Everyone doubts themselves from time to time, but you’re not alone if your feelings of doubt linger. This phenomenon is called imposter syndrome, and it affects even the most successful CEOs and celebrities (Tina Fey and Michelle Obama have both spoken of their bouts with imposter syndrome).
A New York Times article by Jessica Bennett calls imposter syndrome “that nagging feeling that you don’t belong.”
Our guest on today’s podcast, Marina Byezhanova, is no stranger to imposter syndrome. She was born in what was then known as the Soviet Union, when anti-Semitism was widely experienced. Marina was given her mother’s last name to hide her Jewish roots, which she inherited from her father. She speaks of growing up in a culture of censorship and feeling the lack of belonging that can lead to imposter syndrome.
Immigrating to Canada as a teenager, Marina says she felt that lack of belonging all over again. She shares with us what it was like adjusting to her new life in Canada and managing the imposter syndrome that weighed on her, as well as how she helps her clients who struggle with imposter syndrome. An entrepreneur, global speaker, show host and branding expert, Marina also gives us invaluable tips on how to build our brands through social media and beyond.
In working with business leaders, Marina often hears something similar.
“Who am I to put myself out there? Why would anybody listen to me? What do I have to say that’s so special?” she recounts.
It’s a sign of growth, Marina says, and experienced most by those who place a lot of value on achievement. It’s also a sign that you’re out of your comfort zone.
“You’re certainly not experiencing imposter syndrome if you’re within your comfort zone,” Marina says.
Putting yourself out there is understandably nerve wracking, but coming from a place of authenticity is necessary to grow your brand.
In our conversation, we shift towards how you can make that happen.
Identify what makes you different
When we talk about branding, we often think of branding our company. We should also pay attention to our personal brand, according to Marina.
“Your brand is your differentiator,” Marina says. “If you’re an accountant, what makes you different from all the other accountants out there? If you’re a lawyer, same thing—what’s your area of expertise?”
Define your core values
Everything you do should relate to your core values. Marina names her top values as “censorship is evil” and “being in pursuit of constant growth.”
When handling criticism online, for example, Marina mentions that she’s never deleted a single comment on any of her platforms as she stands strongly against censorship. Instead, she engages in a conversation with her naysayers, sticking to her core values all the way.
Come up with your content pillars
Once you’ve identified what makes you different and what your core values are, that doesn’t mean you should just start posting freely on social media.
Marina suggests coming up with “content pillars,” or what your content will focus on—one or two content pillars based on your area of expertise, and one or two content pillars that humanize your brand.
Align yourself with the right people
What happens if your employees are promoting messages on their personal accounts that don’t align with the values of your business?
Creating strict guidelines as to what your employees can and can’t post isn’t the way to go, explains Marina. The best way to manage what’s being said about you and your business is to align yourself with the right people from the very start.
Hire people who share your core values. Focus on messaging that prioritizes your values. Doing so will minimize your need to address conflicting views coming from your employees or your followers.
“Consistency is everything,” says Marina.
The more often you post on social media and the kind of messaging you post impacts the algorithms that get your content seen. Marina’s rule of thumb is to post on Instagram daily, plus five to 15 times a day on Instagram stories. If you’re on Twitter, you should aim for 15 to 25 tweets a day. As for LinkedIn, Marina says that less than 1% of people post three times a week or more, so posting at least every second day will get you to the top of the algorithm.
The message is just as important, with social media platforms favouring video posts that are uploaded directly to their platform, authentic photos and captions, and links shared separately from posts. That’s why people add links in their comments, Marina says.
“That’s the little hack,” she explains.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Marina says she relied on LinkedIn Live—a live streaming platform—to connect with others and keep her brand visible. Her series, Voice of a Leader, not only let others share their stories but helped her gain the support she needed during a time her mental health was struggling.
“Every day, I got to have the hour of inspiration, connection, learning, growth,” she says. “It was a bit of a lifesaver.”
On the flip side, viewers valued the content and feeling of connection it brought them, and Marina’s consistency in posting helped her gain exposure.
“I can think of so many moments where I was putting myself in a new situation and thinking, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’” Marina says.
Taking the risk and sharing who you are without fear of what people will think can not only help you overcome imposter syndrome, but it can also help you build your brand.
“To me, having a voice is the most priceless thing you can have,” Marina says.