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Create a small win- When you focus on creating small wins for yourself it goes a long way towards building your confidence. Confident people go after things. When I started speaking, I would picture myself speaking to thousands of people. That picture in my mind really would get my heart racing, kicking in the fight or flight response. It really helped me to start with just a few people and speak to the people right in front of me. From creating this small win, I gained momentum, confidence, and freed myself from overwhelm.

As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Mitchell.

Linda Mitchell is a leading women’s health expert, best-selling author, Fitness Boutique Owner, and creator of The Sisterhood of Sweat brand. After surviving domestic violence, Linda has made it her mission to empower other women by helping them take responsibility for their health so that they can be in the best shape physically and emotionally.

A graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Linda has worked with dozens of thought leaders such as Heidi Powell, JJ Virgin, Natalie Jill, Anne Louise Gittleman, Dr. Will Cole, Dr. Lori Shemek, and Elaine LaLanne. In 2020 alone, Linda has been able double her net worth while eliminating all debt.

An award-wining fitness competitor and host of the podcast Sisterhood Of Sweat, a Top 50 podcast with over 200,000 downloads, Linda has written her own column “Fit Over Forty” and has spoken on numerous stages including Podfest and Women’s Future Conference. She has appeared on ABC, NBC, Bold TV and Fox.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

When I was young my mother suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts which scared me. At such a young age I really did not understand what was going on. I just knew my mom was sad. As a result, I discovered fitness in my teens and recognized it would lift me up out of any mood. After witnessing my mother’s severe depression, I always wanted everyone around me to be happy and would do whatever I could to help keep them cheery and motivate them. Early on I would teach my friends to exercise. I remember thinking when I discovered group fitness classes and the gym “I wish I could have an exercise studio and exercise all day long” I would watch Joanie Greggains who was a fitness icon on television back then and think, maybe someday I will be good enough to make something out of this. Little did I know this would come true and in a big way. At eighteen years old I married a military guy and started a family, it looked like my happily ever after. Unfortunately, soon I found I had leapt out of the frying pan into the fire. I suffered for nine long years before I left. I am now what they call a domestic abuse survivor, but I like to say I am a thriver. At first, with two small children, and no job I was not sure how I was going to make ends meet. Though I did not have a college education I soon became the fitness director at a local YWCA. As part of their outreach program, I taught aerobics to battered women and children. As I listened to them tell their stories of abuse and I knew I did not want to remain living as a victim, but I wanted to change my story and help others change theirs too. I knew someday when I had gotten through my mess and had the resources, I wanted to have a place where women could go to feel empowered and supported. I never wanted anyone to be as alone as I had felt without support. My decision was to become a victor and show up like one. We are not defined by our circumstances we are defined by our decisions and what we do about them. Through many difficult times in my life fitness has always proven to be my mainstay. I want to show people that a healthy body and mind can help them through any difficulty. A lot of time has come and gone since then. I have had a lifelong career in fitness and raised three college graduates with my new husband of 26 years. My wish comes true every day at my studio The Sisterhood of SWEAT, and I even collaborated on a sequel to one of Joanie Greggain’s books. SWEAT stands for Strong Women Empowering Achieving Together. Years ago, I left a unacceptable situation with two children and nothing but the clothes on our backs, now I’m a debt-free multimillionaire, bestselling author, champion fitness competitor, gym owner, speaker, IIN Graduate, and podcast host. Choices that are hard require courage, but they are not without reward.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

When my husband and I had another child, I wanted to be able to be more present. So, I left the corporate gym world behind and began building my business within somebody else’s business. This was perfect because I could still make a great income on own timeline. I was able to attend all my sons sporting events and be home after school. I built my business up in this place for over five years and things were going great. Although I felt there were some restrictions, working within someone else’s business I was able to build and grow my business more and more each year. The day of reckoning came it was New Year’s Eve, when you are supposed to be excited for the new year thinking about new beginnings. I came back from a NYE party to find an email. I called it my “Dear John” letter. It read something like we are changing our business model and will no longer have any private contractors. I was so upset by the news and took it to heart. I practically cried all night. My husband told me it was a blessing in disguise. What I cried about New Year’s Eve I celebrate now. I would have stayed thinking and living small. Getting kicked out of the nest was exactly what I needed, or I would have stayed doing what I had always done. That kick in the pants was the catalyst to start my first small fitness studio. Five years later I got kicked out of the nest again when my building was sold, and the new landlord tripled the rent. It was time to go big or go home. So, you know we went big. During the pandemic we expanded once again adding 50 percent more space in a class A retail center. My husband and I designed our entire new facility and it was built from scratch.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company is an all-women’s fitness boutique that is more than just a place to get your workout in. We have built a community that fosters support, collaboration, and life-long friendships as well as health. I asked my clients about why they think The Sisterhood of Sweat stands out because what I think does not matter, their responses were overwhelming. I picked one that I thought summed it up. “Being a part of The Sisterhood of Sweat community is not just about fitness, it is about life, positivity, love, inclusion, and raising each other up during tough times. SOS is a place where you work on becoming stronger physically, emotionally and mentally, and where the focus is placed on going after your dreams and helping others to do the same.” One story that stands out is when a participant lost over 100 pounds coming to sweat camp and following the plan that is in my book “The Sisterhood Of Sweat Project”. She happily informed me she had purchased a season’s pass to King’s Island amusement center where she would be able for the first time to ride the rides comfortably with her children.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My husband Tracy Mitchell has been my biggest supporter, fan, and confidant. He always pushes me to think bigger. He truly is the wind beneath my wings. I am thankful for his all his hard work, know how, and sacrifice that has enabled me to live out my greatest dreams. Before we got married, we had a big discussion about what our dreams and goals were. I think we both worried at times that one or the other of us would hold each other back from achieving them. Funny thing is I think we both learned partnership has made us thrive. The truth is the only person that can hold you back is you. In order for another person to hold you back, you have to give them permission. The real culprits that can hold us back are when we submit to limited beliefs, self-doubt, and fear of taking risks. Overcoming these are important on the way to claiming your dreams. The most pertinent thing is giving permission to one important person and that is yourself! My husband and I have reached our biggest, boldest dreams together.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome?

I would define impostor syndrome as a feeling of not enoughness, nothing is ever enough. The statements that run through your mind before doing almost any task range from: Who am I to do this? What if people do not like it? What will people say about me? What if I do not know enough to do this? Who will Listen? Who will come?

What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?

They feel like they will be exposed at any moment as not being knowledgeable or the expert about the project or topic that they are involved in. There is a huge feeling of nothing is ever enough. You may find yourself continually signing up for courses and continually learning, but rarely implementing. It all boils down to fear of being found out as a fraud or a fake.

What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome?

Whenever you do something that is reaching outside of your comfort zone it may feel a little scary or terrifying in fact. You may start criticizing yourself in a way that is self-deprecating instead of building yourself up, recognizing how you can do whatever is in front of you.

How can it limit people?

I know for many people when they do not feel valid or authentic it can cause them to limit themselves and literally hold their own selves back from pursuing their dreams in an effective manner. Knowing your own value and worth are a huge factor in recognizing huge accomplishments in your life. You must first believe you are worth and deserving of what you want before you will go after it.

How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?

I think you can find yourself feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) about all the opportunities that others are experiencing and going after. Deep down inside you may be holding the wish that you were doing and experiencing all the same things. You can experience jealousy, envy, wondering why you are not the one doing the talk on stage, having one million followers online, winning the trophy, and so much more. The one thing that you may be missing is the people that you admire and have FOMOED after did one important thing, they worked through the fear and used the muscle of courage to move forward regardless of how they were feeling.

We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?

I have to say in the past I have seriously suffered from imposter syndrome. In almost every big thing I have ever done these fears have come up, the feelings that I expressed come up. I will share a funny story about how I finally overcame the fear of public speaking when I was having the grand opening to my fitness boutique. I had asked many speakers to come and speak at my grand opening. When the time came close, speakers began canceling and bailing on their commitment. I had been feeling called to speak, but even at my grand opening which was a prime opportunity to get started, I found every reason to resist and try to find somebody else. It was not until I was frustrated and ranted on a little zoom video that the answer came to me. I was going to show up, jump feet first into the water in front of my friends, family, and everyone. No more treading with my big toe on the edge of the pool. In my video “I said if this is how people show up, I am going to do great in the playing field in public speaking, because I am going to show up prepared, regardless of my fears. So, in essence others not showing up made me show up for myself and recognize that it is not about being perfect, it is about being there.

Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?

Yes, I have truly overcome many of my fears of inadequacy by showing up regardless of my fears and taking big leaps towards my dreams. I believe taking daily action goes a long way in ridding you of impostor syndrome. Every time you can have a small win and move forward it renews your faith in yourself and proves, you can do what you thought was out of your league. This in turn is the ultimate confidence builder. For example, I really wanted to start podcasting, but I stood back in the fear of who am I to do this, I do not know enough, who will listen, for almost a year. Then I waited an entire year after I started podcasting before I started doing solo rounds. Once I started doing solo rounds my speaking career really took off. I found my voice by using it. The irony is my solo rounds are more popular than almost anything I do and this year I even reached two number one spots on the iTunes charts. I have reached more people speaking than I ever dreamed possible.

In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Take action- I had a really bad experience giving me stage fright at the age of eight. I was in a Christmas play at church. At the last moment, my friend who was also in the play came down sick. The play director decided to give me their lines as well as my own. I completely froze and forgot their lines as well as mine. I was shy about any type of public speaking for years after that. I have since found that the only way out of fear is working through it. When I recognized this, I took the leap and started my speaking career. When I faced my fear, I was freed from it. Looking fear in the face is often the very thing it takes to free ourselves from its grip on us. I also worked on preparedness by signing up for an Improv class with my husband, a mic drop workshop, and became a certified speaker with The Big Talk Academy. Besides laughing with my husband for hours, Improv really helped me to think on my feet in front of an audience and overcome my nerves.

Face your fear- I have always had an extreme fear of heights. When I was young, I fell over 20 feet in a dark barn, falling through all sorts of boards to the bottom and had the wind completely knocked out of me. I have been afraid of heights ever since. A few years ago, as a family we went to the Grand Canyon. I had talked my family into going to the famous skywalk that overlooks the canyon. The sky walk is a see-through glass platform above the 2000-foot canyon below. When we arrived, my entire family went out on the skywalk right away. While I stood back against the wall in fear. I could not bring myself to get out on the glass at first. I had to talk to myself the way I would talk to my fitness studio clients about how overcoming fear brings you closer to what you want in life. I decided that the fear of heights was like any other fear. I thought if I can overcome my fear of height, I could soar to new heights in my career. I got out on the glass and got my proof, a selfie, then I went quickly back to safety again. Or should I say my comfort zone. I really wanted to overcome this unrealistic fear, so I asked the attendant on duty “do you have earthquakes here?” She said, “every day”. I decided right then and there I would rather die going after my dreams then standing on the sidelines. I walked the entire perimeter of the skywalk and at the end I pressed my face to the glass looking to the bare bottom of the canyon. I have thought about this moment many times when I do something that scares me. I remember I did that, so I can do this. Later, I had this epiphany, or should I say vision that we can have one foot on one side of the canyon in our comfort zone and one foot on the other side, that being the side of our hopes and dreams. At some point we must take the leap to the side of our dreams, or we may crash and burn in the middle by not making a choice, or worse yet we never leave our comfort zone.

Ask better questions- I used to ask myself when I was competing in fitness competitions what if I fall on my head in that pose? Many times, I would be doing feats that were difficult and new to me. I would worry about executing them. Things really began to change when I started asking myself new questions like where have I succeeded before? What if I nail that pose? I started asking my asking my brain more positive questions. When you ask yourself a negative question your brain generally can only answer in a negative way. Asking yourself positive question can lead to a better outcome.

Reset your mind- Whenever I have a negative thought, I like to replace it with a positive one. One of the things I really like to do is wear a band and snap it whenever I have undesired thoughts then immediately reframe them with a positive mantra. Such as if I am feeling less than confident, I say “I have got this and I’m going to crush it.” If I’m feeling tired, I say “I have so much energy and I’m not tired at all.”

Create a small win- When you focus on creating small wins for yourself it goes a long way towards building your confidence. Confident people go after things. When I started speaking, I would picture myself speaking to thousands of people. That picture in my mind really would get my heart racing, kicking in the fight or flight response. It really helped me to start with just a few people and speak to the people right in front of me. From creating this small win, I gained momentum, confidence, and freed myself from overwhelm.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to inspire a movement and environment where women feel seen, heard, and come together to support one another to collaborate not hate on each other’s accomplishments.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Forbes Riley! She is an amazing human being who really care about helping others. I recently engaged with her in a room on clubhouse and I was blown away by her knowledge, expertise, and high energy. She is truly gifted and an amazing role model for what is possible if we only believe.

How can our readers follow you on social media? @sisterhoodofsweat

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Linda Mitchell of ‘The Sisterhood of Sweat’: How To Thrive Despite Experiencing Impostor Syndrome was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.