“Jo, your car’s driving itself” shouted a tiny voice as we stood in line waiting for the school doors to open. “Oh, yeah, it is!” called the other small voice with huge enthusiasm. I turned around to see my new car rolling across the school parking lot towards a shiny, grey Porche. That was the moment I realised that I hadn't yet learned the quirks of Mini's electric handbrake.
I sprinted across the parking lot, leaving two delighted, small children behind. I hit the unlock button while running aside the rapidly advancing car, pulled the door open and jumped in with more nimbleness than I realised I had. I then pushed down the brake, turned the car on and backed into the parking spot again.
“Wow”, exclaimed a chorus of tiny voices as I returned to the queue, “you’re like superwoman.” I felt anything but! For the next seven long minutes, every new person who joined the queue got to hear about my inability to park a modern car – positioned from the excitement of two small boys who thought my car had magical, self-driving powers. I was months into moving house, handling the world of Covid and remote team leadership, stepmumming, and managing numerous changes and challenges at work. I was overstretched and exhausted (much like everyone else). And I was waiting for the world to find out that I was a fraud – that I was making it all up, winging it – and this was that moment.
The droning inner critic in my mind can really make me feel like an imposter at times, draining my energy and knocking my confidence. It often surprises me how many others have a similar monster nattering in their minds too. In fact, I have it on good authority that many of the most talented people in the world think they're a little incompetent as they dance with their inner critic. The good news is - there stuff we can do about it. I've been on leadership courses where we've tackled imposter syndrome by visualising the cruel creature within, drawing it with coloured pens, naming it and slaying it (and repeat, as needed).
In one profound session I was fortunate to join, we flipped our imposter upside down and explored ‘meeting’ our inner leaders. The critic runs over things we’ve said (or not said) in public, it picks into the detail of things that don’t matter, it tells us we’re not enough, and it’s just wrong! In learning to focus on our inner leader, we were encouraged to think about what our inner voice would tell us if it only saw the good in us. If they praised our talents and successes – what would those be and what would they say? If they gave us a special gift that we truly needed – what would we open and how would it change our lives? As I got to know my inner leader, I found that there’s so much more positivity in my mind than I could imagine - when I let that voice lead. I found relief and joy in finding the cheerleader within myself.
Reflecting on the magical car incident, I know I’m not a fraud. I made it through a lot of stuff as the world whirled through Covid (while also jumping into moving cars). Though it’s a daily battle to push my inner critic aside and step into my confidence, I find that when I focus on the stuff I’m doing right, forgive myself for my weaknesses and take a hard look at the reality, sometimes I can feel better than ok, I can feel like the superwoman those tiny kids thought I was (for seven minutes).
FYI: For anyone driving a BMW/Mini with an electric brake for the first time... it does NOT automatically activate when you turn off the car - contrary to the advice from the dealership. Pull that handbrake every time (and feel the brake peddle decline slightly) or live to tell an embarrassing tale!