Only by stepping out of your comfort zone will you create a new comfort zone and edge closer to your goals. Once you quieten those imposter syndrome thoughts, you can step into your zone of genius and start really showing up as the expert in your field, then you will become that credible voice that people turn to — and that’s what we want!
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 Rhiannon Bates.
Rhiannon is the driving force behind Garnet PR, a boutique agency specialising in mindset, business and PR coaching for female business owners, particularly service-based businesses or those in the rural and luxury lifestyle sectors. She also provides Public Relations services for high-level female coaches and entrepreneurs.
Alongside her epic team, Rhiannon helps female business owners, coaches and entrepreneurs to show up and shine; supporting them to get clarity, confidence and coverage® in the press to boost their brand awareness and create a business and life they love.
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’?
I’m Rhiannon, PR, business & mindset expert to female entrepreneurs. I help service-based business women to show up and shine online and in the press; giving them the clarity and confidence to get powerfully visible, empowering them to own their place as an A-lister in their niche, and helping them to connect with their dream clients, so that they can turn their passion into profit, create the impact they desire and build a life they love.I arrived at entrepreneurship via some amazing jobs working with world-famous celebrities and animal & conservation charities including ZSL London Zoo, Dogs Trust and the Woodland Trust (yes, I’ve worked with Sir David Attenborough many times and he’s as fantastic as you imagine!). While animals and conservation will always be in my heart and soul, I embraced my rural roots in 2017 by leaving London to move to Yorkshire for love, first working for an award-winning agency then launching Garnet PR. Now I fulfil my mission by helping female entrepreneurs to create epic impact and helping them to master their mindset, create a beautiful business that works for them so that they don’t feel like a slave to it and develop the confidence to show up & shine with a game-changing PR plan. You could say I’m an animal-loving, country girl with a big heart and a huge mission; to give a voice to those who need it!
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?
I felt like I had it all; a super glamorous role working with celebrities, charities, and award-winning businesses, attending fab parties (I even brought a llama to an OK! Magazine summer party), surrounded by A-listers. However, while this may look super sparkly from the outside, behind the scenes was years of workplace bullying, toxic environments, and extreme anxiety as a result (more on this later).
I spent a huge amount of my 20s feeling undervalued, overworked, and bullied, primarily by other women in the workplace, which led to extreme anxiety. I loved public relations, but the culture in a couple of places was horrendous, and I know I’m not alone in going through something like this.
Because of these experiences, I have developed a passion for giving women a voice and supporting them to turn their dreams into reality in their own businesses. I firmly believe we should support and help each other to rise, not tear each other down. It’s like a ripple effect, when one woman succeeds it shows it’s possible for others and inspires them to go after their dreams. While toxic work cultures are never fun, I’m grateful for the lessons I learned from women who didn’t operate in this way because it’s made me committed to my mission.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, I lost 95% of my clients in two weeks which was devastating. This resulted in a horrific accident when I hit burnout. I worked so hard trying to survive and keep the business going that I eventually just hit a wall and passed out holding a just boiled kettle. Spending three weeks in hospital in isolation at the height of a pandemic was terrifying and it was this that made me realize I needed to make massive changes. Things seemed extremely bleak and I had a lot of time in the hospital to think about how I could turn this around and transform my business to make it work for me and gain that work / life harmony while creating a bigger impact and helping other women not to go through what I did.
That’s when I hired my business coach, changed my niche (I was originally working with travel and tourism clients when I set up the business), and leant very heavily into mindset work. I got clear on my purpose-led mission — giving a voice to those who need it — and switched up my business model, focusing on coaching other women using the mindset & business strategy skills I have developed and my decade of PR experience.
Perhaps one of the biggest realizations was that I don’t have to do it all myself, something early days entrepreneurs often struggle with! ince hiring strategic team members, the business has exploded, we really can achieve so much more together, and I love supporting other women to have businesses that they love. My team is like my family, I adore them and we all work together to support and raise up other women, we share the same values and goals, which is really important.
While the business is my baby, my accident also made me realize there needs to be balance. Last year was tough, as well as my accident and losing my clients, my other half was made redundant, our wedding was postponed and we lost two house sales on the day of exchange. So while I’m still working on creating balance we’ve now moved to the countryside away from the city suburb we were in, building a long term life we love and focusing on the future; sometimes it takes trauma to make you see what’s really important but the realization is like an awakening. For me, lockdown presented more challenges than expected and made me realize how important finding some semblance of balance is to find true fulfillment and happiness.
Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success! Because I have been through imposter syndrome, anxiety, burnout and trauma, I feel incredibly passionate about helping other women who feel they have lost their voice or confidence, or are struggling to scale their business without burning out.
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 peers and my clients inspire me. My circle is now full of amazing women who are all on similar paths; friends from University who are in senior leadership positions, fellow coaches and entrepreneurs who share the same approach to collaboration over competition. When I moved to Yorkshire and left my life in London behind I was scared I’d be lonely, when I started the business I felt the same, now however I realize I’ve finally found my people and I’ve never felt more fulfilled and inspired.
If I had to pick one person, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my coach, Amy, of Social Cactus Coaching. She has been instrumental in helping me to grow the business from the ground-up following my accident. She’s helped me to believe in myself, create a new business model that enables the business to impact and serve other female entrepreneurs and is always there to support me through growing pains, and to celebrate with me too! I’m really passionate that we don’t have to do things alone, having support from someone who has been where you are and done what you want to do is invaluable! I call it ‘success breadcrumbs’, following those is my biggest piece of advice for other entrepreneurs.
I also have to add that I have been incredibly lucky to have a supportive family network. My other half is my rock and has always supported me, he’s always there to help me with business advice and is the one who pushed me to start the business in the first place as he knew it was what I was meant to do. He cared for me when I couldn’t walk for months, he celebrates the successes and he helps me to keep going when facing challenges, he also gives me perspective and reminds me of the need for work-life harmony which is really important!
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? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?
Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough? Like you’re a fraud or you’re going to get found out? That you’re in a room full of people who are so much better than you?
Well, that is called imposter syndrome and you’re in good company as 70% of us feel like this at some point in our life, with women being much more susceptible to this than men.
Impostor syndrome is the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications — it’s where people can’t internalize their successes.
I’ve had years of working on overcoming challenges all linked to imposter syndrome and I know I’m not alone! So, I want to share my process for recognizing those imposter feelings; Recognize, Acknowledge, Release. Recognizing that that’s all they are, acknowledging them and that they’re not true and releasing them so you can start confidently and powerfully showing up and serving your audience.
I like to give my imposter form, so I imagine him as a little devil on my shoulder — it makes it easier to visualize stopping him from talking and putting him back in his box! Experiencing bouts of imposter syndrome is entirely normal and natural, some people are more susceptible than others, but know that you are not alone! We usually hear his little growling voice when we’re stretching ourselves out of our comfort zones, so it can be seen as a good sign.
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
My experiences led me to develop serious imposter syndrome and stress-related anxiety and limited my self-belief and even my self-esteem.
By developing this negative mindset and attitude towards yourself, you won’t grow and it will make you doubt your impact and talents. When this happens, we don’t charge our worth, (or do things like ask for a pay rise if we’re employed) and in turn, the work output will suffer. We start to believe we aren’t good enough and compare ourselves to those around us, then spiral into this negative thought pattern.
So often, especially as women, we feel judged or held back by what other people think, and this leads to bouts of debilitating imposter syndrome. True ‘girl power’ to me is women supporting each other, leading a life focusing on collaboration over competition, and becoming the best version of yourself. It’s really important that we lift each other up; it’s like a ripple effect, when one woman uses her voice or supports another woman, we pave the way for others to do the same, and that’s what will create huge change in the world, and in order to do that we have to be able to overcome any doubts, or imposter syndrome, we may feel so that we don’t hold ourselves back.
Other people are waiting for you to help them, if you let your imposter dull your sparkle and you hide away, how can you do that? I always try to see, and teach, that creating impact is so much bigger than us, it’s really important not to get in our own way as this has a huge knock-on effect!
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
The events in my 20s helped me to realize that in many organizations, you are just a number and will be stepped on by others — it’s a dog eat dog world out there at times. It’s such a shame, because actually, as I’ve said, women should be supporting each other because that’s where powerful impact and change happens.
When you have been through impostor syndrome or recognize that it’s something which comes up for you (because often if you’re susceptible you might find that it does recur in certain situations!), you tend to be mindful and empathetic towards those experiencing it, because believe me, it’s a lonely and horrible place to be in. Remember, you aren’t alone, it’s something most people go through and you can overcome, or learn to manage it.
You can go one of two ways; blame yourself and others around you for not being ‘good enough’, or you can flip it around, realize your worth and start using techniques to eliminate this imposter syndrome and to help others.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
Anxiety and worry were something I really struggled with in my 20s. I battled with these feelings and emotions for a long time before I got help. I spent a long time not feeling good enough, feeling incredibly on edge and stressed every day. I lived in a spiral of sadness, with my imposter firmly shouting in my ear, although, of course, no one else could hear him.
I loved my job at the time more than anything, but as part of it, I had to work with one incredibly toxic team who used bullying and nastiness as a way to get things done. You can imagine how fragile my mental wellbeing became, feeling vulnerable already and trying to hold it all together, hit ambitious targets and juggle everyone else’s priorities; it all became too much.
I was a shadow of who I was, just hoping to get through each day and crying my way through my life — not nice right! People wondered why I wasn’t super happy and enjoying this life, which, from the outside, looked incredible, but every day felt like climbing a mountain wearing this devil on my back, weighing me down and desperate for me to fall.
It took me a while to recognize what it was which was driving this feeling of inadequacy — I just ‘coped’ with it, but it was a tough way to live. I can clearly remember my tipping point when things got to such a dark point I knew I needed help.
There was a group of girls at work who I dreaded having to work with, and their venom took its toll, where my imposter was fired up by their spiteful words and actions. I’m actually grateful to them now, without them I wouldn’t recognize what incredible, inspiring, collaborative and ambitious women look like, and have surrounded myself with them instead of toxic playground bullies. So, finally, I reached out and got some help from the NHS who were incredible — using a combination of CBT and NLP I learnt techniques to combat stress, anxiety and of course to quiet my imposter and to recognize it for what it was.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
I was fortunate enough to be referred to a brilliant psychologist where we did a lot of NLP work, worry and anxiety management, including 1:1 discussions and serious support. Bringing me back to reality, away from the spiralling darkness and equipping me to ignore the ‘noise’ of other people who weren’t adding anything positive, which in turn helped me to master my imposter.
While I don’t profess to be a qualified expert in this field, I do know what works for me and I wanted to share this in case it might help others who may be having similar feelings, or who experience them from time to time.
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.
- Visualization — for me, I really benefit from visualizing things. Whenever any feelings of doubt crept in, I visualized a dark little devil sitting on my right shoulder. He tells me the things that keep me safe, don’t stretch me or put me in the way of danger. He’s that voice that says “Don’t do that because something bad will happen” or “You can’t do that, you’re not good enough”. By visualizing him and giving him a persona, it really helped me recognize what was going on and helped me stop him in his tracks. I use an NLP technique which taught me to visualize a huge stop sign as soon as I recognize the little devil’s words. I visualize putting it in front of him. He can’t get over it, round it or under it…and he’s definitely not getting through it! You can also use this for any worrying thoughts if they are unwarranted.
- Recognize, acknowledge and release — Firstly, I recognize whose voice it is. Is it the imposter devil or my positive angel? Then I acknowledge what they are saying to me. Is it useful, accurate, worth listening to? Finally, it’s about releasing. I choose not to listen to the negative voice if he’s whispering unhelpful things, releasing his negativity, and only take on board what the angel says to me. Try writing the thoughts down then physically throwing them away, or using another powerful stop word which resonates with you. Just keep trying different techniques until you find one that works for you as there is a way you can lead a life without your own little devil on your shoulder.
- Worry journal — Another technique which worked wonders for helping me manage feelings of anxiety and worry was a ‘worry journal’. You only need to spend 10–15mins a day writing down and ‘brain-dumping’ all the things that worry you — it’s a purposeful, allocated time for worry, so don’t go over the time slot. All worriers know that once you start worrying about one thing it can easily spiral to create other worries and feed your imposter! Allocating a set time is really powerful as you’re recognizing those feelings, you’re acknowledging them but you’re not letting them control you, and you’re releasing them by getting them out of your head so they aren’t whirring around and getting jumbled with reality.
- Flip reverse — flip the imposter and turn those negative thoughts into positive questions that you could use to your advantage. For example, if you hear him saying “You can’t do this” change this to “How can I make this happen?” You owe it to yourself, your clients, and future clients to show up and share your expertise. Only by stepping out of your comfort zone will you create a new comfort zone and edge closer to your goals. Once you quieten those imposter syndrome thoughts, you can step into your zone of genius and start really showing up as the expert in your field, then you will become that credible voice that people turn to — and that’s what we want!
- Affirmations — The first thing you need to do to succeed in anything is to master your mindset and build your confidence. We should put just as much effort into the health of our mindset as we do anything else, sometimes even more! One of my favorite tools to keep my mindset magic, no matter what’s going on in my life, are affirmations. I write some out every morning to give myself confidence and inspiration. For example: ‘my purpose outweighs any doubt I may feel, I know I am more than enough, just as I am’
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 eliminate the idea that you need to step on others or put them down to get success, or that you need to burnout to get to the top of your profession. I believe more should be done to help women feel empowered to go out there, grab their own success alongside other women in business and create their own fairy tale. Collaboration over competition is spoken about a lot, but if we really created a community of working together (especially in the corporate world), then we would really see the magic at work! I’ve seen this firsthand in the entrepreneurial circle I’m in and it’s just incredible to see the impact of women supporting each other, I would love this to become more of the ‘norm’.
I also feel very strongly that mindset should be taught from an early age at school. Living in an always-on digital world, with the peer pressure and toxicity that can breed, is a lot, especially for young people. I think it’s so important we equip the next generation with the tools to manage their mindset, to focus on positives, to eliminate bullying and to show that if we are mindful, kind and positive amazing things can happen.
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 🙂
JK Rowling — As well as growing up with Harry Potter and being a mega fan, I love her journey. A true rags to riches story made possible by self-belief, persistence and, of course, a touch of magic!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/garnetpruk
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/GarnetPRuk/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Rhiannon Bates of Garnet PR On 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.