Outing the Imposter: Strategies for Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is when, no matter what level of success one might achieve, an individual doesn’t feel like they earned it, deserved it, and/or that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. This feeling of not being not being good enough can stop people from trying something new. It can diminish their efforts, because if you’re going to fail anyway, how much effort will you put into it? It can also, at minimum, increase anxiety and decrease pleasure surrounding the task.

Those individuals that are likely to experience imposter syndrome includes successful women. (In fact, the original research paper in which the term “Imposter Phenomenon” (1978) was coined, was on high achieving women.) It is also prevalent in entrepreneurs, high achieving performers, athletes, and anyone trying something where the outcome is unsure.

There are many reasons that imposter syndrome may manifest itself in gender stereotypes, cultural norms, having had skills and abilities belittled, and self-comparison to others.

The strategies to help overcome imposter syndrome begin by understanding its triggers.

  1. Believing you’re the only one feeling this way. You’re not! According to Psychology Today*, 25-30% of high-achievers experience imposter syndrome. This includes people such as Tina Fey, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, and Tom Hanks.
  2. Being a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a sure way to be disappointed in yourself because perfection is never attainable. Learn to accept and be happy with doing a good job and providing value to others.
  3. Believing that failing at something makes you a failure. The label of “being a failure” plays into the hands of the imposter. Approach new endeavors as “experiments” that simply carry the expectation of working or not working with increased knowledge being the outcome either way. You can keep a journal of those “experiments” and write down the things that you learned from it. Focusing on what you’ve learned helps keep the effort a positive thing. “The one who falls and gets up is stronger than the one who never tried. Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.” -Roy T. Bennett.
  4. Comparing yourself to others. The judgement of your own value or success by comparing yourself against others is unfair. Other’s perceived lives or successes is an incomplete story. We see what others want us to see. Everyone puts their best foot forward because they want you to think highly of them, hiding their own struggles and insecurities and allowing you to make this lopsided comparison.
  5. Not affirming your own capabilities and successes. It is the nature of our society to dwell on the negative and not the positive. i.e. How many positive stories do you see in the news? Train yourself to look for your successes not your failures. Based on an idea taken from Shawn Achor’s “The Happiness Advantage”, write down three things that you succeeded at each day (and they have to be different things each day). This helps you to refocus and look for the positive instead of the negative. This practice can help you to own your own successes.

Experiencing imposter syndrome can hold you back from reaching your full potential and diminish the pride and enjoyment from the successes that you do achieve. Knowing imposter syndrome’s triggers and coping strategies can help you overcome them.

Further readings on imposter syndrome:
“Overcoming the Impostor: Silence Your Inner Critic and Lead with Confidence” by Kris Kelso
“The Imposter Cure: Escape the Mind-Trap of Imposter Syndrome” by Dr Jessamy Hibberd


But If I Niche Down I’ll Lose Clients

I’ve written about having a niche before and I talk about it all of the time. The problem is that personal trainers (and a lot of other service providers) don’t believe you when you say that having a specific niche will actually get you more clients, not less.

Let’s start by defining what is meant by having a niche. The definition of niche (according to Merriam-Webster) is “a specialized market”. This is your target market, the specific population that you want to help. Does that mean that if you choose a market of, let’s say “women”, that it is a niche? Well… yes, but it’s not very narrow. Entrepreneur, podcaster, and author, John Lee Dumas says that you should “niche down until it hurts.” So, “women” is not specific enough to really be effective as a niche. Many business coaches will have their clients create an avatar of their specific target market (niche). Doing that might look something like this:


  • Female
  • Age 65
  • Retired professional
  • Grandmother
  • Wants to be able to play with grandchildren and be able to get up and down off the floor easily

I hear you. Too specific, right? You’ll be missing out on a lot of clients that don’t fit that niche, right? Well, I want to point out two things to you. First, when I needed to get my shoulder replaced, I didn’t want some orthopedic surgeon that did shoulder, hips, knees, ankles, elbows, wrists, etc. I wanted the best results possible and wanted someone that did shoulders only and eventually got it done by the top shoulder guy in Boston. Most people feel that way, “I want someone that is a specialist in me and my circumstance.” They don’t want someone that can train anyone. If you market yourself as trainer to everyone, you disappear into a sea of other trainers that train everyone. What happens when you niche down is that when a “Nancy” sees that you specialize in “Nancys” they will choose you over any other trainer. You will become the trainer to all of the “Nancys” in the world (or at least in your neck of the woods).

My second point is that just because your niche is Nancy it doesn’t mean that you can’t train others. All of your marketing and brand focus is on Nancy, but others may still approach you about training because of the good work you’re doing with Nancy and Nancy herself may also want you to train her friends and family members. And yes, you can train them.

The point is that in order to stand out from the crowd you have to have a specialty, a niche.

“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”― Seth Godin, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Networking By Walking Around (NBWA)

Stealing the concept of MBWA (Management By Walking Around), NBWA supports the idea that getting face-to-face with those in your community creates opportunities to establish new relationships, reconnect/reestablish others, and bring them closer to being a potential customer.

I was having a conversation with professionals in one of my mastermind groups about the importance (particularly for brick and mortar businesses) of getting out into your community and meeting your potential clients/customers in person. As it happened, I went to the local farmer’s market on Saturday and bumped into someone I hadn’t really had a conversation with since pre-covid days. It turns out, I had been on her mind and she said that she wanted to start working with me. (*1 new client).

Later on Saturday I went to an art show opening and, through the course of the evening, I had similar conversations with three additional people that also said that they needed my help. (*3 more clients) As if to emphasize the point of NBWA, by getting out into my community, in one day, I picked up 4 new clients.

Now, I do want to say that it wasn’t out of the blue. I have established myself in the community as someone that is known, liked, and trusted, but that wasn’t from advertising. It was from previous things I had done in the community, such as volunteering to help local organizations, donating time and services to local charity events, and attending community events over the years. Every person you meet is an opportunity, not to sell overtly, but plant the seed of what you do and the type of person you are. These planted seeds may blossom immediately or it may take years of ongoing interactions. The key is that face-to-face interactions are the fastest way to get known, liked and trusted. And that is who people want to do business with.

So, if you are looking for local customers/clients, it is time to get out of your space and into your community. Volunteer to help non-profits, charity events, and community events, go to local networking events, and just get out and attend other local events where you can meet and talk with others.

Taking Your Business to the Next Level Through Mastermind Groups

Everyone has challenges in their business. Sometimes you have a firm handle on how to meet the challenge, other times… not so much. When you come across obstacles where you don’t know how to move forward, it can be immensely beneficial to have a place where you can discuss it with peers that understand what you’re dealing with. A safe place where you can talk about your thoughts and ideas, even fears, without ridicule and where you know what you say will stay within the group.

That’s actually the basis for a mastermind group. Mastermind groups are groups of professionals that come together to brainstorm, solve problems, set goals, plan for the future, and keep each other accountable. The success of these groups depends on the members wanting to accomplish two things, to take their business to the next level and to help others do the same.

Mastermind groups can have a particular industry specific focus or, more often than not, have members from different industries that are at a similar stage of growth (such as startups) so that there are no worries about sharing information with the competition. (By the way, some of the most original solutions come from outside your own industry.)

Mastermind groups have facilitators who run the meetings, make sure that everyone has a voice, help the group stay on task, and summarize the work required for the next meeting. While the facilitator has great experience in business, they are there to get the group to come up with their own solutions and should only provide suggestions when the group needs additional help.

Meetings (online or in person) can run the gamut as to how often they meet. It could be a one shot/one day meeting, once a year, quarterly, monthly, every 2 weeks, or weekly. The length of the meeting usually depends on the frequency of meeting (a once per year could take 2-3 days, whereas a weekly might only need to be 60-90 minutes.

The typical meeting agenda looks like this:

  • Call to order – This is sometimes formal, sometimes not.
  • Catch up – Each member reports how they did on meeting goals set from last meeting.
  • Education – A brief educational presentation on some business topic that can benefit all of the members. This isn’t as common, but it really depends on the group.
  • Member focus (also called Hot Seat) – Each member has a turn to express the challenges they are facing at the time and may say what they think they might do, then each of the other members will ask questions and/or offer suggestions as to what they think the solution might be.
  • Goal setting – After everyone has had a turn discussing their individual challenges, they then commit to a goal(s) to accomplish by the next meeting.
  • End meeting

Does this sound like something that you’d be interested in? Do you need help growing your business? Do you feel you need to find others that understand the position that you’re in and demands that you have? A mastermind group may be the solution for you.

To find one that is right for you, ask other business people in your area or do an internet search to find the right one for you. Remember that you can find mastermind groups that are held online or in person.

Should Fitness Be a Holiday Sale Item?

Tis the season for holiday sales, right? You see them everywhere. Everyone is having sales. I get it. It’s the end of the year and the volume of sales makes up for the loss in markup. Even gyms and health clubs are having sales. There are discounts on personal training, group fitness, and special programs. The question I have is should there be sales on health and fitness?

A debate that has been going on for many years is the idea of discounting health and fitness services. On the one hand, everyone does it and the public has come to expect sales and discounts. On the other hand, many fitness professionals believe that discounting diminishes the perceived value of their services. A frequent rebuttal is, “Your doctor or physical therapist don’t have sales or give discounts.” I’m inclined to agree with that viewpoint. Most clubs still discount personal training based on the number of sessions that you buy. Buy 1 and it’s x. Buy 10 and it’s 0.8x… 24 and it’s 0.6x. If the trainer is paid based on a percentage and not a flat fee, they get paid less for larger packages. That does not incentivize them to sell larger packages. Not to mention that the people that can afford a 24 session package don’t need a discount.

Discounts are for products, merchandise. If you want a holiday promotion, discount your merch. Or use your merchandise as add on value for service purchases. Give a T-shirt away when someone buys a program.

You could discount your monthly membership as that in itself is not a service, but I’d still rather you add to rather than decrease. i.e. add a merchandise giveaway or add extra month or two onto a membership. Aanndd… if you have any initiation fee or joining fee or processing fee, we all know there is very little cost to having someone join. So, its real purpose is to use it for discounting or waiving as a promotional tool anyway. Do that.

I know that you’re getting my thoughts/opinion on this and you may feel differently, but… give this some serious thought. Just because it’s the season of sales and discounts, doesn’t mean it’s what we should be doing. IMHO

Happy Holidays!!!

The Impostor Syndrome and Staying Hungry

First let me explain what impostor syndrome is. An article on Time.com poses the question, “Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like your friends or colleagues are going to discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?” The article goes on to say that 70% of individuals feel this at some point in their lives. Most people are afraid to admit this because they assume that if people find out, they may not continue to give them the same opportunities or look at them in the same way. Because I know that so many others feel or have felt this, I’m not afraid to admit it. I have felt like an impostor on many occasions. I also know that I shouldn’t feel this way. I’ve worked very hard to reach my various goals and my level of expertise, but still I have those doubts. I’m sure there are reasons that so many of us feel this. For me, maybe it was growing up as the third of eight kids. Maybe I felt I had to work hard to get out from under my older siblings’ shadows. Who knows? I don’t need to know why.

Recently, in a book that I was reading, the author made a point that there was an upside to suffering from impostor syndrome. That is, because somehow we don’t feel we’ve earned our success, we end up working extra hard to make sure that we get it right. I feel that’s very true. We need to feel that we’ve put in at least as much if not more than anyone else to prove our right to be where we are. Rarely are we satisfied, and that is a strength. In talking about his climb to success, Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that, “I always stay hungry, never satisfied with current accomplishments.” and I believe that is us, too. I’m my own worst critic and it keeps me on my toes and always trying to do better.

If you are one of the many that suffer from impostor syndrome, know that you’re not alone… far from it. Know that it can be an asset and help you attain even more success, if you let it. So, stay hungry, keep getting better, accept your achievements (because you deserve them) and move on to the next challenge. Best wishes going forward!

Marketing Yourself by Public Speaking

I know many of you are immediately anxious at the idea of getting up in front of people and speaking. Of course, there’s a name for that, glossophobia. This fear of public speaking is a very common phobia and one that is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. At the same time, it is one of the best ways for you to market yourself and your business. In presenting valuable information to an audience in a professional, entertaining way, you can go far in getting people to know, like, and trust you and that is at the heart of marketing.

Mark Nutting presenting on brain fitness at a local Pecha Kucha.

Getting comfortable with public speaking is, for the most part, a matter of just getting up there and doing it. With time and experience, it gets easier to do. Here are some simple tips to get started (and it’s not about picturing your audience naked):

  • If you can, take a public speaking class and/or take an improv class. Improv is a great way to get confident in your ability to “come up with something” in front of an audience. It also allows you to throw in humor in a natural way, in the moment, and not sticking in a planned joke that rarely works. When you can do that, your anxiety level will be much lower.
  • Plan a short presentation. Getting up for 5 minutes is a lot less daunting than for an hour or more.
  • Make it about something that you are passionate about, something you’d be excited to share with others.
  • Start with a “safe” audience. Friends, family, and colleagues are less likely to make you feel nervous and can make for a great initial audience.
  • Whether you are using notes or doing a Powerpoint presentation, don’t script it. Bullet point the information you want to address, but know the topic well enough that the bullet points simply keep you on track.
  • Tell stories when you can. People find stories that make your case more engaging than a straight up list of facts.
  • Look for new opportunities to speak. Maybe it’s doing a short presentation in front of the local Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce, PTA, etc. (i.e. Pecha Kucha is a form of presenting that is 20 presentation slides (usually very visual slides) that are up for 20 seconds and then automatically move to the next slide. The whole presentation is less than 7 minutes and can be a fun way to get started speaking in front of strangers. See if there are any taking place near you.)
  • Make sure that your topic is something of interest to that particular audience.
  • Start to seek out more opportunities to speak. Again, the more you get in front of an audience, the easier it will be.
  • Create opportunities to speak if none exist. Hold talks or workshops or classes and invite your target audience to attend.
  • Lose your worry. Ha! That sounds simple enough, right? The truth is that we are nervous mostly because we believe we are going to be judged and judged harshly if we screw up. The truth is that most people know that getting up in front of others is challenging and will always give you the benefit of the doubt… as long as you provide content that is of interest to them.

Imagine that you go see a presenter. She delivers great content on something you were interested in and she did it in a professional way and made you laugh. Wouldn’t this take you a long way in knowing, liking, and trusting her? If you needed the service or product that she offered, wouldn’t she be the one that you would go to? This wasn’t one on one either. She made everyone in the audience feel that way and that’s why getting skilled at public speaking can be so great for marketing your business.

Now go. Start your journey on becoming someone who is confident addressing the masses.

Rolling With the Punches: Our Case Study

We’ve all been though tough times lately. Our industry has changed. As yet another stumbling block rears its head, I thought I’d share how we’ve been handling the challenges.

Point of reference: September 25th, 2015, my wife (a fitness pro and manager since 1995) and I (fitness pro and manager since 1980) moved to Easton, PA and opened a boutique fitness studio (Jiva Fitness) offering personal training and group fitness. All’s going well and our business gradually builds.

March, 16th, 2020, all gyms/clubs/studios are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Like everyone else, we had a moment of panic as we thought through, “What now?” Most were either moving to on-demand workouts for their clients or live streaming their workouts. We decided to go live streaming only (we believe in the supervision and interaction of being able see and assist our clients.) So, we immediately made the shift. We purchased some essential sound and video equipment, upgraded our internet, rented equipment to members that needed it to do their workouts from home, and began training and teaching live streaming workouts.

*The positive:

  • Some of our existing members and clients found that working out from home had a lot of benefits and continue to workout from home even though our studio is now open for in-person workouts.
  • Family and friends of our members and clients were able to join in from wherever they were in the world. (We had a couple of people from Europe join us.)
  • It’s a new market that we wouldn’t have discovered had we not jumped on it.

May 26th, 2020, my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. (one year later, she’s actually doing okay and we’re hopeful.) So, she was unable to teach her classes and train her clients. How could we keep the number and quality of our class schedule without her? I was already teaching a lot and couldn’t take on all of her classes as well. I picked up a couple of her classes and we decided to have friends of ours teach the remainder of her classes via Zoom from their location in Maine.

*The positive:

  • We realized that we could hire teachers from anywhere to teach for us online. In fact, we had a friend teach Pilates to our members from her studio in France.
  • We could offer classes that may not be available in your area. i.e. maybe there are no good Tai Chi instructors in your area, but you might find one that could teach online for you.

June 29th, 2021, I will get my right hip replaced. Okay, now I’m going to be unable to teach for a while. I, to date, have been teaching all of the in person classes since we were allowed to open our doors again. So, we’ve had some classes that have been online only and some that were both online and in person. Some of our members waited until we reopened before they came back. They’ve worked hard and regained their fitness levels. We can’t go all online again. The downside of the live streaming from remote locations has been that nobody would be able to see the instructor in the studio. How can we handle this? Our next move is to make the online classes accessible to people in the studio. I know that there are companies that have classes on demand that clubs can integrate into there studio spaces, but that’s not what we want. We want to offer our members live classes. Long story short, we are going to project the live streaming classes onto the front of the studio.

* The positive:

  • This will allow our members that like, want, and/or need to come into the studio to get in their workouts, a way to continue.
  • While my wife and I won’t be able to physically do the workouts, we can still be in the room and offer support and corrections during the projected classes. This adds back in the more personal touch that people expect when coming in to the studio.
  • This also expands the audience of our previously online only classes.

Now, the point of all of this is to highlight that when challenges come up (and they always do), you need to realize that, more often than not, there is an opportunity that comes along with it. Look for those chances to rethink what you do and how you do it.

Best of luck with your challenges!

“Special Populations” is Not a Niche!

There are a lot of fitness professionals that are “special population specialists”. There are certifications in which you can earn that designation. The problem is that “special populations” includes prenatal/postpartum women, older adults, youth, obesity, adults with specific diseases or disorders, injuries, and those with multiple health conditions. So, if you include all of those categories, you never get in depth in any one area. Not only that, but, it means that the majority of the population is deemed special.

And, as the saying goes, if everyone is special then nobody is special.

The benefit of choosing a real niche, a specialty, is twofold.

One, it allows you to get very specific in your education and really know that one area. i.e. Cancer Exercise Specialist & Training the Older Adult.

Two, it allows you to own that space with that specific target market. This means that to that specific audience, you are the expert in that area, the go to person for safe, effective training that is appropriate for them and their specific circumstance. If you need brain surgery done, you don’t want to go to your general practitioner. You want someone who specializes in brain surgery. The same is true for seeking out a fitness professional that specializes in training those with Parkinson’s or joint replacements or prenatal/postpartum.

Now, I’m not saying that knowing a little more about a lot of areas isn’t beneficial. However, it doesn’t give you enough in any one area to be “the specialist” in that area. Home in one specific specialty and own it!

Gotta Catch Em All… Trading Cards

The first baseball cards came out in the 1860s. The idea of collecting a complete set of whatever type card someone might be collecting has been a passion of many people for a very long time. Whether it’s sports cards, Marvel superheroes, or Pokemon, we’ve “gotta catch em all”. I don’t know what got me thinking about this, but I had, what I believe to be, a fun idea.

Members and clients feel more connected to a facility if they know, like, and trust the individuals that make up the organization. What if… you created a set of trading cards of your entire staff? Then, as a promotion, you tasked the members and/or clients to collect them all and offered prizes to those that accomplished that. They would get a bigger prize if they got them all signed, of course, because signed cards are always worth more.

You could give out random cards (just like you would find them in a gum package) for certain achievements such as taking a certain class or trying one of the club’s shakes. As in other card collecting, they could trade duplicates for cards they didn’t have yet.

Again, this would help members and clients connect with managers, trainers, teachers, cleaning staff, etc. and with that, a deeper connection to the club. I would try this in a heartbeat if we weren’t currently a two person operated boutique studio with two additional teachers. That doesn’t leave a lot of collecting to be done. (the pics above are just mock-ups)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and if you decide to try it, I’d love to follow your progress with it.