker and best-selling author. When she isn’t doing all of that, you can find her performing stand-up comedy or eating Nutella by the spoonful in the nearest grocery aisle.

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