How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome as a Coach
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Even though I’ve countless hours of coaching training, I still feel like I am not a good coach.
Even though I’ve coached hundreds of clients from all over the world, I still wonder if my services are worth my fee.
And even though I have received incredible testimonials (the type I couldn’t even come up with if I tried), I still feel like I don’t have the right to call myself a coach.
I doubt my abilities to get results for my clients.
I fear people will find out that I am not a “real coach”.
I believe anyone can do what I do.
And I secretly keep thinking: “Who am I to be coaching other people?”
In short, I have a clear case of impostor syndrome.
Just like every other coach I know.
Yes, even the very successful ones.
Research shows that 70% of people struggle with impostor syndrome.
And because coaching is a profession that requires you to sell nothing but yourself, it is safe to assume that the rate of coaches who struggle with impostor syndrome is even higher than 70%.
It doesn’t matter how many certifications, happy clients and years of experience a coach has, they most likely still experience self-doubt, lack of confidence and feelings of unworthiness.
But especially as a new coach, the feeling of not being good enough can be particularly crippling. Starting your own coaching business means starting an entirely new career and often becoming self-employed for the first time. In so many ways this can be a real jump out of your comfort zone which fuels self-doubt and anxiety.
How the Impostor Syndrome is Destroying your Business
Not feeling good enough as a coach not only hurts your mental, emotional and physical health but can also severely impact your ability to sustain yourself financially as a coach.
This is because impostor syndrome will usually lead to one of two behaviors:
1. Procrastination: Your self-doubt becomes paralyzing to the point where it mentally blocks you from taking the necessary action to get ahead. You start putting off the opportunities and tasks that would get you coaching clients out of fear of not being a good enough coach. Instead, you convince yourself you need more and more qualifications before you are ready to start coaching — or, you spend all your time planning, strategizing and obsessing over little details without ever really executing on anything.
2. Overcompensation: Your impostor syndrome causes you to undersell your services, deliver way too much value for what you charge and basically become your client’s bitch.
Both behaviors are extremely destructive for your coaching business and fuel the impostor cycle even further, leaving you knee-deep in self-doubt and anxiety.
To break out of this self-destructive pattern and gain the necessary self-belief to build a thriving coaching practice, you need a powerful toolkit to beat the impostor monster.
Thus, we have collected 9 proven strategies to destroy self-doubt and gain unshakable confidence as a coach:
1. Understand that it is about inner work
Most coaches struggle with self-doubt, anxiety around acquiring and coaching clients and general feelings of unworthiness. Realizing that you are not alone is the first step to feeling better about yourself. But you also need to understand that no amount of experience, qualifications or positive feedback from clients can ever make you feel good enough if you don’t feel worthy in yourself. Once you accept that, you are ready to transform your mindset and start doing the necessary inner work to change your thoughts and negative self-talk.
2. Coach for free to practice coaching and get testimonials
Unfortunately, as with everything in life, we only get more confident by doing it. There is a clear limit to “thinking” ourselves more confident. But when we take action again and again and eventually experience small successes, that’s when we build self-confidence around that specific task or skill.
Thus, the best thing you can do as a new coach, is to coach. And if you aren’t confident enough yet to charge for your services, then do it for free!
I am serious.
Coaching for free allows you to practice your coaching skills which in turn builds your confidence as a coach. It’s also a great opportunity to get feedback and testimonials. When you experience small successes, you build your self-belief and grow your confidence so you can start charging what you are worth. Furthermore, collecting testimonials before going after paid clients allows you to create trust in potential clients even if you are a new coach.
The easiest way to do this is to find 2–3 friends that fit into the target group and offer to coach them for free. Another option is to email a selected part of your email list and offer them a spot in your Beta-run for a smaller fee or for free (you don’t want to ruin your program launch by emailing your entire list!). Just make sure you include an obligatory feedback call at the end of the program and ask them for a testimonial.
3. Watch your triggers
Usually, the impostor monster doesn’t just show up out of nowhere and ruins your day. In most cases, it gets triggered by something and then latches onto it to drag you down the negative-self talk rabbit hole.
Some common triggers include:
- reading a negative comment on one of your blog posts
- a sales call that didn’t go so well
- a weird comment when you tell someone that you are a coach
- scrolling the Instagram pages and websites of successful coaches
All of these triggers can send you down the impostor rabbit hole and cause you to procrastinate on the important work you need to do to grow your business.
To avoid wasting your day in a bath of self-doubt, try the following:
1. Avoid your personal triggers as much as you can: Don’t read comments, don’t scroll Instagram when you are down and don’t hang out with toxic people that bring you down. It’s hard enough to watch your own thoughts and language and make sure you don’t put yourself down all the time, but you can’t control other people! Downers can come from anywhere: it could be your parents, your friends, even your boyfriend who is not supporting your dreams. Disempowering messages can also come from negative media like the news and unhelpful content that makes you feel less than great. Be mindful of what and who you choose to engage with!
2. Learn how to react to your triggers differently: Remind yourself that haters are part of the game and you can‘t make everyone happy, remind yourself that you can’t fully control if someone signs up to your coaching — there are so many other factors involved than just your sales call performance, don’t compare yourself to someone else’s journey — everyone has their own challenges and override your initial reaction with a positive mantra like “This experience does not define my worth. I know I am a great coach!”
3. Surround yourself with empowering people and consume uplifting content: Don’t just cut out toxic people and content from your life — replace them with empowering messages! Surround yourself with people that truly believe in you and feed your brain with empowering messages from podcasts, blogs, and books. Check out the Confident Coach Club podcast for uplifting content for new and aspiring coaches.
4. Remind yourself of your credibility, successes, and positive feedback
Even when we are fully aware of our triggers and try to react differently, sometimes we just can’t help it. Maybe there was one trigger too much or we are just tired and stressed out. And before we know it, we find ourselves deep deep in the self-doubt hole. When that happens, we clearly need something more robust to get us out. That’s where the credibility manifesto, hype file, and victory log come in! These are three documents that will help you keep track of the evidence that you are actually a great coach. Regularly reviewing these documents is crucial to beat impostor syndrome because our mind tends to downplay our successes and over-emphasizes our doubts.
Here we go:
The Credibility Manifesto This is a document where you keep track of your experience and education. To create your credibility manifesto, answer these questions:
- What relevant work experience do you have that helps you in your coaching career? Think of ALL your work experience, not just as a coach.
- What life experience do you have that helps you in your coaching career? What are the struggles and challenges you have overcome? What are the things you have mastered?
- What education do you have? Think of ALL your education, not just formal coaching certifications. Maybe you studied psychology, took an online course in stress management or attended a workshop about achieving goals.
The Hype File This is a document where you keep track of all the positive feedback you get. Here are some things to document in your hype file:
- positive feedback from clients during coaching calls
- testimonials and formal feedback
- emails from clients, subscribers, readers, podcast listeners etc. with compliments
The Victory Log This is a document where you keep track of all your successes as a coach (no matter how small). Here are some things to record (and celebrate!):
- successful sales calls
- your first paid client
- your first $1k from coaching income
- clients that extended working with you
- podcasts interviews, guest articles and other places you were featured in
- speaking gigs
The next time you have a low-confidence phase, pull out your credibility manifesto, hype file and victory log with all the evidence that you are, in fact, qualified to be a coach.
5. Remember that you don’t need to have it all figured out
As coaches, we often have the misconception that we need to have it all figured out. We think we need to be super fit, healthy, uber-productive, hyper-successful and never stressed, anxious or depressed. But the truth is, we are just humans, just like everyone else. The only difference is that we are trained in helping other humans reach their full potential. That doesn’t mean that we have worked through all our issues (we never will!). In fact, I often find that I learn as much from my clients as they do from me.
Remember that you don’t need to know all the answers, you just need to know how to lead your clients to the answer.
6. Invest in continuous personal and professional development
When we work on expanding our skills, knowledge and experience, we become more confident in our abilities and are able to grow beyond ourselves. As a coach, it is important to continuously work on three aspects: 1. yourself (your own personal development and mindset) 2. your coaching methodology (coaching tools and skills you use in working with your clients) and 3. your coaching business (getting better at marketing, sales, content creation etc.).
There are countless options to educate yourself: read books, invest in coaching yourself, join mastermind groups, listen to podcasts, get additional certifications and join online seminars or live events.
Personal and professional development should be an integral part of your routine (for example spend half a day a week on it). But don’t forget: never take courses, certifications, and seminars as an excuse to procrastinate on taking action in your coaching business!
7. Focus on your clients, not yourself
When we are under attack by the impostor monster, our focus is on ourselves: We doubt our skills, we worry what our clients think about us, we are anxious about our performance and how we feel in client calls.
But great coaches know that their work is not about them, it is about the client. Great coaches are fully present with their clients. However, you can’t be fully present if your head is spinning with self-doubt and anxiety. Thus, you are actually doing your clients a disservice when you are all worried and focused on yourself.
And the miraculous thing is: once you take the focus off yourself and fully focus on what your clients wants, needs and feels — that’s when all your fears disappear!
So the next time you feel like a fraud, focus on your purpose and how you can help your clients. This is especially powerful in sales calls: Stop focusing on selling yourself and start focusing on serving your clients.
8. Create a high-confidence ritual
Did you ever go for a run and felt like you are on top of the world? Or maybe you watched a motivational Youtube video or listened to an uplifting song and felt an immediate confidence boost?
Each of us has these little things that instantly shift our state of mind. Why not use them to your advantage every time you need a boost?
For example, why not create a pre-sales call ritual consisting of a 3-min dance party and then reviewing your hype file to get yourself in the right state of mind before the call?
9. Be kind to yourself
Last but not least, always, always be kind to yourself. We are all perfectly imperfect humans and thus we all make mistakes. Nobody expects you to do everything perfectly right from the start. Success is ultimately just a series of failures that eventually led to the right path.
You will make mistakes as a new coach. Lots of them.
And you will make mistakes as an experienced coach. Even more and bigger ones.
But once you accept that stumbling and struggling are part of the game, you can start to see your mistakes as amazing learning opportunities that lift you to the next level. And instead of dwelling on your mistakes and taking them as an excuse to go down the impostor rabbit hole, you will be open and transparent about them, do what you can to fix them and then learn from them and move on.
Being a coach is one of the most rewarding personal growth journeys you will ever experience — embrace it and you will be rewarded tenfold!
It is completely normal to struggle with feelings of unworthiness, lack of confidence and self-doubt as a (new) coach. But if you don’t find effective strategies to deal with your impostor syndrome, it might lead you to procrastinate on important tasks and exhaust yourself by undercharging and overdelivering.
Here are 9 powerful strategies to gain the necessary confidence to build a thriving coaching practice:
1. Understand that no amount of experience, qualifications or positive feedback from clients can ever make you feel good enough if you don’t feel worthy in yourself.
2. Take every chance to coach (even for free) — your confidence will increase the more you practice your skills. And the feedback and testimonials you get will strengthen your self-belief.
3. Identify the triggers that lead you down the self-doubt rabbit hole. Avoid them, learn to deal with them better and introduce empowering triggers (people and content) into your life.
4. Create a hype file, credibility manifesto, and victory log to remind yourself that you are a great coach in times of doubt.
5. Remember that you don’t need to have it all figured out as a coach — and you’ll never have. You are not an expert in everything but the expert in helping your clients fulfill their potential.
6. Make personal and professional development a part of your weekly routine. The more you improve your skills, transform your mindset and master the business side of coaching, the more confident you’ll become.
7. Instead of focusing on your own worries and anxieties, focus on what your client needs, wants and feels. By coming from a place of service and acting on your purpose, your impostor syndrome will fade away.
8. Create a high-confidence ritual for situations like sales calls, client calls, networking events and anything else that makes you nervous. Combine things like uplifting music, aerobic exercise, positive self-talk and reviewing your hype file to create an instant shift in your mental state.
9. Be kind to yourself — you are just an imperfect human like all of us. Being a coach will challenge you in ways that you can’t even dream of and you will make many, many mistakes along the way. But if you see them as blessings that allow you to grow to the next level, you can be kind to yourself and move on quickly.
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