In This Episode:
- Where imposter syndrome really comes from
- How to recognize imposter syndrome when it shows up
- How to overcome imposter syndrome to smash the patriarchy
Listen to the podcast here:
Imposter Syndrome With Janet Mohapi-Banks
I am really excited to introduce you to Janet Mohapi-Banks, a breakthrough coach who works with women entrepreneurs who want to build and leave a legacy for future generations.
We’re digging into how impostor syndrome shows up in our lives and businesses and how we can move beyond it, to create the life we’ve always dreamed of. Ready? Let’s get started.
I’m so excited to have you here to talk about imposter syndrome. Let’s jump right in—tell us a little bit about how you had started an online business, and then what you are doing now.
I’m Janet Mohapi-Banks. I’m a breakthrough coach for experienced entrepreneurs and very ambitious entrepreneurs as well, they have to be.
How I got into the coaching business is such a long story; it begins way back when I was a luxury cake designer. I was selling my cakes in the Ritz Hotel in Mayfair, the Cano—half of my fair I was on their recommended supplier list for and one of only two for the Ritz, which is my big, proudest moment of my life, I think!
I was in all the wedding magazines, wedding TV, I really was at the top of my game and I overworked, burned out, and it left me vomiting multiple times a day for nearly five years and that was horrendous, as you can imagine.
During that time, my husband left me, my children had to look after me, my daughter, in particular, and she was eleven at the time when my husband left. She took over the role of being a mom to both me and her younger brother, who we later found out is autistic. Mom guilt, just pile it on!
Like I say, five years of being really, really death’s door. The prognosis was a slow death by starvation because like I say, I was literally vomiting multiple times a day, every single day. A chiropractor cracked my spine and fixed me.
It took a few months for the nerve that achieved, released in my spine, to pop out again—she described it as having a garden hose that you put a deck chair on. Once you take the deck chair off, the hose is still a bit squashed and it takes a little bit of time for the hose to come back out and that’s what happened.
Once she’d cracked my spine, released the nerve, it took her a few months for all the electrical signals to start coming through again, because there was no electrical signal going from my brain into my stomach, which is why my stomach was like, “Food? Water? I don’t know what to do with you. Let’s get rid of you.”
Take you back out.
Exactly. As soon as I got better, I knew—and I can’t really describe the knowing—I just knew it was this inbuilt innate “Knowing with a capital K” that I was here, help other people, other women like myself to reach the levels of success that I had gotten to, but without killing themselves in the process.
I started as a business coach and then I went into life coaching because I realized that once your life is on track, then everything else falls into place anyway.
Then what I noticed when I was being a life coach is actually all to do with the mindset and the decision-making that you make and really tuning into your highest self. So I sort of transitioned again and now I’m a breakthrough coach for entrepreneurs.
That’s what I love about online business, is you get to decide to be whatever it is you want to be. We never—there are buckets you can fit into—but it’s amazing.
Do you tend to come up since you’re helping women kind of break through, what’s holding them back? Do you tend to come up against a lot of imposter syndrome?
My whole downfall, if you like? From where I was in my cake career—to being bedridden for five years—that all came about through imposter syndrome.Once your life is on track, then everything else falls into place. Click To Tweet
I got to the top of my career with absolute ease. This is way before I learned about the law of vibration or the law of attraction or anything like that. I started making cakes because I loved making cakes, and then because I’m me and I’m one of those inevitable high achieving women, if I was going to do something, I was going to do it to the best of my ability. If I was going to be a cake designer, I was going to be a wedding cake designer, and if I was going to be a wedding cake designer, then I was going to be a wedding cake designer for people getting married at the fucking Ritz.
Right! Yeah, why not?
Aim high! Imposter syndrome, like to say I got that really easily and really quickly, but then as soon as I got there, the doubts suddenly started taking root. My husband at the time was not hugely supportive of what I was doing. He had a couple of failed businesses behind him—businesses that just didn’t gain traction. That just didn’t really work.
So when I started winning business awards and when I started getting the recognition for the work that I was doing, it didn’t really sit that well with him. He was constantly really undermining my confidence and self-esteem on a daily, daily basis.
It’s like the water torture, as soon as you start that drip, drip, drip, drip, of insecurity, of self-doubt, then it all turns bad. I found that instead of being pulled by this vision, which is how I got there so easily—I was pulled by the vision of being this amazing cake designer—as soon as I got there and he started doing this, and then I was asked a question from this amazing woman who I love completely, it was for a luxury magazine. She was like, “How did you get to where you are then? You’ve never been trained.”
She started off by asking me what culinary schools I went to, who did I work under? I was like, “I’m literally just making it up as I go along. I’m literally just adapting the way that I love to taste.”
And like all the sugar work and everything else that was sort of YouTube, and books, and trial and error. And then, that question just planted another seed of, “How did I get here? I don’t know how I got here!” As soon as I started questioning that, like I say, I went from being pulled by the vision to this pushing energy of, “Oh my God, I’m going to get found out now.”
“I’m going to get found out that I shouldn’t be at the freakin’ Ritz! I’m going to get found out that I shouldn’t be in all the magazines!” Like the first magazine I was in was a Condé Nast bride’s magazine. It’s like the publishers of Vogue—it’s like the way you want to be at the wedding industry.
That’s interesting because I experienced the same thing. I started my business by accident and I didn’t really think much about all the things that now plague my brain because I was just like, “I needed to make the money.” I made the money. I was doing what I knew how to do.
I made the shift from the food blogging industry, which is why I was working into the more of the entrepreneurial coaches’ course creators on the industry where they talk about all this stuff all the time.
I was like, “Are these things I’m supposed to be thinking about that I’ve never considered before? Do I have money mindset issues?” It was like somebody introduced the idea to me that, “Here are all the things that you may not have been thinking of before, and now you need to think about them.” That’s when the imposter syndrome really started to creep in.
It’s also because we are taught to not be in the positions that we find ourselves in, a lot of the time. If you’ve had this situation where you are constantly bringing home A’s and A-pluses and brilliant grades, and you have a parent that is constantly telling you, “Maybe you could have done this differently, this differently. Maybe you could have done that better,” then whatever you achieve, it will never feel good enough. When you find yourself in these amazing positions then, this like in a child inside you that’s going, “Yeah, but it’s still not enough. It’s still not good enough.” That’s where the impostor comes from. We are taught it.With imposter syndrome, whatever you achieve, it will never feel good enough. Click To Tweet
We are taught to feel like an imposter, especially as a Black woman, which is what I am. There aren’t very many Black women at the top of their careers, because we are taught we’re not supposed to be there. So we have to unlearn all this nonsense—and it is nonsense—because wherever we are if wherever we even desire to be is exactly why we’re meant to be.
We’ve got a place there. We just need to raise our belief to get there, raise our belief to stay there, and raise our belief in ourselves and our abilities to actually get further, and actually dream bigger and dream more. If we can dream more, we can have more—we just need to raise our belief to match it.
That’s the thing, imposter syndrome comes from an internalized message that you hear from the time that you can understand the things going on around you, until you get to a place where you’re achieving all these things that you’ve been told your whole life aren’t meant for you.
Whether you’re a woman or a woman of color or someone else, and then you get there and you’re like, “Is this for me? It’s not supposed to be for me, but here I am doing the thing.” You’re like, “People are going to find out. They’re going find out that I’m not supposed to be here doing this thing that I’m doing.”
Would you say that when you come up against imposter syndrome with your clients, is it mostly things from childhood? Are they learning this from their parents? Is it societal messaging? Is it a combination of both?
It’s a combination of everything really. It’s the messages that they’ve received, that they are then repeating—verbatim, usually. When you can work out where exactly you heard those words, then you can make the decision, “I heard these words at five years old, five years old, I made this lump of clay that I said was a goddamn dog. Nobody believed me!”
Then you heard the words, “Maybe if you had done it a bit more like Claire, maybe you have won first place, maybe blah, blah, blah.” When you can work out, “Am I choosing to still believe those words are true for me?” That’s what it’s all about.
It’s all about what you are consciously choosing to believe about yourself. Are you choosing to believe the stories of, people like you can only have this much money, people like you can only raise to this position in society? You have to decide, is that true for me, or am I going to be the exception to the rule?
As soon as you decide “that’s a load of bollocks. I’m not going to listen to that story anymore. That story does not apply to me,” then you get to choose your new reality. You get to choose your new definition of who you are and what you can achieve. Then it’s a case of reprogramming that into your brain, because you’ve heard many times that this thing is not for you. This thing is not for people like you, people in our family don’t do that sort of thing.
Repetition, repetition, repetition—get a new message in.
Would you say that imposter syndrome shows up in conjunction with other mindset issues? Is it like a thing that’s usually tied to something else or does it stand on its own as its own little thing?
The main things that stop—especially women—from really achieving the legacy type wealth and the legacy type positions in life: there’s imposter syndrome, control issues, procrastination—all the things that will fall under self-sabotage.
The umbrella of all of those things is fear. Everything hangs off fear. With imposter syndrome, fear of being caught out, fear of ridicule, fear of being embarrassed—that’s all fear.
Imposter syndrome is the symptom of those fears. Procrastination often occurs through—scared of being successful can often lead to procrastination, scared of being a failure—again, both fears. Control is all about fear.
I know control very well.
That’s what happened in my cake business, the deeper the imposter syndrome setting, the more I held on really tightly and I couldn’t let go of anything.If we can dream more, we can have more. We just need to raise our belief to match it. Click To Tweet
I strangled the life out of my business and strangled the life out of myself. And again, that’s all control. If I don’t hold on so tightly, then it’s all going to fall away.
There’s so much about the way that women are socialized in today’s society, too, where you have a certain sort of standard of how you’re supposed to show up in the world and just be very agreeable. You’re not supposed to break the mold.
Not supposed to be too loud, or too opinionated, or too much. By and large, starting a business, especially one that makes an impact and leaves a legacy like you’re talking about, you have to really break out of the societal conditioning.
That’s where all that fear comes up. You have to be loud. You have to submit what you want and what you need to say without worrying about how some people are going to take it and that’s something that’s saying something you know could potentially upset someone else.
It’s so far outside the realm of what a lot of women are comfortable with because we are not socialized to disappoint people.
We are brought up with this thing of “we have to be liked.” We have to be liked all the time. If we have to be liked all the time, we are never going to rock any boats. We’re never, ever going to be the disruptors that we need to be in order to make this amazing impact in the world.
That’s exactly it. I did an episode about needing to be liked a few weeks ago.You have to let go of the societal conditioning to please everyone before you please yourself. Otherwise, you’re just going to stay stuck exactly wherever it is you happen to be whether it’s making $5,000 a month or $100,000 a month.
Whatever number you’re at, you’re going to be stuck there if you can’t move past the limitation of wanting to please everyone else before you please yourself—or even just a handful of others before you please yourself.
Absolutely. The thing is that when we can truly love ourselves—totally, unconditionally, every single aspect of us like our bad moods, outrageous farts, when we can love all of us—then, other people’s judgments of us don’t take effect.
They really don’t. It’s like Teflon because their image of us, that isn’t our image of us.
We have to create our own self-image in the image of the person who already has everything that we want. When we can show up like the multimillion-dollar company owner, the multi-billion business owner, when we can show up like her, unapologetically, and love ourselves in the process, then nobody can touch us!
It’s like they would tell us that our face is blue, and we know that ours is not blue so we’re like, “Are you crazy? You go sit over there, darling. I’m busy doing this.” It doesn’t hurt us, because we feel no truth in what they’re saying because we know our own truth.
The interesting thing I’ve always found about this work—because I’m working with a mindset coach at this point too—the benefits of this work to me, in my experience, have not been obvious.
It’s not like you wake up one day and you’re like, “I’m different. Now, I just feel so different.” For me, it was encountering situations that in the past would have just fuckin’ spun me out and made me useless for several days because I was dealing with the emotional fall out of the situation.
Now, I just ran up against a situation last weekend, where normally I would have been in some catatonic, anxious state for days. And instead it was, “This is what happens. This is life. We’re just going to roll that and move on.” That’s when you see the shift. For me, I was always waiting before doing this work, being like, “Why don’t I wake up and feel different one day?” To me, that’s not really how it works.
For someone who maybe doesn’t know that they’re struggling with imposter syndrome because that’s another thing about imposter syndrome—it’s really good at masquerading as something else. It’s something that’s totally rational.When we can truly love ourselves, other people's judgments of us don't take effect. Click To Tweet
“I don’t have enough education so obviously, I feel this way.” Is there something people can watch out for? You don’t really know that you need help until you diagnose the situation for yourself. Is there something people can look out for within themselves to find out if they need some support for this or not?
One of the exercises that my clients do with me is they create their perfect day. They create their perfect business. They create their perfect life. And they write out exactly who that person is that is living that life. What are the characteristics of that person? What does that person do? What are their actions? What are their thoughts? What are their behaviors? What is their emotional state?
Once you’ve done that—once you have this checklist of who it is that you are being, who you are becoming, now you can check your own day against that day: “Why wasn’t I this person? I didn’t do this and I didn’t do that. Why didn’t I do this? These were the thoughts that were going on in my head. Do these thoughts actually serve my greatest good or are these thoughts based on fear?”
You’re either living with purpose or you’re living through fear—one or the other. If you’re not living with purpose, you are living through fear. If you’re not doing things that you know that your ideal person would be doing, then you have to question, “Why is that? What thought was there?”
When you notice, “Oh actually, I’m just living in fear the whole time.” You can go, “You know what? I need some help with this.” There’s no shame in wanting the help, because that’s the other thing we’re taught as women: We don’t need help. We’re capable of doing it all.
We’re supposed to do it all.
Exactly. We’re supposed to do—or we’re supposed to have it all. We’re supposed to have it all, do it all, be it all, for everybody, not just for ourselves—and especially, actually not for ourselves, because we’re supposed to put everybody else before us. We’re supposed to put the husband, the children, and the career for a boss that is really abusive to us. We’re supposed to put all of that before our own needs, before our own joy.
It’s time to get out of that mentality. It really is. It’s time to put ourselves first, because as soon as we do that, we are able to hold space that allows us to give to the other people what they need from us and what they deserve to have from us. These are people that we love, not people like, ignoramus bosses.
That’s a strength that comes from dealing with those fears too—when you deal with these fears in this societal conditioning that comes up, in a healthy way, I’ll say, you’re then able to choose who and how you’re helping other people.
It’s not to say that when you put yourself first, you’re just ignoring everyone else and their needs and whatever—it’s just you’re putting yourself in a position where you get to choose how you show up rather than feeling obligated to show up in a way that doesn’t feel good to you.
That alone is such a game changer because when you get to make that choice, you get to be in control of the situation and not feel like you’re just powerlessly at the mercy of everyone around you.
Absolutely. Feeling powerless is one of the most debilitating feelings that you can ever have. It really is.
I know you have a book out an internationally bestselling book.
And award-winning now as well!
You’ve won an award now. What award did have you won?If you're not living with purpose, you are living through fear. Click To Tweet
The category it won was best cover. It’s absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who gave us the award!
But it’s got an award so it’s fine! The title of your book is?
Habits for Happiness available from Amazon. It’s really super cheap on Kindle. It’s like $2.99.
I know I’m going to go buy it today. I thought I had bought a copy of this when it was pre-ordering, but I didn’t. I was searching for my Kindle library for it because that’s usually how I buy my books and I couldn’t find it—I was like, “Why I didn’t buy this?”
I’m excited to check it out, and I want you to tell everyone, how they can work with you. If they’ve identified imposter syndrome or other fears that are holding them back in their lives, how can they find you and work with you? How do you work with that? Let’s start there.
Book a call. A free 30-minute call is the best place to start. We can just see if we’re a really good fit to work together. You can find that link on my website, which is JanetMohapiBanksCoaching.com, all one word, it’s long!
Or you can find me on Facebook. Facebook is where you’ll most likely find me rather than the others. Facebook is like I hang out here most and there’s only one Janet Mohapi-Banks. You put my name in, it’s me who’s going to pop up!
You are unique! The thing that I love the most about this work too that I just want to mention before we wrap up here is that societal conditioning is strong. You’re conditioned to believe these things—one, for a reason, because patriarchy—and two, it’s just conditioning is the thing that immediately pops into your head and this was something I had to learn as I was working through my own fears and traumas and things.
The societal conditioning stuff, even as you’re doing this work, even as this work is working in your life and your business, that still pops into your head, because it’s so ingrained for so long, and you just have to remember: The important part about acting on your thoughts.
Conditioning is the first thought that you think. What you choose to think after that is the part that matters. Like the thing you choose to take action on is the part that matters.
I talk to some people who are like, “I’m still having these thoughts, so that must mean that it’s not working.” It’s like, “No. Societal conditioning is strong.”
The thing is as well, you are not your thoughts. You have your thoughts. Like you have your fingers—but you are not them. You don’t have to act on them.It's time to put ourselves first because as soon as we do that, we are able to hold space that allows us to give to the other people. Click To Tweet
Generally speaking, the thoughts that you have—your ego-based thoughts that are keeping you safe—that’s their aim. They are just to keep you safe. They are your tiny child inside you that has learned, because of all the conditioning—like you say—if we do this, we will be safe. If we do this, we will be liked. If we do this, Mommy will love us, Daddy will take care of us.
When you can understand that little voice is a child, then you get to choose, “Who’s going to take control of my life? Is it going to be the child inside me—the six-year-old that is so far calling all the shots? Or, am I going to step up and be the woman that I know I can be, and take care of the child?”
It’s not a case of trying to squash the thoughts or dismiss the thoughts, or even quiet the thoughts—you don’t need to gag the thoughts, because they just get louder like a child. They just get louder!
All the avoidance in the world doesn’t work.
Yeah! What you need to do is when these thoughts come up, you appreciate them. You say, “Thank you. Thank you, little Megan, for trying to protect me. I really, really appreciate you. I really appreciate you. Thank you so much. I know that you’re trying to keep me safe—but I feel really safe being on the other side of this desire.”
Because you’ve practiced it in your head, and you’ve visualized it—being on the other side of your goals already, having everything that you want—your little inner voice, that little child inside, will go, “I’m going to give you a chance then. You take the action to step over the bridge. If you’re okay, I’ll be quiet for a bit.”
Prove it that it’s okay and then I’ll be quiet.
The other thing that has come up really recently with a few of my clients is that as soon as we are on the cusp of breaking through, that little voice gets louder.
Every new level you get to requires a new level of you, but that little being inside you, that little voice, wants to keep you safe. It is its prime directive—to keep you safe. So every time you are pushing your boundaries, just about to get a breakthrough the little voice will pop up even louder to go, “Are you sure this is what you want because I don’t know—we’re kind of safe in here. I’ve got the chocolate, I’ve got the tea.”
If we go out there, we’ll die, but we’re okay in here, and it’s the threshold.
You know that you’re just about to break through. So when that voice gets really loud, that’s when you turn that fear of the little voice into excitement because you’re just about to get there. You hold it in the loving embrace and go, “Thanks, little Megan. Thanks, little Janet. We got this—come on!”
When I first started doing this work, I was like, “That’s not real.” People say that. At some point, your fears pop up and you’re curious about them and you’re like, “That’s so interesting.” I used to roll my eyes at people like that when I was first starting out doing this work.
I can certify that this is true now where if your pops up and you’re like, “That’s interesting. Where’s that coming from?” There really is a curiosity and all of a sudden excitement about it because you’re like, “Something good must be coming!” Because we only freak out when something like really good/scary is on the way this must be. This is going to be great.
I really appreciated you being here. I’ve been really looking forward to this conversation and everything of yours on the website. Make sure you grab a copy of Janet’s book. I’m sure it is phenomenal. I’m about to go read the copy myself, and I will talk with you soon.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a real honor. I’m excited to be here!