The Long and The Short Of It

53. Imposter Two-Step

Episode Summary

Pete discusses the topic of his recent TEDx Talk, and he and Jen dive into scenarios and solutions for when the inner imposter feeling comes up.

Episode Notes

Pete discusses the topic of his recent TEDx Talk, and he and Jen dive into scenarios and solutions for when the inner imposter feeling comes up. 

Specifically, in this episode Jen and Pete talk about:

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Episode Transcription

Jen: Hello, listeners. If you detect joy in my voice, it's because Pete Shepherd is coming to New York City!

Pete: "Rahhhh!" I can hear the crowd screaming, Jen. "Rahhhh!" It's true. It's true. I'm coming back into New York City. And in celebration of that, and in celebration of our one-year milestone of The Long and Short Of It, we're going to be doing another Live Podcast. It'll be happening on the 7th of October, at 7pm Eastern. And if you want to sign up, come along, and join the frivolity, you can go to

Jen: Thank you so much for making this year possible, listeners! We literally couldn't, and wouldn't do it without you. If you have found value in this podcast, and there are people in your life who you think might also find value in it, we would so appreciate it if you would take a screenshot of your phone right now, and text the image of today's episode to a friend and encourage them to listen.

Pete: And finally, if you haven't already, please head to our website,, and sign up for our Box O' Goodies, which is a weekly email containing links to resources, questions, books, podcasts, and ideas, all in relation to the week's episode. Thanks for listening.

Pete: Hello, Jen.

Jen: Hello, Pete.

Pete: I have something that I'm excited to share with you, that I have shared, officially, on the TEDx stage. And I'd like to now bounce it off you, and get your thoughts on what I call the "Imposter Two-Step."

Jen: Ooh, you know I love to dance. So yes, it's time. This is The Long and The Short Of It.

Pete: So, I think it was Episode Two, or maybe it was Three, where you and I officially did an episode on Imposter Syndrome. But I want to do a little recap to give some context. So, I believe Imposter Syndrome is a good thing. I believe each and every one of us is an imposter, to some degree. And I believe that the moments where we feel fear, doubt, and insecurity, the moments where we feel like we don't belong, the moments where we're questioning whether we have any idea what we're doing...moments when we're doing something for the first time. And so what I wonder is, doesn't that, by definition, make us an imposter? And if that's true, doesn't that then mean that everyone who's ever invented anything new- anyone who's ever written a book, anyone who's ever given a keynote for the first time, written a book for the first time, delivered a podcast for the first time, is, by definition, also an imposter? So to me, then, the difference becomes- what do we do with these feelings? What do we do with Imposter Syndrome? What do we do when we feel insecurity, and fear, and doubt? And this was the topic of my TEDx talk, which was, I came up with a little framework on how we might dance with it. Knowing that we don't crush Imposter Syndrome, we don't eliminate Imposter Syndrome, you don't, like, delete it from your life. You actually dance with it. So, I'm going to pause there. That is the context. Does that make sense? Do you have any questions?

Jen: No, I don't have questions. I'm just giggling with the recognition in everything that you're saying. And it is immediately making me remember the weeks leading up to becoming a mom.

Pete: Wow.

Jen: And that feeling of like, "I don't know how to do this. Like, I can't possibly do this.". But then you have no choice because, guess what?

Pete: It's happening!

Jen: Here she is! We're handing you a brand new baby. So, figure it out.

Pete: It's happening, regardless. So, I have a similar example I shared in my talk, and I've shared with people before that- I went from being a normal-sized child to a six-foot-seven, awkward, uncomfortable bean-pole, essentially. And it was the same thing. It was like, "I don't have a qualification in being tall. No one's given me permission to be six-foot-seven. I don't have the degree, or the permission, or the assets in order to feel comfortable being six-foot-seven. But, I also don't have a choice.". It's funny because what I think about the example, in particular that I shared, is that, part of it is you have these growing pains. And so for me, that was, you know, cramps in my hips, and pains in my shins, and aches in my back. Like, literal growing pains that were necessary in order for me to get to where I need to go. And so what I wondered, and what I've asserted is whether the fear that we're not good enough, the questions that we don't belong, this idea that we feel like an imposter, what if that is also just a growing pain? And it's a sign, in actual fact, that your brain is stretching, that you're doing something new, and that you are developing and growing into a better version of yourself?

Jen: Maybe this is a point you make in the talk, so don't let me steal your thunder. But the second I heard you say, "I didn't have a choice to be tall", it made me start connecting the dots to some of the other things you've shared with me, about running towards the bang, and taking risks. And in all of those the cases, you do have a choice. So, there are certain times in our lives where we are imposters by design, and we really have no choice but to figure out how to move through it. And then there are other times where we have the opportunity, and we then get to make a choice: Am I going to step toward this, or am I not?

Pete: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. So I love this idea of choices. So I think the first point is, when we feel like an imposter, we have a choice. Do we run away from it? Do we try and hide from it? Do we crush it, or eliminate it? (Which I don't think you can do.) Or do we choose instead to dance? And so the Imposter Two-Step is a very, very simple framework that I came up with, which I think is how we can choose to dance with said imposter. The framework is: Step One- ask yourself, "What is my imposter saying to me?". Actually say it out loud, or write it down, or tell a friend, but give it a voice. "What is my imposter saying to me?" And then Step Two is- to actually give yourself a voice. And you can say that out loud, you can write that down, you can tell a friend. But actually ask yourself, "What am I going to say back?". So it's about: Step One- giving your imposter a voice. And then, Step Two- giving yourself a voice.

Jen: So while you were preparing this TED Talk, the first time I heard you say that, my brain exploded into a million pieces. And I think I started jumping up and down, and screaming, like, "Yes, that's it! That is it!”. That is so brilliant, because it's so simple. And it's so actionable. And it's so scary to be that specific with yourself. Because it's really easy to say, "I have imposter syndrome", and then just hide in that. Like, "I just have imposter syndrome, so I'm just going to put the brakes on here.". But what you're saying, if I'm hearing you correctly, is that in this Step One of give your imposter a voice, you have to get really specific about exactly what it is you're feeling like an imposter about. Not the general wash of feeling, but the specifics. And then, what I love is that it doesn't stop there. This is why I think it's so brilliant, Peter Shepherd. So “Shepherdian,” as they say. That, the next step is to flip the script, is to shift the mindset, is to take back the narrative of your own self-talk. And, I feel like this simple idea can be so empowering! I love it.

Pete: I appreciate that. Yeah, it's a bit of a “yes and”, really. Like, "yes", my imposter says this, "and" this is what I'm going to say back. So, to step through a couple of examples just to really, like, itierate how this works, or how this might work- in the world of people applying for jobs, I think this is really common. So, if I was to be applying for a new job, or looking for a new job, I might be in a situation where my imposter says to me, "Well, there's twelve key selection criteria, and you only fit eleven of them. So you better not apply, you imposter.". And I could say back, "Sure, but I do fit eleven of them. So what's the worst that can happen?". Like, that's the Two-Step. It can be as simple as a couple of sentences, or it could be as deep as- I'm going to sit with this for half a day and write an essay. It doesn't really matter. Or, if I think about another example, that is, you know...facilitating a meeting is a very common one in, in a start-up or in the corporate world. Where, someone might be asked to facilitate a meeting, and their imposter might say to them, "Well, who am I to facilitate this meeting full of executives or really, really smart leaders? Like, I'm not that smart, I'm an imposter.". And I think you could say back, "Well, isn't that the role of a really good facilitator? To hold space for all the smart people? To create an environment where they get to share their ideas?". And so that, to me, is just like a couple of really simple examples of how we can Two-Step. Do you have any that spring to mind?

Jen: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it's just so funny because we're recording this off of the back of my teaching two classes today. And in different language, this idea really came up, of...I was teaching acting classes today, so- "Who am I to put myself forward for this role? There are so many other people who are more well-equipped than I am to do this.". And then, the choice is to say to yourself, "While it is true that there are a lot of people who are well-equipped for this, there's only one me who can interpret this the way I am going to interpret it. And I'm going to put my interpretation forward, and it may or may not be the preferred version, but I'm still going to do it.". So yes, I mean, I see so many applications. And my questions, now, are really around all the different ways someone might be able to do the Two-Step. So we have, in previous episodes, talked about the fact that you like to whiteboard, and I like to do voice memos. I would love to brainstorm, like, what are the ways, the different ways people could do this?

Pete: Oooh, I love that.

Jen: I mean, the immediate thing that comes to mind based on our relationship is- I could see using this framework with a coach. Where, you bring your imposter narrative to your coach, and then they help you to re-write said narrative. So, in a conversation sort of format. I know for myself- this is something I can do for myself, in my daily voice memos on my walk to my studio, when I just sort of chat myself up about whatever's on my mind into my voice recorder. Which I know is a sort of strange practice, but I really liked doing it. I could see myself putting a script out there, and then flipping the script.

Pete: Yeah, I think...I've just actually this morning come off a call with about fifteen people. So, I was facilitating a little workshop. And I stepped them through the Imposter Two-Step. So, I think this is another way you might do it, which is within a group of people. So you might do it one-on-one with a coach, but this was really interesting in doing it with a group of people. And so how I structured it was, I did a little riff about the Two-Step. And then I said, "Okay, so Step One- what's your imposter saying to you?". And I was quiet, and gave every single person in the room, in the Zoom Room, permission to say, out loud, what their imposter was saying to them. Now, what was interesting about that is it added a layer, which was almost like a layer of empathy, and a layer of, "Oh wait, their imposter is the same as my imposter.". Or, "Their doubts are the same as my doubts.". Or, "Their insecurities are the same as mine.". So there was like this extra layer to the Two-Step. And then I asked them, after they'd all shared, "Okay, and what are you going to say back?". And a lot of them kind of built on one another, and they got kind of fired up about it, and were like, "Yeah, I'm going to say that, too. And I'm going to remind my imposter of this. This is what I'm going to say.". And then I would also add, what's interesting about doing it in a group setting is you have these moments of, "Wait. Jen? You feel like an imposter? But I see you as someone who is so put together, and so smart, and so articulate, and so brilliant.". And there were these moments where, like, popcorning happening all over the place. So it was was a really interesting exercise in empathy, as well as, obviously, doing the Two-Step. Now, for me personally, just to share, like, to your point- I think, for me it's about writing it down, in a notepad or on a whiteboard. Which, for me, is kind of how I think, by writing. So, it's literally a matter of asking myself, "What is my imposter saying to me?". And writing it down. "What am I going to say back?" And writing that down.

Jen: I'm thinking about a practice I have a lot of my clients start to work with, which is proactive, preemptive thinking. Where, once you've had a scenario play out once, now you know that that scenario exists in the world. And if that scenario plays out again, and you're not prepared for it a second time, that's on you. So we, we look at ways in which you can move through challenging situations with more integrity, and more agency over your choices. So, sometimes it's as simple as, like, a calendar issue. Sometimes it's much more deep. But I see this being something where it's like, "Okay, I went to that job interview today. It did not go the way I wanted because I let my imposter get the better of me. So the next interview, I'm actually going to write a script ahead of time, that I will repeat to myself: When my imposter says, 'Who do you think you are to be going after this job?' My response will be...". So, I could see this being sort of a futuristic exercise as well, not only assessing in the moment. But, when you know yourself well enough to know what your challenges might be, or what might trip you up, you can write the script ahead of time.

Pete: I also think, as another idea, that for those who have heard this, what you might be able to say to a friend, or identify in a collaborator is that they are in a state of feeling like an imposter, or they're struggling. And so, I just liked the idea that you might be able to say to them, "Well, Two-Step it. Like, do the Two-Step.". And just, like, prompting them, to remind them that, "Oh, you're right. I am in this state of feeling like an imposter.". Like, sometimes we're not even aware. And so using the, just the nice visual metaphor of the dance, and using the idea of, "Just Two-Step it", could be a good little prompt that we could give one another.

Jen: So, I gotta bring this back to the TED talk for a second. Because, I mean, it just seems like such an obvious thing to point to. Here you were giving your very first-ever TED talk. So, did your imposter rear its head? And did you do the Two-Step? And what did it look like?

Pete: So, the answer is yes to all of that. I think this goes to what you spoke about a little bit earlier, about running towards it. So it's almost like, once you recognize we're all imposters, once you re-frame it as a growing pain, and then once you have this framework of the Imposter Two-Step, the challenging part is, can you now deliberately put yourself in positions where you feel like an imposter? Because, if we believe that we feel like an imposter when we're doing work that stretches us, and if you are the kind of person who wants to act with a growth mindset, and constantly do work that stretches you, then Imposter Syndrome is always going to be there. So, can you willingly look to continue to act with a growth mindset, and put yourself in these situations? And so this was, essentially, the conclusion of my talk, Jen, was, this is all very meta. Because right now, I'm standing on the red circle, doing something I've never done before. I'm giving a TEDx talk. And right now I feel like a fraud, and a phony, and a fake. And right now, just like learning to be six-foot-seven, I feel, like, awkward, I feel self-conscious, and I'm worried about the crowd and their opinion. And I was sort of saying, "But this time, I know I can Two-Step.". And so, I actually spelled out, "My imposter is saying to me, in this moment, 'Who the hell are you you to give a TEDx talk? Why would anyone in this crowd listen to a word you say?' And I say back, 'Well, because I'm an imposter, just like everyone else. So, who better to present this framework?'" So yes, that all went down on a very meta level.

Jen: Oh my gosh, I love that so much. I'm proud of you, Peter.

Pete: It was a lot of fun. And I was channeling all of our conversations, and all of the amazing feedback we've had around Imposter Syndrome, to date. So, it was a lot of fun.

Jen: So, let me see if I can sum it up. Tell me if I learned the Two-Step, Peter.

Pete: Let's do it.

Jen: So, we have a choice. We can keep ourselves safe, and hide in our little corner. Or, we can actively seek out opportunities to learn, and grow, and stretch. And when we seek out those opportunities, it's inevitable that we will feel like an imposter. Because, by the very nature of choosing to do something new, you are, by design, an imposter. And in those moments when you feel like an imposter, your choice is to do the Two-Step. Step One- What is your imposter saying to you? And Two- What are you saying back? Boom! The Imposter Two-Step.

Pete: You nailed it, Jen. And that is The Long and The Short Of It.