From imposter to insider: an inner critic story

July 27, 2023 | Mirta Fagundes dos Santos

Hand pulls red man out of group. Dismissal, weak link. Identify the culprit among the suspects. Identify the infected person. Zero patient of new strain. Identifying intruder. Collective immunity.

It was winter, and we were at a remote mountaintop location in New Zealand.

The conference room was laid out like a classroom, and I found a seat at the back, hoping to blend in.

But there was no blending in.

One of these things is not like the other

I was surrounded by successful, confident, intelligent men.

In front of me was a Sydney-based tech entrepreneur and his two C-levels. To my left, an owner of a manufacturing business from the South Island with his partner. And to my right, three management consultants.

And me, a 20-something recent graduate, way in over her head!

Fake it till you make it

How on earth did I end up in that room, feeling so out of place?

I tried to not speak too much, and when I did speak it was after hours of coming up with the one line that will make me look smart. I dreaded any of them noticing I didn’t belong, and I waited for them to single me out as an intruder.

But six days into the 8-day strategy training program, no one said anything about it.

My biggest obstacle to showing up was my inner critic

At dinner that night, I sat next to my boss.

“Honestly? I feel so out of place. All these guys are older, successful businessmen, and I’m this inexperienced kid with a lot to learn.”

He looked at me, puzzled, “We’re all here to learn. What are you talking about, Mirta?”… These were much wiser words than my inner critic’s voice* telling me I didn’t belong.

The next day, as I sat in the room alongside those successful businessmen, I smirked as I looked around. I now knew something they knew all along – I belonged!

*I’ve since named that voice (my inner critic) Barbara. And every time I hear her in my head, making me doubt myself, I just whisper to myself: “F*ck off Barbara!”. It snaps me right out of the imposter syndrome!

What are you gonna learn next?

Pretending we know it all, faking it till we make it, and other strategies we employ to look like we belong are not sustainable fixes.

We all have something to learn, evolve and grow, from the most accomplished CEOs to the newest entrants into the corporate world.

If you want to join some smart, successful people while learning some valuable critical thinking skills, enrol in our Thinking Foundations course!