My Imposter Story

Hi there, I’m Toni Jones founder and head coach at Your Forte. I’ve been coaching people for over four years but really I have been coaching people intuitively most of my adult life.

Four years ago, I was asked by a former boss to consider a new role that his University had just advertised. A never-before-seen role supporting students to be successful, the first Australian University to provide 1:1 coaching for every student. He felt it would suit me perfectly. Reading the job description, was reading me on a page, it sent goosebumps across my body:

Torren’s Success Coaches are industry and teaching stars, able to leverage a student’s strengths and align their learning with their broader life purpose.

It was a dream job I didn’t even know existed. With no formal coaching experience, I applied for the job, convinced I was suitable for the role. The recruiting manager saw something in me and agreed to take me on. How naïve I was. The first year was extremely challenging. I landed in a thick of experienced and qualified coaches, who were excellent at their craft. I felt like the lone mutt running with a pack of wolves. An imposter. I stayed quiet, scared if I spoke I would draw attention to my inexperience and look stupid.

I tried to follow their lead, listening to how they coached, reading what they read, trying to tap into their technique and strategies. But it never felt right. I felt like I was fumbling. One day sitting at my desk with the other coaches, I received a call from a student. I was immediately thrown into a coaching session and forced to take it at my desk in front of everyone. The safe space of the meeting room was already occupied and this student needed help there and then. I went into immediate coaching mode and the world around me disappeared. It was just me and the student, no coaching notes to refer to, no strategies to draw on. So, I just listened to her story. I let go of everyone else’s tools and ideas I had been trying to master and focussed on her story. Leaning into my intuition I guided her with my gentle questioning to a point she felt relief. The tension in her voice melting away.

Afterwards one of the coaches next to me, leaned in and said; “That sounded like an incredible session. You really have a gift for coaching, it just comes so natural to you.” I felt my own tension melt away.

12 months into the role though I was still grappling with a feeling of Imposter Syndrome. An opportunity to attend a training to become a certified Gallup Coach was announced. The University was only accepting a handful of coaches to attend, I was sure the best coaches would be selected, the wolves not the mutt. But a firm believer you must be in it to win in it, I applied anyway. To my surprise I was selected.

In the first session, I resumed my stance of the quiet, don’t make a sound so no one notices your inexperience, posture. But by the second session, the ideas and activities of the training were so exciting that any wall I had put up for protection disappeared as I eagerly leaned forward in my seat desperately trying to extract every drop of goodness pouring from the facilitators mouth. The feeling that I was not good enough to be there was lost as my excitement grew. I volunteered for activities, passionately shared my experiences, and boldly posed questions. For three days I was in a bubble of pure joy, learning, connecting and sharing.

By the last session, as the rest of the world started to reappear and the realisation that this moment was at the end, the feelings of imposter started to seep back in. Damn, I thought, I was too eager with my questions, too loud with my opinions, too dominant in the conversations. I cringed speculating what the other participants must think of me.

As we all packed our things in preparation to leave and return to normal hood, the facilitator approached me. Oh no, I thought as anxiety bubbled away in my stomach, here comes the talk to calm down and put a lid on it.”

But instead, in his gentle tone, calm eyes, he looked at me and said, “Toni, I just want to say how valuable you’ve been in these workshops, your enthusiasm, your eagerness to ask questions, your positivity, it really brought a lot of energy to the sessions and I thank you for your contribution.”

I left the workshop beaming from ear to ear. Something shifted in my mind, it’s okay to be me. From that moment on, I stopped trying to be like all the other coaches. Now my focus was on developing my talents to be the best version of myself. And that whisper of doubt that wants to eat me alive, I stand boldly in its path and tell it not today!

There are a lot of great people out there doing their thing and they are amazing at it because they are drawing on their experience, their talents, their knowledge. And I can’t be them. I am not them. They are doing a brilliant job at being them and the world doesn’t need me to be more like them, the world needs me to be more like me.

For four years I have spent extensive time coaching postgraduate students, predominantly from the MBA and MED courses to identify their natural strengths, align with their career ambition and develop confidence to achieve their goals. Along this journey I have worked hard to develop my confidence, my talents, my self-worth. I have spent extensive time honing my coaching skills through coaching Leaders to Managers, Teachers to Academics, Business owners and Entrepreneurs. In everyone I coach, I see the same self-doubt that gripped me, holding them back too.

I know what it means to feel like an imposter to feel not good enough to be where I am. But I’ve learnt the secret to overcoming these feelings and I am ready to share with anyone who also wants to overcome the self-doubt monster living within.

Toni Jones

Founder + Head Coach

Your Forte

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