Pause. Often we are not aware of the conversations happening in our mind until we stop for a minute to recognize the dialogue. Consider closing your eyes for a moment, scanning your body from head to toes, and paying attention to any tension physically, emotionally or mentally that is present. Observe what you feel, words that come to mind, or any areas where things feel stuck or heavy.
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 Karianne Michelle.
Karianne Michelle is a Chicago-based sound healer, meditation instructor and former corporate executive who has enabled thousands of individuals to thrive through her personal and professional development workshops and private consulting practice, Lofti.
For Karianne, mindfulness is much more than a buzzword. From Fortune 500s to start-ups–and for the individuals that attend her workshops–the path to stronger, more empathetic communication begins with the story of who “I am” (not just what “I do”).https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/5f14be90027da8e0fd9723b20a9d35bf
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 am a proud Midwesterner. I grew up in Iowa, where as a child, I spent summers enjoying outdoor adventures, as well as making music, singing, playing the piano, and taking dance classes. I attended Luther College, where I received my Bachelor of Arts in music.
The first 15 years of my career were spent in corporate America, leading branding, digital marketing and advertising strategy for some of the world’s biggest brands, including State Farm, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and General Electric Co. During this part of my professional journey, I continued to put my music degree to work as a paid singer (at weddings and with opera companies). I discovered that my skills on stage as a singer translated naturally to my role as a moderator, speaker and panelist.
In 2017, I made the leap to chart my own path as a creative entrepreneur. Transitioning from a high-pressure, high-performance professional environment to my new role as a small business owner naturally led me to integrate a more mindful approach to health, including the integration of my first love, which was music. My company, Lofti, hosts holistic professional development workshops that enable authentic self-connection, more compassionate communication, and a deeper sense of community. In the last three years, I have coached and presented to over 3,500 leaders in London, Africa, and throughout the U.S.
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?
In 2019, I was asked to lead a series of workshops for The Carter Center in Tunisia, a nongovernmental organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter that helps to improve lives by resolving conflicts, advancing democracy, and preventing diseases. I had never been to Africa, and learned that most attendees’ first language was not English. My presentations and attendee questions would be translated in real time into French and Arabic.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the opportunity. I was excited to challenge myself in new ways, and at the same time, wondered if I was up for it. But I also thought: How could I say no? It was the first time I had been given an opportunity to share my expertise with leaders, scholars, and journalists whose professional focus truly was on changing the world. The multi-day sessions were part of the center’s program on Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Extremism. My workshops would focus on supporting the attendees with a method for creating messaging and media strategies that would engage their volunteer communities, enable media outreach, and grow their organizations through the power of emphatic language.
As I prepared for the trip, I remember thinking how amazing it was to use my skill set and expertise to create real impact. After spending the first half of my career in advertising, it was an extraordinarily rare opportunity to embark on a journey to experience new leadership moments, like leading workshops on topics like Designing Interventions for Community Resilience and Empowerment.
During my time in Tunisia, I experienced the power of community. Observing how like-minded religious and community leaders shared an open-minded vulnerability to each other’s common insights–even while speaking different languages–is a lesson in how we all can offer a unique perspective that is made stronger as part of a team. These leaders had a deep sense of purpose. They continue to serve as motivation for me to create educational and experiential ways to support purpose-driven individuals, no matter their industry, language or location in the world.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Lofti’s mission is to enable purpose-driven leaders to create space that leads them to their next level of greatness, without losing their sense of self and purpose in the process. Led by wellness-centric values, we believe that in order to lead, manage, or advocate for others, you first learn to make time for yourself and your own well-being.
Our workshops and classes integrate meditation and grounding techniques to help attendees explore new paths to self-care, both personally and professionally. In today’s crowded virtual workout and meditation marketplace, we are the first to offer dedicated resources to empower personal well-being, foster self-care practices, and foster stronger communication, all in one platform.
During COVID, we pivoted to a 100% virtual format. In a recent self-care planning workshop for a team of global leaders across four continents, we saw firsthand the power of community through meditation. Our workshops often begin with a short grounding meditation or sound bath. For those who are unfamiliar with those, there’s no water involved! Acoustic instruments like crystal sound bowls are used to create sound waves that facilitate a deep sense of relaxation. This helps attendees turn off mental “noise” and focus on being present.
Because this group of participants worked together across multiple time zones, they often didn’t have the opportunity to come together as a full team. During the meditation and journaling workshop exercises with their peers, attendees shared they felt more open to connecting on a vulnerable, personal level about their goals. This type of outcome is common for our experiences, and especially in our current climate, we find this level of communication is amazingly productive for making teams feeling connected despite physical distance.
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?
The quote by Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” comes to mind. I am fortunate to have an incredible personal and professional network of supportive individuals in my life. At every turn on my path as an entrepreneur, I have needed resources, advice, ideas, and emotional encouragement. I have learned that it is essential to become aware of what we need in moments of uncertainty…and then not be afraid to ask for help.
The more specific I am with a request, the more impactful the support has been. For example, I often get asked by new female founders how I have found my way onto so many panels as a guest or moderator. When I first started Lofti, I knew speaking would be a great forum for me to grow my brand. My background as a performer and trained facilitator means I am comfortable in front of large audiences. I put the word out in my network with a specific request for introductions, or referrals to organizations that were looking for speakers, panelists or moderators on the topics I am most experienced with: brand strategy, career transitions, imposter syndrome, entrepreneurship, and professional wellbeing. I followed up with cold calls, coffee meetings, and enthusiasm to help shape speaking series or panel discussions. In less than six months, I had booked 20 speaking gigs, thanks to the power of my network. For me, it’s always been about building many meaningful partnerships. These have led to the most profound support.
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?
Based on my own experiences, Imposter Syndrome shows up when I challenge myself professionally. Interviewing for a job, asking for a raise, starting a new position, pitching my business, getting published for the first time, or leading a workshop to a room of leaders are just a few of the places I have seen myself as an imposter.
When it shows up, a feeling of anxiety is typically present. The idea that I am not worthy of the new level of success I wished for or have achieved, that someone may “find me out.” It’s a sensation of self-doubt despite a part of me knowing I am quite capable of the challenge. It is in the inner dialogue between these two spectrums where I find imposter syndrome lies.
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
In many panels that I have spoken on and moderated–especially for female leaders–I often hear a trend around disbelief in self-ability or self-worth. Anxiety and fear holding individuals back (at least temporarily) from achieving their goals is a hot topic. The idea that as you begin to take big steps towards something that is a lofty challenge, an inner voice creeps in whispering words of doubt. If we let these feelings take hold without bringing in a new perspective, that we deserve the opportunity, we have the skills, smarts and experience to get us where we want to go, we are limiting our potential.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
In my experience, Imposter Syndrome is directly related to a feeling of anxiety, frustration or worry. When these feelings are present, it is common to become more passive. A prime example is not speaking up with confidence in meetings, or avoiding conversations with colleagues. If a fear of failure is present, it can mean feeling stuck, putting off deadlines until the last minute, and creating excuses for poor work. Passing blame elsewhere can leave you feeling frustrated, not trusting in your abilities, and can also result in pointing out other people’s weaknesses, rather than focusing on courage to step up to the challenge ourselves.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
When I started my business, I went through a profound feeling of imposter syndrome. After a career of leading boardroom meetings on behalf of global companies, the idea of pitching me, myself and I was intimidating.
Even though nothing changed other than the title I was giving myself–and no one could take away the experience that I had gained and the skill set I brought to the table–I was afraid. For the first year, anytime I pitched myself, spoke on a panel, or led a workshop, anxiety was present. It felt like: Who am I to teach, speak, or lead on this topic? In reality, my unique perspective was exactly what my audience was looking for.
As I began to open up to the idea that it was the combination of my life and work experience, skill sets, and vision for the future that allowed me to excel, I found a new level of confidence. Ultimately, helping others trade the feeling of being an imposter for a feeling of confidence is my goal.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
Mitigating the feelings of imposter syndrome can be challenging. A technique that works for me is bringing in the perspective: What if success is inevitable? This shift in my mindset is powerful. It helps me let go of the focus on fear, and move into a headspace focused on the future.
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.
- Pause. Often we are not aware of the conversations happening in our mind until we stop for a minute to recognize the dialogue. Consider closing your eyes for a moment, scanning your body from head to toes, and paying attention to any tension physically, emotionally or mentally that is present. Observe what you feel, words that come to mind, or any areas where things feel stuck or heavy.
- Breathe. With an open mind, sit with anything that is present and begin to focus on your breath. Keeping your eyes closed, feel your body breathing, notice where the inhale and exhale is sitting in your body. Acknowledge any tension or feelings of anxiety or stress with an open mind. It is simply a form of energy you are feeling in this moment.
- Listen. Maintaining an inward reflection, bring in a sense of curiosity about any sensations of overwhelm, tightness, tension, worry or anxiety. Notice if there are any specific thought patterns, visuals, or ideas in your mind that are contributing to the sensations you have noticed. Invite in a question: What am I afraid of (as it relates to the goal, a situation that is bringing up feelings of impostor syndrome)?
- Shift. Keeping in mind whatever has come up regarding your answer to the question about fear that may be present, begin to shift your mindset. Consider: What if I were to overcome this fear or barrier to success, what might that look like? Opening up to whatever comes up, this new perspective may fill your physical, mental and emotional being with new sensations. Continue to feel your body breathing and if it feels good, shift tension or anxiety for new sensations that arise.
- Start. Staying with the sensations related to success, open up to the question: What is one thing I could do to start making progress towards this feeling of success today? Noting one action or idea you could do for yourself, begin to check back in with your breath, take note of anything that feels different in your body, any sense of relief or energy moving. Slowly, open your eyes and take a moment to write down what you just committed to. Make space to take this first step, and if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed again, try repeating this process.
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. 🙂
Grounding in our own greatness is powerful, and something that is easily lost in the hustle of everyday life. Making space to meditate and be present collectively with our own unique talents is an idea that I believe could have incredible impact. Just as Earth Hour has saved energy across the planet, I imagine that a collective date and time to meditate on our individual contributions could shift our own energy state in profound ways.
Think of the types of conversations we might share with one another about the experience. Bravely and vulnerably expressing how we desire to make an impact on the world, what our purpose is, and how we can contribute to each other. The news stories, the social media posts, and the intimate conversations at home could spark inspiration, ideas, and fundamental change.
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 🙂
I am inspired by Deepak Chopra’s pioneering work. An opportunity to meditate with him live (virtually) and discuss the power of sound healing and meditation would be surreal for me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram: @karianne.michelle and @getlofti
Facebook: @kmichellelofti and @getlofti
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!