Do you suffer from ‘Imposter Syndrome?’

I raced bikes in the US and Europe, ran collegiate track and cross-country, participated in countless road races, hold a degree in Kinesiology, am a certified NASM corrective exercise specialist and have been a coach and personal trainer for over 20 years. Despite my background, when it came time to launch UESCA, I hesitated.

Like many coaches and other professionals, I had what is termed, Imposter Syndrome. According to Merriam-Webster, Imposter Syndrome is defined as, a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.

While I didn’t really view myself as a fraud, I remember thinking, “Why me?” Why would anyone purchase a certification from a new and unknown company when they could get one from a national governing body? Had I continued that train of thought, I never would have launched UESCA.

So what changed?

For over 6 years, myself along with our team sourced, researched and developed the material that is currently in our certifications. I didn’t spend that many years obsessing over things like proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation to not hit the ‘GO LIVE’ button. I also realized that while UESCA was a new company, I was confident that our content was second to none and that with enough exposure, it would gain a foothold and be successful in the endurance sports education market. Once I believed this, the feelings of being an imposter fell by the wayside and it was off to the races.

So why am I telling you this?

I get quite a few coaches (both new and seasoned) reach out to me with feelings that mimic Imposter Syndrome and as I noted above, I totally get it! The catalyst for this post is because in addition to coaches telling me that they’re unsure of their ability as a coach, they also often ask if other coaches tell me the same thing. The answer is a resounding YES! In my very non-scientific opinion, I’ve found that most endurance athletes also tend to be type-A individuals who are very detail-oriented and for lack of a better word, perfectionists. While this attribute is great for coaches as it lends itself to detailed and professional coaching methods, it also tends to increase the chance for imposter syndrome. For these individuals, unless they feel that they know everything there is to know about a given subject area, they don’t view themselves as qualified to instruct in that area. Let me just tell you right now, if I waited until I knew everything there was to know about triathlon and running, UESCA wouldn’t exist now and would never exist because I will never know everything there is to know about these two sports – and neither will you.

At the end of the day, it’s not even about knowing more than the individual that you’re coaching – it’s about being able to help them in some way, shape or form. For example, a seasoned client might hire a relatively inexperienced coach because they like the way how they structure their programs, how they focus on the whole person versus just the athlete… or maybe they just like their personality.

Below are some things to keep in mind:

IT’S NORMAL

Having imposter syndrome is normal and remember, it’s always better to be a bit cautious of your ability than overzealous and get yourself in over your head.

CONFIDENCE

At the end of the day, overcoming feelings of coaching inadequacy or imposter syndrome is all about confidence. You must be confident in your knowledge, delivery of information, practical sport history and that you can help your client.

NICHE

You don’t need to be a jack of all trades, in fact, this can often hurt your coaching practice. For example, let’s say that you have an advanced degree in biomechanics and are an avid cyclist. You might focus your coaching practice not on writing programs but on bike fits and cycling form sessions. Focus on the area that you are most interested in and qualified for.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT KNOWLEDGE

Clients hire coaches for all different reasons. As noted previously, a client may hire a coach because they get along well and like their personality or because they know that they will hold them accountable to stick to the program. I recently had a coach tell me that a more experienced client hired them because they liked the way how the explained the workouts and the science behind them.

IT’S ALL RELATIVE

What’s simple and common sense for you might be confusing and scary for your client. So even though you might not hold a Ph.D in all things running, unless you are coaching an Olympic hopeful, it’s likely that your knowledge and experience is more than enough – and as mentioned above, it’s not always just about your knowledge.

DON’T TAKE ON CLIENTS YOU CAN’T HELP

The only time that imposter syndrome is likely real is if you take on a client that you know you can’t help. This, of course, should not happen in the first place however you’d be surprised by how many coaches do just this. Look, I get it, we all have bills to pay but acquiring clients that you know you cannot truly help is disingenuous and should never occur. So… when it comes to being a professional coach, the phrase, “Fake it till you make it” should not be a part of your coaching practice.

 

 

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