Series 2, Ep7: Imposter syndrome and the need for explicit feedback




Imposter syndrome feels be like:

You're not supposed to be here!
That's not yours!
Who do you think you are?
Who asked you?
You're not good enough!
You don't know enough yet!

But is it true?

Sometimes, its just a product of industry bias; narrow paths to a position of recognised expertise; ~isms presented as meritocracy.

And sometimes its a LACK of feedback, or feedback you can't perceive or receive,

that has you doubting if you can really call yourself that


Other times, it's a signal that you are in the process of becoming.

In this week's podcast episode, I get into these three reasons, 

so you can decide whether 'imposter syndrome' feelings are worth believing

or are there to be welcomed as a sign that you are on track.





[00:00:00] Hey, sibling, you are listening to the Unmasking Unschooled podcast. This is for visionaries, creatives, and changemakers who happen to be autistic, who are done with pathology paradigms, the masks and misinterpretations of the past and the burnout cycles that come from trying to fit in with what doesn't work.

[00:00:31] You are here to create new aligned life structures, to innovate industries, to design liberatory solutions, and create new culture by becoming yourself. My name is Louisa S. I'm an artist, coach, and founder of SOLA Systems. This is all about you getting unstuck, reinventing and elevating your sense of self.

[00:00:52] Having the social context and frameworks to make a life that makes sense for how you make sense. So you can finally experience who you're here to be in your fullness. Let's deep dive into it.

[00:01:07] Hey sibling. All right. Today I'm going to talk about imposter syndrome. Before we get into it, I want to share a micro revelation that I've had in some of my life. Relationships like friendships where it's people who know me, but we haven't gone deep yet. We might not ever, don't know. We're getting to know.

[00:01:28] And it's a hiccup that I haven't been able to see in this way before. And it's with people who are not autistic. And so what I've noticed is at a certain stage in the getting to know process and where I think in the past this maybe hasn't been something I've been able to see, been able to address. I think I've lost out on deeper friendships that could have actually had more to them had I spotted this.

[00:02:00] Right. And I'm calling it. Something like the milliseconds of second guessing. It's basically the milliseconds. It might even be several seconds. It's basically the lag time between when they've shared or expressed something and when I've processed it. So they share something that is maybe. are getting to know, revealing of themselves, maybe something sensitive or personal or vulnerable or a joke or something where they're checking in with me, is something okay, you know, something like that and the time it takes for me that is longer than most people and longer than what they are used to, the time it takes me to process that There's like a lag time.

[00:02:49] There's a gap where my face is still blank. I'm still not responding. I'm not reacting. And there's things that happen in that gap which, you know, past versions of me, masked versions of me, would have filled that gap by second guessing what my response should be, following the patterns, producing the right semblance of sounds and so affirming feedback to them and I would mostly get that right and they would think that I've received and heard and processed what they're saying, when in actuality I'm still catching up and I've just offered something to give myself the space to catch up, right?

[00:03:34] So I'm giving them what I think should be a the response ahead of time. And now, because I'm not doing that, this gap between when they've expressed something and my response, what's happening is they're just waiting. And there's this tiny window of time, and I'm not yet responding because I'm giving myself processing time.

[00:03:59] And instead of just waiting, they start second guessing me. So where I've been the person who was second guessing what I needed to be for them. It's now switched and other people start second guessing what my response is before I've offered it. And if the trust of a close friendship isn't there, the familiarity and trust isn't there yet, sometimes they fill that gap with second guessing my lack of response as judgment.

[00:04:31] And they start being apologetic in some way or closing down or creating some distance. And it's like a tiny rupture. in that relationship. And so recently I've been able to observe it and catch it and formulate a way to be like, by the way, sometimes it takes me longer than most people to process what people have said or what's happening.

[00:04:59] And that's all that's going on. And that is something that is now shifting the track of those relationships where that rupture in the past, I think, had become a reason to be less close. So let's get to it today. I want to talk about imposter syndrome. I'm going to just assume that you know what I'm referring to and skip ahead to, you know what?

[00:05:23] Imposter syndrome. I'm not into the languaging of that. Don't know if it's useful to collect a bunch of experiences, call them symptoms, collectively call it a syndrome, suggest that you're an imposter, when maybe this is just a natural human experience, and or it's the result of systemic issues. Right. And not something that is wrong about you.

[00:05:51] It's the feeling of, I'm not supposed to be here. Uh, there's something, you know, shameful or, or not good enough about me. I don't belong here. Who do I think I am? And, I think there are three reasons why you and I might experience imposter syndrome. Knowing those three reasons that I'm going to offer means you can decide whether you need to be feeling that or not, whether it's useful or not.

[00:06:21] I think the problem that happens is we think that when we're feeling that way, It's a sign that something bad's gone wrong or we're believing it as a reason to stop doing something, a reason to, you know, pull back, shrink, take up less space, be less ambitious, lower our horizons, uh, seek lots and lots of validation before we go ahead with something, get endless certificates and qualifications, et cetera, right?

[00:06:50] When Most times feeling that way is actually just a signal that you're on the right track. Keep going. You're doing something that is new, new in an industry or new in a particular social context or a family or whatever. Right. It's a reason to keep going because of the three reasons I'm going to explain.

[00:07:14] So one reason why you might be feeling imposter syndrome is because you are Aren't supposed to be there In the sense that you are becoming someone that you aren't yet, right? So I don't mean that you're faking it till you make it. I mean that you're in process You're in the process of becoming you're in the process of acquiring a skill Developing a role showing up in the world in a new way or in a new space And in that becoming, what you haven't done is create enough evidence, either for yourself and for other people, to really back and believe 100 percent that this is who you are.

[00:07:57] So when you're in that process of becoming, you aren't there at 100 percent yet in your belief, you don't have factual, tangible, solid, uh, indisputable evidence. You might have some evidence, but you're in the process of building that evidence up, building that belief, uh, building the skills required, becoming the person.

[00:08:20] All right. So the solution then, if that's the reason why you are feeling the imposter syndrome type feelings, is to keep going. You're feeling exactly how you are supposed to feel. You're supposed to feel this way. Nothing's gone wrong. It's not a sign that you're in the wrong place, but a sign that you just haven't arrived at enough material evidence to support 100 percent belief in yourself or even in other people or both.

[00:08:47] So keep going. Number two is that systemically, socially, there may be a set of values, a type of culture where the feedback that you are getting is that you are acting above your station. Right. Supposedly above in quotation marks, right, that you are somehow not supposed to be here, that there is something about you that is being judged as, oh, you don't get to be here.

[00:09:18] Who do you think you are? And you are actually Getting that feedback from people, or you are actually not getting the feedback that you should be getting because there is bias present in how people are reacting to your presence, to your experience, to your expertise, to what you're offering, to your insights.

[00:09:37] That is meaning that the feedback that you're getting is designed to undermine your confidence. Your belief is designed to push you back, is coming from a space of competition. Or prejudice, right? So this is going to be an experience. For you, the more instances of marginalization that you experience on a regular basis, the more that compounds a sense that that is who you are, that you aren't supposed to be there, and that is the feedback.

[00:10:08] And so then it's about questioning that. It's about looking at what's actually going on. It's about finding people who can believe you in that, who can affirm that, yeah, you are experiencing prejudice or some kind of, you know, Social bias that means that other people are implicitly or explicitly telling you that you aren't supposed to be there.

[00:10:33] The feelings might also come about even if that's not happening, but because historically that has been a predominant experience. And so your body is bracing for that, expecting to feel that rejection, preemptively rejecting yourself ahead of time so that you feel in control and don't feel like you're going to be subject to that in a way that is surprising or overwhelming.

[00:10:57] So it might be that you're trying to recreate that because it's been an experience in the past that hasn't fully been resolved. You're being triggered into a state of rejecting yourself ahead of time. And number three reason this one is more nuanced around being autistic, being ADHD, being someone who experiences communication differences, empathy differences that aren't societally supported, enabled, understood.

[00:11:28] And what this means is that you aren't Receiving the feedback that is there. So let's say someone is giving you that feedback, but they're not doing it in a way that you can recognize or trust or receive or really feel Unequivocally sure about it's implied, it's not explicit. Maybe it's done through certain type of body language, a certain intonation of the voice.

[00:11:58] And it's not, you know, it's not something that is explicitly coming your way as Clear affirmation, right? So this I thought about because I came across a study called forming global estimates of self performance from local confidence. And the study found that when people don't receive feedback, they underestimate their abilities.

[00:12:27] And this is also something that came up recently, coaching someone who is in an industry where explicit feedback isn't operationalized. It isn't normalized. It isn't a structure that they can go to and ask how well they're doing. There isn't like a grading system, a way to see where they're at. And so, because that, that lack of feedback is there, there's a sort of absence of feedback, they're having to second guess, and in doing so they were stuck in a feeling of not good enough yet, of, of, you know, when do I get to feel like I've arrived, when do I get to feel confident in what I'm doing, despite the fact that they had been doing it for more than a decade.

[00:13:11] So that explicit feedback is a communication need in a world where implied meanings are often part of communication or the mode of communication that carries that implied meaning isn't accessible or translatable, right? It's not something that you can notice and receive. This also comes down to needing explicit feedback to counteract a tendency to assume the worst about yourself, to assume that you're doing it wrong or the authority isn't pleased or the feedback that you do.

[00:13:40] well or badly doesn't correlate with the amount of effort that you put in. And there's this confusion about how to make sense of that. Or, you know, times when you get feedback for some of what you do and some of who you are and not for other aspects of your experience and that mismatch and that imbalance.

[00:14:01] means that you never fully feel able to trust it. You never feel like you can put two feet into it and go with your whole self. And so explicit feedback, and this isn't just in work. It's also useful in friendships. I know that I like to explicitly state. So we're. Friends now. Yes. Good. Okay decided now we can get on with it in my Long term relationship.

[00:14:27] So I'm in a monogamous long term married relationship. We've been together nearly 18 years explicit communication of our Interest intent feelings, you know where we're at And our desire to be together, that's been a cornerstone of our relationship from the start. I think it's one of the reasons why it's worked because there's no game playing.

[00:14:51] So in industries, in friendships, relationships, where game playing is present or where you're not yet in a position where you can get that affirmative validation or there's cultural or social capital being negotiated or there's bias present or feedback is withheld or it's intentionally negative, it's coming out of competition or status play or prejudice, then your self estimation of your capabilities is going to be lower than what it actually is.

[00:15:23] You're going to assume then that you. aren't good enough, that you need to be better first, that you don't have, you know, what it takes to be the person, to get the job, to make the grade, to realise the vision and to do the things that you are actually ready to do. You'll think that, so if you're working on something that is new, that has you being a new version of you, acquiring a new skill set, taking on a new role.

[00:15:52] Doing things that are a first in your industry or your family or your upbringing or your social context, then expect imposter syndrome feelings. Welcome them, but also seek feedback, find trusted mentors, get peers who aren't competitive, who can be generous. Ask for explicit feedback from your colleagues, your clients, your collaborators.

[00:16:15] And also when you get it, when you get that good feedback, record it, collect it, build up a vault, a bank of evidence, right? Every time you get good feedback. Something that affirms what you are wanting to be doing, then collect it up so that you have somewhere to go and can remind yourself and start to have evidence to show your brain.

[00:16:40] Yes, look, this is who I've been being. Something is working. I'm building more and more evidence. And I can be this version of me some more. I could lean into this some more. I can become some more. And the more evidence that you build, the more action that you take being that practicing becoming that, the more that you put yourself in a position for someone to come along and say, I see you, I see what you're doing and give you the sense that You know, puts a pin in that imposter syndrome, allows you to arrive at a new baseline, a new normal, and then look ahead and build.

[00:17:23] Okay, well, what now? I've done this. I've arrived. I'm here. I'm doing it. I'm doing the thing. I'm being who I wanted to be. What's next. I hope this has helped you sibling. I'll talk to you soon. Bye.









is for #autistic-status visionaries, creatives and change-makers, who are seeking a more empowering way to see, know and be yourself.