Episode 225 | June 16, 2020

How to Combat Your Imposter Complex with Tanya Geisler

A Personal Note From Orion

The Imposter Syndrome is defined as a psychological pattern where one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. This usually happens to successful people who always think they’re not good enough or they just got lucky and they don’t deserve their wins.

How does one develop this way of thinking? Experts say it may be from factors of gender stereotypes, early family dynamics, culture, and attribution style. No matter where it came from, the Imposter Syndrome affects many from living their dreams guilt-free. It shouldn’t be that way. 

My guest, Tanya Geisler, is an expert on this phenomenon. In fact, she refuses to call it that and insists we call it the Imposter Complex instead? We explain it throughout the show, and I 100% agree with her. Tanya is a certified Leadership Coach, TEDxWomen speaker, and writer who teaches high-performing leaders how to combat their Imposter Complex. She helps them lead with impeccable impact so they can achieve their ultimate goals. Her clients include best-selling authors, public speakers, and rockstar motivators. Without further ado, on with the show!


In this Episode

  • [01:03] – Orion introduces Tanya Geisler, a certified leadership coach, writer, and TEDxWomen speaker.
  • [03:57] – Tanya shares what inspired her to become a leadership coach.
  • [08:54] – Tanya explains the different causes of how a person can have an Imposter Complex.
  • [15:11] – Can childhood trauma or family of origin cause someone an Imposter Complex?
  • [21:02] – Tanya shares the six behavioral traits of the Imposter Complex.
  • [24:34] – How to overcome the Imposter Complex and avoid being a bottleneck of your success.
  • [31:16] – Tanya’s advice for people who want to connect more into their inner strength.
  • [36:36] – Tanya shares inspiring words for leaders on how to serve best during this pandemic.
  • [42:53] – Orion shares some uplifting words on how to ease up depression and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
  • [44:31] – Follow Tanya Geisler on her social media accounts and visit tanyageisler.com to know about the Imposter Complex and many more.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

Hi Tanya, and welcome to Stellar Life Podcast. It is so much fun having you here. Thank you for being here.

Oh my god. I’m so delighted, it’s already been a blast.

I like what you’re about, and I love the topic of this episode. And I think that everybody listening is going to be incredibly happy with what you have to share because you know how to lift people. But before we start, can you share a little bit about yourself? From your perspective, more than a bio, something about how did you connect to this passion, and how did it appear in your life?

Oh my god, just go right there, shall we? Okay. So I’m a leadership coach. And I think it’s something I’ve been doing – you’ve heard this a million times from a million different people – I think I’ve been doing this my whole life. And I’ve always tried to make the through-line between where people are most alive and then where they’re most helpful. And I think I’ve always been doing that, I connected with somebody on Facebook and we were friends back in grade three. And she said, “The least surprising thing in the world to me is that you’re a leadership coach and that you’re a speaker because you’re always on stage, you’re always supporting people.” 

But my career, I started in advertising, and it was kind of a soul-sucking experience, and there was a very short season where my daughter was born, and my mom passed away pretty much the same time. And I just thought life is big and it’s short. And I got to find meaning, and I’ve got to make meaning. And so that sent me along this path, and I found coaching, started coaching completely amazing leaders, rock stars, motivators. And I kept seeing this through-line didn’t matter who they were, and they were presented with what I now understand to be the imposter complex. And I keep seeing it as the bottleneck of people’s success and their fullest activation. And I have no time for it. Like I gotta help people with it. 

So that’s why I do what I do, and I’ve seen all the places in my own life where it has held me back. And I want us all to be free of that. So that’s why I do what I do—mother of an incredible 16-year-old kid who’s just remarkable. Right now, my husband works for the Red Cross, and they literally hear him on the phone right now, getting PPEs for folks who are working on the COVID-19. Like literally, he’s on the phone negotiating millions of PPEs right now. So life is big and beautiful and complex.

Yeah. Wow. So I’ve heard a lot about the imposter syndrome or complex, what do you think it is?

So I always like to start a little bit of a history lesson because I like to attribute the teachers. Imposter phenomenon is the term that clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes came up with about this experience back in 1978. So they were working with high-functioning, high-achieving women, and they noticed the same through-line that I had noticed in my high-functioning clients. And that was that these women that they were working with seemed to be incapable of internalizing their success. Okay, so any success that they had, they would chalk up to luck, fluke, timing, or have somehow managed to deceive people into thinking they’re smarter or more capable than they actually were. They are more than able to identify with their failures, right? 

Life is big, beautiful, and short. You got to find meaning and make something out of it. Click To Tweet

So any failure and like that was completely on them. But any success, well, that was some external factor. So that’s what the imposter phenomenon is. You mentioned it as the imposter syndrome, so that’s what most of us know it. We recognize that as imposter syndrome. My SEO people get really pissed off that I don’t use the imposter syndrome. It’s a lot easier to find my work. But technically, it’s not a syndrome because it’s not a clinical diagnosis. It’s an experience, it’s a phenomenon, it’s a complex, but it’s not a syndrome. And so I don’t use that. I don’t call it a syndrome for that very reason, but it is a complex. And part of the reason is I feel like we can co-op a lot of medical terms, and I really want to leave syndrome for folks who are legitimately struggling with a clinical diagnosis of some sort. So that’s just helpful to understand. 

But the truth is people who experience the imposter complex are high-functioning with strong values of mastery, integrity, and excellence. So I always think there’s a bit of good news that presents with it like it’s not just about feeling terrible, just about feeling like a fraud but it really afflicts people with those strong values. So that’s a bit of good news, but the bad news is that it tries to keep us out of action, doubting our capacity and alone and isolated and it does this in very fascinating and complex ways that I’m sure we’ll be getting into. So that’s what it is overarchingly.

Yeah, I like what you said about if you’re not clinically diagnosed, don’t say “I have the imposter syndrome,” because we, especially people with imposter complex, tend to label themselves with all types of labels. So I think the complex will make you label yourself as having the syndrome.

Yeah, that’s great.

So what is the core reason why people have that?

So we understand it to be bio evolutionary in context, that it’s an instrument of evolution to make sure we don’t evolve or mutate too quickly. It’s also part of our very tribal need to belong. It’s really obsessed with that. So we’re always trying to fit in, and that doesn’t make us wrong, that just makes us tribal in nature, right? It’s like that’s part of our survival. So this is the reason the imposter complex will speak in competence extremities. You’re either a complete success or a raging failure, and that’s why it actually has this afraid of massive failure or massive success. I’ve had two different conversations today with prospective clients, and in both cases, they would say they’re afraid of failing, but really, they’re afraid of succeeding because then we’re very much “othered” from the rest of the group. And so we don’t want to be othered, we want to belong, we want to be in the safety of the group.

The bigger you get, the more polarizing you get, and there is a deep fear of rejection. If you look at Oprah Winfrey or Tony Robbins, they’re very polarizing. Some people love them so much, and some people will say anything against them. So the bigger you get, the more polarizing you get, the more criticism, rejection, and trolls you get on the media.

Yeah. And also the projection that we get. And there’s also the disconnection that we get to even if we are still well-regarded, we still feel a massive amount of disconnection. And for me, I see this all the time with leaders and entrepreneurs. They have a fear that, “If I get too big, that means that I will have to disconnect from the people who got me this far,” and we’ve done it. We’ve all participated in a sort of tear down culture. We’ve all felt disconnected when somebody that we really admire and kind of not call it hero-worship. I’ve done some comparison work with a colleague, Lauren Bacon, and we talk about comparison and this hero-worship aspect. But we’ve had this experience where we’ll put somebody on a pedestal only to knock them off. So that’s a huge part of why we don’t want that wild success because we imagined that it’s gonna happen just because we have done it. Now, we’ve colluded, we’ve conspired in that way. So that’s a huge part of the reason people fear success is we’ve witnessed it, and we’ve contributed to that experience.

What’s the difference between men and women having this complex?

So I’m really glad you asked that in that way because I know that when I started to talk about it, I was talking about how Clance and Imes worked with women. And that’s really specific because that’s where the research started, or really the documentation of the research started, it was with women. But we do know that men experienced it as well. The difference is how we have been socialized. So everybody can experience it. But how we’ve been socialized is going to impact the level and severity, and then I’ll also say that it is gendered and conversate in the research. But there are many different intersections that we need to be paying attention to when we think about the imposter complex. It’s not a one size fits all. We don’t all experience in the same ways. 

So I describe it like this, and not everybody loves it, but this is just how I see it, and I figure, I’m the one people are asking, so okay, here we go. If we consider what the center of the universe is like, with his permission, I call it Greg. Greg is my husband, a white, able-bodied, cisgender, neurotypical dude living in North America’s middle class. So he’s kind of what the world is intended to revolve around, or at least here in North America. So for every concentric circle that you are, othered from the center, you’re going to feel it. So it will experience it by race, by music, by gender, by class, by age, by ability, by neurotypicality, etc. So for every concentric circle, you feel distanced from his lived experience, you’re going to feel it that much more amplified. Does that make sense? 

Give yourself credit for the things you’ve achieved. Avoid putting yourself in a position of diminishing yourself.

Are you gonna resent it? 

Yeah, right, totally. But that’s not to suggest that somebody sitting in the center doesn’t experience it as well. They experience it, but it’s more exacerbated, the more places of distinction you have from that sort of dominant culture.

I think also men are more allowed to brag, or women don’t brag among themselves as much as men do. And it’s super cool in the business circles for men to really speak about their achievement and even exaggerate their achievements because then they’re cool, but women usually do the opposite.

Correct. That’s what I would call feminine conditioning, and that’s my friend and colleague Joe Casey talks about feminine conditioning. So all of the places that if you identify as a woman, you’ve been conditioned to “nice girls do this, and good girls don’t do that,” and it’s all of these messages that we get are a lot of them run sidesaddle with some of these behavioral traits that the imposter complex kind of has this hideout. And I can say a little bit more about that. But so again to your point, if the imposter complex wants to keep us out of action, doubting our capacity and alone and isolated, the two things that you’ve just mentioned, that are somewhat gendered in terms of how men are congratulated is around action, and then also being very proud of their accomplishments whereas were told to just stay low, stay quiet, and then stay more silent. We use a really wide brushstroke, but that’s what we see.

Yes, we are. Of course, there are different individuals, and not everybody is the same, but in general, this is what we see in the world. Do you also think imposter syndrome can stem from childhood trauma or having a certain childhood and growing up like, for me, I think I have some this complex because I do have a fear of success. I think I don’t want success to take the time from my family. I think this is something big for me right now. And also I grew up very poor and now I live a very comfortable life. And if they knew who I really am or where I really came from, or there is this in the back of my mind, plus some probable childhood traumas that I experienced. So what are your thoughts about that?

Yes, in what you’ve just shared, if we were going into it, there’s this how you relate probably to your family of origin and what it feels like to succeed beyond what they thought was possible. Maybe for themselves and then what’s possible for you. So that already creates a dissonance for you in your origin story of belonging. So you’ve already broken the mold. So that’s like, “Oh, if I’m not this poor person, then who am I? So it means I don’t necessarily fit in that world anymore.” And, “What’s this new world? Can I fit in there?” So, again, it’s really quite obsessed with how we’re belonging or not belonging. And then that also creates this tension of, “Who am I to…?” Like, I don’t know anything about this new world. And so there’s that belonging piece. I think that there’s a piece of this about shining, it probably hasn’t felt safe. Maybe when you were growing up to be bright and beautiful and all of the things that you are. So maybe there’s some diminishment that has happened as a result of that. 

I can agree with this. Yes, I was very out loud and very creative. So I think people don’t love that. Especially when I came here to the US, and I studied acting, so I did in Neighborhood Playhouse. I’ve never experienced bullying before. It didn’t even have a name for that. But I had to have your accent, and I was very different, and I just came to study acting after living in Tokyo for two and a half years, so the clothes I’m wearing were a little bit different. I was different, and I think I didn’t fit the mold, and the kids put me down and I never ever experienced it. Like, I never knew that it was bullying but now thinking about it. Yes, it was. I was not the popular kid. And it was very naive, and I didn’t know that people were talking behind my back, that made me very sad, and it made me want to belong and diminish who I was. It made me change what I used to wear. It made me really try to eliminate my accent. And I don’t know, maybe that is a part of it. 

Yes. And so my deepest desire and when I see what you’re doing right now, even with this language that you’re using, The Stellar Life, you’re talking stars, we’re talking about stars. You’ve discovered somewhere along the line, and the wounds run deep, but those places of distinction are actually what’s really magnetizing about you, that’s really what’s radiant and glorious and to be celebrated. But we don’t know that when we’re younger and wearing different clothes and believing people when life tells us who we’re supposed to be. It’s very painful. So I thank you so much for sharing with me and for all of us that I think that there are lots of people who understand what it feels like to have broken the mold and that it doesn’t feel safe to break the mold. And so this continues if we don’t attend to that, then we continue to live our life inside of these molds because you see what happens when you break the mold. So naming that is really helpful to everyone. 

And I also want to acknowledge your question about, does trauma plays a part in this? Absolutely, I attempt to be very clear when we’re talking with the imposter complex and then when we’re talking about other factors that might be in play. So I have a podcast called Ready Enough, and that’s where I talk about these different places of intersection where it looks like imposter complex, and it smells like imposter complex, but actually, there’s also some trauma that’s going on here, or there’s some anxiety, or maybe there’s some transphobia, or some racism or something else that’s also happening. And so I just like to be really mindful and bring in that nuance for the most part, when we are dealing with the imposter complex, it looks like this, and there are always going to be other factors that are at play. 

From a place of rooted confidence, comes integrity, presence, and action. Click To Tweet

I got a dear friend Staci Jordan Shelton that always reminds me and all of us that we might be having a shared space but not necessarily a shared experience. So, your imposter complex is going to manifest differently from mine because of your lived experience, because of how people relate to you, because of what you’re wearing or your accent. And when we stripped down into the fact that there’s diminishment happening, then we know what we’re dealing with. And that’s why I think knowing the behavioral traits, the places that we hideout to avoid feeling like an imposter, are really helpful. So for you, we’ve sort of like touched on it, I think there might be some diminishment in some places. The other places that we like to hang out or hide out are comparison, perfectionism, procrastination, leaky boundaries, people-pleasing. So there are six in all. And we all have our kind of natural set points, and mine tends to be around people-pleasing. And so that’s where I want to make sure that everybody likes me and I belong in that way. But all of these behavioral traits can be these double binds, meaning we go to the behavior to avoid feeling like the imposter. But when we hang out there, we start to believe that we’re the imposter.

Can you repeat those behavioral traits? 

Diminishment, comparison, perfectionism, procrastination, leaky boundaries, and people-pleasing. 

What is diminishment? 

That’s that experience where it didn’t feel safe to shine. So you kind of hide your light. You actually might feel pretty confident about something that we did, but we’ll downplay it. We don’t want to brag, and we don’t want to boast, we don’t want to seem cocky. So we start to downplay it because we don’t want people to find out that we’ve left the scene as amazing as we are because it doesn’t feel safe. So we diminish, but then what starts to happen is we don’t want anybody to find out that we’re different or not part of the group, and so we try to blend in. But what happens is that we start to believe the diminished version of ourselves. 

Yeah, I can totally relate. Because it took me years to tap into my inner colors and be like, “This is what makes me who I am, and this is what is needed in the world, they don’t need a fake version or a copycat version of who I am. The world needs who I am.” I think throughout life; we keep learning about ourselves and our capabilities and who we are. And there are tools and ways to excel it by healing, by working with a coach, by learning from people that went through the same thing. So we don’t need to waste the next 20 years trying to figure it out alone, because there are people like you who already figured it out. So how do you help people heal? Because it seems to me that there is some healing that needs to happen in order for people to remove this mask.

 I think the first thing I’d say is, in the self-development space, we want to make ourselves wrong by hiding out in these behaviors, so we want to make ourselves wrong for being a perfectionist or a people-pleaser or diminishing. And I think the first thing to recognize is that those aren’t inherently bad things. I mean, you’ve diminished because of your value of safety, and also probably your value of humility. That’s a beautiful thing. So I like to always give a little bit of extra room because again in the self-development space, like “stop being a perfectionist!” If it was that easy. 

But one is a perfectionist because of their value of excellence. Leaky boundaries might have everything to do with being really generous. I’m a people-pleaser because I value inclusivity. And the comparison is about connection and procrastination, and it’s not always about being lazy, it’s about discernment. So I think that the first place is to go, “Okay, there’s this aspect of myself, that can get in my way, and it’s only a problem when it keeps me out of action” Doubting my capacity and alone and isolated, that’s when it’s a problem. And that’s when that is the bottleneck. The imposter complex is now a bottleneck to that person’s success. So really, we need to get super clear about what expansion and activation and living a life fulfilled and what impeccable impact means to that person, what’s available to them beyond that bottleneck, and then understanding which one of those behaviors or traits are uniquely theirs. 

So then we can kind of go in, like, if your thing is diminishment, then that tells me that we need to root into presence for you. We need for you to start to trust more and more deeply into your power. Make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with excellent support and holding a sense of reverence for yourself and the brilliant, multicolored, multifaceted human that you are, instead of trying to make us wrong for it. So for each person, there’s a different entryway, but when everything is said and done, we need to really look at what’s in the way. We need to really look at making sure that we are gathering all of the right support, and that we’re taking the aligned and right action, rather than hustling in the wrong direction. Because that’s something that we’d love to do. We love to take any action and just barrel through. 

But if it’s not aligned, then it’s not the right action. It’s not a small process by any stretch of the imagination. I teach a process over a 12-week period because it does take that long, but when people have these tools, they can come back to them time and time again, because as you say, we’re always learning, we’re always evolving. And so, for each next stage that we get on, there’s going to be a bigger one that we want because that’s how the ego works, wants to want more than wants to get. So there’s always the next thing, there’s always the next place where we’re going to fill in the question of, “Am I capable enough to do that? Who am I to do X, Y, and Z?” But now here’s this other thing, there’s this much bigger thing. So it’s just about building up the toolset to be able to use it time and time again, every time we’re at the precipice of our expansion.

One tool that I think is really helpful that some people can do is to just sit by yourself and write down all your achievements. Write down all the things that you never imagined that you’d be able to do, and you did. It can be big or small, and you’re gonna end up with such a big list. And then you go over this list, and you’re gonna feel pretty good about yourself.

Yeah, I love that. I love that you named that. In my work, I call that bolstering your authority thesis. One of the things that people have an easier time doing is creating bride books or what I call a Yum and Yays folder. So this is the place where you put all of those lovely things that people have said, all those lovely testimonials and tweets and everything else. And we put that in a folder, and it’s wonderful, but we have to do what you said first, which is to do our own internal audit, our own internal inventory of our strengths, of the things that we have survived and delivered and healed and created. Because we have to know that for ourselves first because then we have a fighting chance of believing people and their words about how great we are, especially for people-pleasers, we’ll just be going to tend to chalk up everything people say to them just being nice, not really allowing space for that to be their truth. 

Refrain from comparing yourself to others. If you focus on what others are doing, you lose sight of your own goals.

So you’re absolutely right. It’s an internal job first, and then it’s an external job, but it is critical. And then when you have those reference points of how fantastic you truly are, every time you’re at this place of expansion, of next, of “I’m about to break this mold, can I do this?” You can remind yourself all the times that you have when you stood at this precipice, and you’ve jumped in, you remember that the party was on the other side of that resistance because you’ve done it many times before, even if it didn’t look exactly like this current situation.

Yeah. When I work with my clients, I like to have them connect to a different version of themselves. And I talk a lot about the inner goddess for the ladies. I work with women, mostly unleashing your inner superhero. So these are two very different ways to approach it, but they’re also when integrated they’re super powerful. Because for women awakening their inner goddess is feeling like a beautiful sensual, attractive, goddess-like person, and if you are like a goddess who is respecting the god that is inside of you, then the world will treat you like that. If you are connected and if this is what you emanate, that inner joy, inner juiciness, you emanate your light, and this attracts people to you like butterflies to a flame. 

And the superhero, and I love that lately in the world there are so many superhero movies and women in leading roles. I love Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot not because we’re from the same origin, we both served in the IDF, and we’re from Israel, she’s amazing, she’s super genuine, she’s super beautiful from the inside out. I just love the way she portrays Wonder Woman, and it is very genuine. It depends on where you are in life whether you need to step into the goddess part or you need to have more of the superhero part, and you want to claim your strength. And life is not linear, we go through ups and downs and then sometimes we need more of this or more of the other. But the moment you claim straight to what you need, it will help you rise, and I think it will help you believe in yourself a little more.

Absolutely gorgeous.

For somebody who’s listening right now, and they’re like, “Oh my god, I love what Tanya is talking about” and “Yes, I have this complex,” besides working with you, what is something that they can do right now and to connect more into their inner strength?

Well, I have to tell you I’m just really struck by what you just said, and I think that conjures what Orion was just speaking into and then notice what comes up as you’re trying to access your superhero, your super goddess. When you try to access, what are the beliefs that go ahead and start to chase that away and think if this is not a natural set point for you that you’re feeling really challenged by it, start to pay attention to what those voices are, who am I to X, Y, and Z? Whatever those follow up beliefs are that make it challenging for you to really fully step in and claim that superhero, then you have a name for what’s happening. You might be having it right now, like listening to Orion and me. “I love to be on Orion’s podcast, and I’ll never be able to do that, I’ll never be able to conjure that, not the way she can.” You’ve got a comparison going on, or whatever it is, I think it’s really important for you to understand for yourself what that behavioral trait is that’s going to get in your way. 

Hold a deep reverence for the person and powerful being that you are. Use that strength and glory in doing things with the right intentions. Click To Tweet

If you don’t know what that is, you can go to my site, and there’s a quiz, tanyageisler.com/quiz, it’ll help you unpack which one of those behavioral traits are up for you. But that’s if you try to step into that role that Orion was talking about. And if you find that challenging, and you have some follow up beliefs about that, don’t pursue that. Because that belief is the reason, you’re not charging what you want to charge, or you’re not asking for what you want to ask for, or you’re not really stepping fully into the relationship or the role that you want to step into. And so I think that’s really helpful Intel because what’s showing up in this area of your life is probably showing up in all the areas of your life so let’s get curious about what is in the way. And then also, I want people to remember too, that we are all here to model the possibility for each other. So think about for yourself, listeners, like what is it that you want to model possibility for others, like what is it that you want others to look up to you. And again, whatever those “buts” are showing up will help you to unpack what has been in the way of all of your activation. So that’s where I would have people look.

Yeah. And tapping into this new version, as you said, you have a 12-week program, it doesn’t happen in a day. And there are ways and exercises and things to do to tap into that. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem related. Like a lot of time, it has something to do with breathwork, physical movement, mind, and body are very connected. So there are so many ways to tap into that. Don’t think that, “Oh my god, in one minute, eliminate my complex and step into that starring role that I want to step into.” No, you taught yourself something for many years, you told your reptilian brain that part of your brain that is very ancient and you told it, this is my identity. I am not enough, and I cannot achieve enough. And so, in order to change the belief, you’ll have to invest some time in order to install a new belief. 

The change in our consciousness can happen like this. And still, you will need to do the work, do the work every day, and it might take a couple of months, it might take a year, it will probably take a lifetime because we are infinite possibilities. And we are constantly growing and shifting and creating and co-creating. So every time you, you evolve to a certain level, you tap into a new one. So this is a never-ending work. There is no rush, and there is no pressure, as long as you evolve a little bit every day, you’re going to get to new heights, and new places that you never imagined are possible before.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

I love your yes, yes, yes, yes. I want a recording of that. Actually, I do have a recording of that.

It can be your new ringtone. Yes, that’s actually what I always say, “Am I making progress?” is pretty much the question to be asking on an ongoing basis because the imposter complex is obsessed with certainty, perfectionism, right? It absolutely has to be perfect; otherwise, forget it. But the kinder way is to do it bit by bit. “Am I making progress?” Because this is incremental. 

Brilliant. So let’s talk about your leadership coach. Now with leadership and speaking on stages, life is completely changed. I don’t know when we are going to be able to go to the next conference. Before having my baby, I used to travel two or three times a month, two different destinations, going to many seminars, and traveling within the state or around the world. And I told my husband yesterday, I was like, “Wow, we’re so lucky, we got to have all this travel before COVID hit.” Can you imagine? There was so much uncertainty talking about the imposter complex and how it affects everything. Like right now, we can’t even travel, we can’t even do the things that we want to do, plus there is so much stress there is so much anxiety. 

You’re talking about people shining and now just think about the mental impact of everybody’s wearing a mask. And nobody is allowed to shine. Yeah, you can have a cool mask on, but people don’t even look at each other in the eyes. Yes. COVID is real, and it’s dangerous, and it’s horrible, we don’t need all the fear. We don’t need to live in so much fear. We don’t need to be glued to the news. There is way too much fear, and the world is about social distancing. We don’t need to be antisocial, and we need to be maybe physically distancing from each other. But speak to your neighbor, speak to the person in the supermarket, do it from a safe distance, smile even when you’re wearing a mask. Because if you want to shine, if you want to step into leadership, it starts in the supermarket, wearing a mask, not only behind your computer, and going live on Facebook. So, please give some advice for leadership in this COVID world and without fear and anxiety.

Okay. So imposter complex breeds in uncertainty; it loves uncertainty; it thrives in it. So there are a lot of ways in which this is like the most prime time for people to have imposter complex. The moment COVID-19 struck people, leaders, entrepreneurs, “What can I do? What should I do? Everybody knows what to say; I don’t know what to say. How can I help? How can I be of service?” People are really wanting to step into leadership of really not knowing how to do so. So I thought, like about four different things I want to say and like different threads on this one is that for me, I’ve been really blown away by the innovation, the ingenuity, the creativity that has been coming through, in a remarkable way. And this is not to sugarcoat the horrendous experience that so many people are living through and into right now. So, in any way, shape, or form, I don’t want to be dismissive of that. 

When I say that, I feel hopeful. I do feel hopeful about the innovation that I’m seeing the creativity that I’m seeing, and I’m also feeling hopeful, but the fact that there are so many foundational cracks in the structure of our systems that we’re now like, “oh, hmm, we probably are going to need to fix those.” And a lot of people have been talking about that for a very long time. But there’s a subset of people that I would say the majority of the population are finally just waking up to it to food insecurity to inequities. So that is like a hopeful place to be what I have found to be incredibly helpful for people, for leaders, and maybe aren’t sure how they can step up. There was a Medium article, written by Deepa Iyer, Mapping Social Change Roles in Times of Crisis. And what she was talking about is that we don’t all have to be first responders, we don’t all have to be disruptors, or we all have to figure out how we serve best. So for me, I’m a visionary, I imagine and hold our boldest possibilities. I remind us of our direction. That’s what you did too, Orion. You’re a beautiful, brilliant visionary.

Steer clear from perfectionism. Being too hard on yourself and feeling like nothing is ever good enough will only make things worse.

Thank you, Tanya. I feel so good inside right now. I feel warm and fuzzy.

That’s what you’re doing right here right now, right? You don’t need to be the person on the frontline handing out PPEs, and literally just finished saying, my husband, who’s in the Red Cross, some people are doing it. That’s not to say that you don’t need to care that I don’t need to care because I’m not going to be a frontline responder. That’s not where I will serve best. There are builders, and there are caregivers, there are healers, there are storytellers or guides. 


Comedians, yes, storytellers through art, through music, through comedy, like we need everybody doing what they do best. And that’s always been true, but when it’s in a time of crisis like this, it becomes that much more acute. So when I say I feel kind of hopeful because we can see how we are all required, as part of a system as part of a structure, all doing our best. That’s what I’ve always stood for. So you’ve always stood for, but now we can really see it. So instead of sitting on our hands and feeling only hopeless and helpless, because of course, that’s a perfectly appropriate response in this experience. It’s unprecedented for us. It’s perfectly reasonable to feel sad, scared, disappointed, “Am I going to get to Barcelona for that trip that I’ve planned for my family?” and then scared for my neighbors—worried all of those things. And now I know, I continue to know how I serve best, and what my role is, and I need to dig deep and dig strong and be a part of this changing of the system and holding our direction. So we’re all needed, we just need to do

Hmm, I love what you’re saying. If you are experiencing fear, anxiety, which is normal, we all did. I mean, how can you not? The easiest way to get out of depression or fear or anxiety – because when you are depressed, you put your attention inward, this is like you’re in a bubble with yourself and your thoughts and the way to get out of it is to get out of your bubble and reach out to somebody else and ask them, how are they doing? Do they need anything? Is there an elderly neighbor in your neighborhood that needs something, can you walk down the street and maybe smile at your neighbor because maybe they don’t feel that hot. Or if somebody that you love comes to mind, don’t just brush it off, go and call them and see if they need anything. Because the moment you shift the attention from your little emotional salad to somebody else’s, then you step into leadership, and you forget about your worries because you are there in service of somebody else. And then you don’t only uplift that person, you gain that beautiful feeling of love and achievement yourself. So it’s a win-win situation.

Hallelujah. I’m gonna say it again. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Wow, Tanya, this was so much fun. I love talking to you, and you are so wise and so real, and I really appreciate that. Before we say goodbye, for now, I have two questions for you. One is what are your three top tips to live in a stellar life? And the second one is, where can people find you?

Wow. I think about the opposite experience of the imposter complex for me is unshakable confidence. And that quality of unshakable confidence meaning that you can be your most expanded most stellar self from a place of rooted confidence comes down to integrity, presence, and action. So, integrity is about honestly knowing who you are, no matter what they say, no matter what they want to who you are. Presence about really knowing what you stand for, and holding a deep reverence for that and the person that you are, the powerful being that you are, and then taking the right action from there. So I would say it comes down to that for me, really being able to dial in with integrity and pop with presence and then really taking action from that integrity presence filled the place. Does that make sense?

Yes, beautifully said.

That’s what I want for people. And they can find me at tanyageisler.com and all over social media. Instagram on tanyageisler, Facebook, Tanya Geisler Coaching, but yes, tanyageisler.com is where they’ll find me, and they can also do that quiz there. And I’m so delighted to have been here and just have this conversation. You are remarkable, Orion, you’re truly remarkable.

You are so sweet, you too. Well, thank you so much, Tanya, I really appreciate you. Thank you.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓} Give yourself credit for the things you’ve achieved. Avoid putting yourself in a position of diminishing yourself.  
{✓} Refrain from comparing yourself to others. If you focus on what others are doing, you lose sight of your own goals.
{✓} Steer clear from perfectionism. Being too hard on yourself and feeling like nothing is ever good enough will only make things worse.  
{✓} Don’t procrastinate with work. Setting things aside and waiting until the last minute will only make you regret days you don’t finish something.   
{✓} People-pleasing shouldn’t be a priority. Sometimes they like you, sometimes they don’t. As long as you’re not entering someone else’s lane, keep doing what you love best. 
{✓} Separate feelings from facts. Take a pause and analyze your emotions. Is it necessary or helpful to you? If not, it’s best to let it go.
{✓} Be aware of your patterns so you can train yourself not to keep repeating them. 
{✓} Write down your achievements, even the little things. Writing them down gives you more validation for your accomplishments. 
{✓} Reward yourself for all the hard work. Celebrate the little things. Treat yourself! 
{✓} Visit Tanya Geisler’s website to learn more about how to deal with Imposter’s Complex.

Links and Resources

About Tanya Geisler

Tanya Geisler is a certified Leadership Coach, TEDxWomen speaker, and writer who teaches high-performing leaders how to combat their Imposter Complex and lead with impeccable impact so they can achieve their ultimate goals. Her clients include best-selling authors, public speakers, and rockstar motivators.


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