Imposter Syndrome

Tyler Chisholm
5 min readJan 14, 2021

How Trying Something Totally New Stopped My Negative Self Talk

Have you ever felt that you just aren’t good enough? Or, even worse, that people will find out that you are a fraud? If so, you are not alone, according to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of people will experience these feelings at some point in their life.

Imposter Syndrome makes you feel deeply alone. But the positive thing about this negative self-talk is that almost everyone experiences it at one point or another. That includes me — you are not alone. I realized how many other successful CEOs, Founders, Entrepreneurs, and people I knew were letting opportunities pass them by because they were paralyzed by fear.

But fear really only means two things: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. I realized the only way forward was through.

Over the three years I have been podcasting, I decided that the stories I told myself about whether I could do this or not would only quiet if I faced them and rose. I learned plenty of lessons about getting out of my own way, improving my communication skills, and leaning into learning. If you’ve ever said to yourself:

“I don’t deserve this opportunity.”

“Who would say yes?”

“I’m not smart enough to do this.”

“Nobody will take me seriously or think I’m credible.”

or any variation of those questions, it all starts with realizing that for one, you are not alone, and two, the only way forward is through. I am here to share with you the strategies I have used to move past my fears; and the best, and sometimes harsh, advice that I have received along the way.

Get out of your own way.

At one time or another, almost 3/4 of humans you know suffer from Imposter Syndrome; or, a negative feedback loop where you doubt your skills, talents, or accomplishments to the point where you fear being exposed as a fraud.

We’re great at talking ourselves out of things.

I was afraid of my expertise (or perceived lack thereof), my intellect, my credibility, and my capability to pursue podcasting. But what I discovered through recording They Just Get It and Collisions YYC is that what were my fears actually became my strengths. Full transparency, I almost walked away from the Collisions YYC Podcast due to my lack of confidence to be able to add value to the conversation. That would have been a massive missed opportunity!

I wasn’t an expert on what the guests were talking about, but that allowed me to be curious and ask questions to unpack their expertise.

I feared I wasn’t as smart as some of the guests, but that gave me the opportunity to get comfortable with not knowing and to ask better questions. Hint, you are never as smart as someone in their area of expertise, that is the whole point of talking to them.

I feared I wasn’t credible enough to ask high-profile guests on to my shows, despite having won awards (including being Top 40 Under 40, Class of 2012) and running a successful marketing firm, clearmotive. None of that matters in the context of the story that we can tell ourselves.

I worried I wasn’t capable of executing my vision the way that I wanted to.

And guess what? 3 years later, I am still recording multiple episodes a week with some of the highest-profile Albertans in business.

Podcasting taught me to get over myself and get out of my own way.

Get over the negative self-talk. Get over the fears trying to stop me. Get over the lack of confidence to try something outside my comfort zone.

Set the stage.

Feeling prepared is one of the best ways to boost your confidence; and, it turns out, it’s also a surefire way to make your guests the ‘hero” of the story and put them at ease.

Before each episode, I send my guests an email and set the stage for our conversation. As much as I want to be prepared, I also want them to know what they’re walking into. For They Just Get It, a show about the hidden success stories of Albertans, I frame our conversation through the hero/heroine journey.

It’s a tale as old as time. A call to adventure. Gathering allies. Crossing the threshold. A great trial. A return. A change. By giving context to the guest, we get to where we’re going faster. Everyone feels prepared, confident, and eager to share (or, in my case, listen).

Too much research makes you feel rigid, but not knowing about them is disrespectful. Google them. Read excerpts from their books or studies. Visit their website. Follow them on social media. Watch their videos. While I could pull off a successful interview without doing these things, I find that research leads me to ask better and more interesting questions.

Don’t interview, converse.

Listening to reply is the way most people communicate. Instead of really hearing someone, you’re already thinking about what you have to say in response — even if they haven’t completed their thought.

When I go back to my earliest episodes, I sometimes cringe. I notice bad communication habits. I hear myself being too keen to engage and not providing the space for the person to speak.

Podcasting helped me to learn about myself.

There’s total clarity and transparency of yourself when you’re recorded. I observed my communication style, and I took steps to improve.

I’ve also learned that an interview can still be a conversation. It’s back and forth. I listen to other podcasters who interview. They ask a question, hear the response, and then fire off the next question. No follow-up. No clarification. No conversation. Just an uncomfortable interview.

Stop asking rapid-fire questions and instead have a good old fashioned chat with who’s in front of you. When you do that, you’ll be amazed at how they open up. You will be more curious and your path to success will be clearer.

Lean into learning.

The best thing about being a podcaster? The unbelievable knowledge you gain. Beyond the self-awareness that comes from listening to your own voice recorded, the opportunities to collide with people you might not otherwise provide ample educational moments.

Take, for example, this past summer. George Floyd’s death was making global headlines. Black Lives Matter was growing in its efforts to combat racism. I knew that I wasn’t discriminatory against people of colour. But it wasn’t until I had several black guests on my podcast in 2020 that I learned that wasn’t enough. I had to confront racism actively and better understand the perspectives of people of colour.

It wasn’t comfortable. I felt vulnerable.

But I leaned into the discomfort to truly listen to what I was being told and see where I could improve.

I also felt uncomfortable when speaking to high caliber guests. Would I understand the complex technology they work with daily? Would I be able to uncover interesting information? When I began to lean into the discomfort, I became a better listener and interviewer. My communication skills improved. My knowledge improved. My ability to connect with people outside of my normal circle improved.

When I stopped listening to that voice inside my head that said I wasn’t smart enough, credible enough, deserving enough, or talented enough to take on a new challenge, everything changed. Not only did I accomplish a goal I set out to achieve, but I became a better human being in the process.

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Tyler Chisholm

CEO and founding partner of @clearmotiveyyc. A driven businessman, adventurous sportsman and passionate friend. Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2012.