Kisha Imani Cameron has walked the walk as an accomplished content producer, studio executive, champion of talent, and most recently, an accredited professional executive coach. While the diversity of her client base is extensive, she has primarily become known for her work within the BIPOC creative community. Her producing deal with Focus Features led to the creation of the "Focus Features Africa First Short Film Program," which ushered in a new generation of African filmmakers. She also passionately works as a speaker, career and executive coach for clients such as Chief, The Sundance Institute, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Firelight Media, Refinery 29, Film Independent & Black Public Media, to name a few. Over the years, Kisha developed a method to overcome her own imposter syndrome allowing her to fight through many bitter setbacks and losses to build a successful career and a multiple six-figure income.
How would you define imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is an internalized negative pattern of thought. These thoughts make you doubt your skills, talents or accomplishments and increase the persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, those who suffer from imposter syndrome remain convinced they're frauds and don't deserve their achievements. It feels like at any moment, someone's going to point and ask, "What are you doing here?"
Imposter syndrome tends to kind of roll with a 'gang'. These aren't all the members, but they're the most prominent ones. These saboteur friends come along and help those negative thoughts stay embedded.
The first one is the perfectionist. What happens is that the fear of being discovered as a fraud drives us to be perfect and beyond reproach. It's a profoundly unsustainable state.
The second is the hyper achiever. This is when achievement constantly goes beyond accomplishment and ventures into overwork, overwhelm and burnout.
The third one is the lone ranger. This saboteur believes the results don't count if you didn't do it by yourself, making it difficult for them to delegate or ask for help.
What is the root cause of imposter syndrome?
Great question. The inciting incidents for all of us might be a little bit different. But what I have found in my own personal experience and that of my clients is that it's typically a level of trauma that we experienced in our childhood. When we're in those tender ages, where you don't control other aspects of your life, we learn how to cope with being with others. We learn how to be, in order to create peace and have safety.
An example would be turning towards perfectionism because that's how you learned to thrive in environments like school. You go to class, figure out what the teacher needs, get a gold star, and now you're hooked. You learn to perform to receive praise and avoid the pain of criticism. Again, the inciting incident is different for each of us, but our coping mechanisms stem from our desire to avoid pain.
My resilience formula consists of clarity around what you want and why you want it.
How does imposter syndrome affect our ability to recover from setbacks?
Firstly, setbacks are any perceived sense of failure. When we're in a mindset where our work is our worth, there is no space between who we are and what we do. We need resilience to overcome setbacks. We need to be able to bounce back. My resilience formula consists of clarity around what you want and why you want it. It's that driving force, the invisible forces that make us do the things we do. Clarity is a powerful mindset that's free of imposter syndrome.
When you're dealing with imposter syndrome, it creates this fragility that's very brittle like glass. At any moment, a setback could make it shatter, resulting in the need to rebuild everything from scratch. However, when you combine both clarity and a powerful mindset free of imposter syndrome, the same things hit differently, and you can bounce back and recover.
No matter how good we are, there is room for improvement. However, when we're deeply tied to perfectionistic ways, there's no growth.
How do you distinguish between honest self-assessment or constructive self-feedback versus imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome doesn't rationalize with you. It is fueled by anxiety and gets louder than your positive thoughts until it shuts down the conversation. Those thoughts come from what Brene Brown calls gremlins who are just ruthless and mean. When it's a helpful assessment there's neutrality in tone. It acknowledges ways you could improve bit by bit without demonizing who you are as a person. It communicates calmly and focuses on gradual evolution.
What is the three-step breakthrough system?
Step 1: On an index card, write a simple sentence about what you want. You decide by asking yourself what do you want more of. Is it money? Opportunities? Recognition? It's hard to overstate just how much lack of clarity keeps us from what we want. But intention and focus on what's needed will help us reach our desires.
Step 2: This is where we build your confidence and gain power over the thoughts that holds you back the most. What are the negative thoughts that terrorize you? Then create a bullet list of wins. These are things that you have achieved, overcome or accomplished that you're most proud of, and indicate who you really are.
Step 3: Create a new vision. Step three is about courage. We have to give ourselves something to look forward to and interrupt our negative pattern thoughts. So what do you say to yourself to remind yourself that any failure or setback is temporary? What gives you the hope and courage to fight?
How does one use your system to handle critiques or negative feedback?
Imagine a glass ball and a rubber ball. When your imposter syndrome is active, you're like the fragile glass ball shattered by negative feedback because your worth and work are so intertwined. When you're using my three-step breakthrough system, you're like a rubber ball able to bounce back from criticism because there is separation between who you are and what you do.
Following the process helps with our elasticity by giving us neutral ground from which to see our strengths and our weaknesses. It allows us to take pride in our strengths and accept where we have room for improvement. No matter how good we are, there is room for improvement but when we're deeply tied to perfectionistic ways, there's no growth.