Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin was the first person in her immediate family to go to college. Her parents were immigrants and wanted her to become a successful doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. She liked kids so she originally thought she would be a pediatrician. She experienced some obstacles so she changed her major to English as she thought she could become a writer. In this podcast, Dr. Orbé-Austin shares her academic and professional journey including how her path changed from becoming a pediatrician to a writer, to an Assistant Professor, to becoming a licensed psychologist. She openly shares her struggles and successes as well as the self-reflection process that led her to the field of psychology including how, and why, she opened her own private practice in the greater New York City area.
Dr. Orbé-Austin is a licensed psychologist and executive coach with expertise in Imposter Syndrome, career advancement, and leadership development. She is a co-founder and partner of Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting, a career and executive coaching consultancy, where she works mostly with high potential managers and executives. Dr. Orbé-Austin earned her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University. Her views about career advancement, leadership, job transitions, and diversity & inclusion are regularly sought by the media, and she has appeared in outlets such as The New York Times, NBC News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Refinery29, Business Insider, and Insight Into Diversity. She has been honored twice as a Top Voice on LinkedIn in the areas of Job Search & Careers and Mental Health. She gave a TEDx talk entitled The Imposter Syndrome Paradox: Unleashing the Power of You.
Dr. Orbé-Austin shares many stories and impactful advice during our discussion. For example, she was an RA (Resident Assistant) for two years and really loved working with students, counseling them and supporting them in their own journeys while in college. She states, “And I thought maybe I could be a counselor or a psychologist. And my father, at the time, worked at an insurance company and they happened to have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and he said, ‘there’s a psychologist there. Do you want to talk to her about what it takes to become a psychologist?’” The psychologist she talked with happened to be a counseling psychologist and an English major during her undergraduate career. Dr. Orbé-Austin recalls that the psychologist she talked to “was the first person who really introduced me to the idea of a counseling psychologist and gave me the entrée into then pursuing my, actually pursued my master’s degree at Boston College as well and it started my real love of psychology. And that’s where it really began.” She continues by stating, “I think what really, like really, changed the game for me was my internship my second year where I did it at Tufts University at the counseling center there working with Jonathan Slavin.”
Dr. Orbé-Austin reveals that her training and experience at Tufts was a “clinical boot camp” for getting started and her experience as a Career Counselor and eLearning Coordinator in the Starr Career Development Center at Baruch College was the “boot camp of career counseling” as “it actually taught us how to do real career counseling and it was such a profound experience…it was the most amazing experience that actually led me to having a career aspect of my practice.” She was able to diversify her practice so that they offered psychotherapy and career counseling services, and this proved to beneficial during the recession “because people were not willing to, at the time, invest in psychotherapy, but they were willing to invest in career. And so, our career practice really thrived, and it became a mainstay of what we did and what we were known for because we were one of the few people, offering in our area, offering testing.”
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin discusses her two co-authored books on Imposter Syndrome and how her first book, Own Your Greatness: Overcome Imposter Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life, is the book you should read if you want to overcome your own individual imposter syndrome. She states, “we’ve seen that people can actually reduce their imposter syndrome by 30% if they actually do that book.” Both of the books on Imposter Syndrome are actually workbooks. The second book, Your Unstoppable Greatness: Break Free From Imposter Syndrome, Cultivate Your Agency, and Achieve Your Ultimate Career Goals, focuses on how to sustain your imposter syndrome-free life, reduce burnout, and improve healthy leadership skills while conquering toxic work cultures.
What advice does Dr. Orbé-Austin have for aspiring psychology students? Keep an open mind, experience something new and different (e.g., internships and externships), self-reflect, take risks, and allow yourself to dream. She states, “I really have allowed myself to dream and take risks. Some of them have gone well, some of them have gone poorly, but I really allow myself to kind of think about what I want next and dream.”
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin is a licensed psychologist and executive coach. She is an expert in Imposter Syndrome and specializes in career advancement and leadership development. She works with high potential managers and executives and regularly consults with organizations in the private sector, non-profits, and educational institutions in supporting their employees and senior leadership teams to address gender bias, equity, diversity, and inclusion concerns, effective communication, leadership development, team cohesion, and managing conflict.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), English; Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA.
Master of Arts (MA), Counseling Psychology; Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Counseling Psychology; Columbia University, New York, NY.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology, I’m your host Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin to the show. Dr. Orbé-Austin is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, and organizational consultant. She is also an impostor syndrome expert, author and Co-founder & partner of Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting, a career and executive coaching consultancy where she works mostly with high potential managers and executives. Today, we will learn more about her academic and professional journey, more about Dynamic Transitions, and we’ll discuss her most recent, co-authored book, Your Unstoppable Greatness. Dr. Orbé-Austin, welcome to our podcast.
Thank you so much for having me, Brad. I’m happy to be here.
Well, as we were talking about before, we started recording part of the fun that I have is just doing all the research on all of my guests. And I see that you received your bachelor’s degree in English from Boston College. However, based on my research, I think you originally started on a path to become a pediatrician, then pivoted to the English degree. So. First off, tell me about your undergraduate experiences and what made you change to English.
So, I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college and so there wasn’t a ton of guidance or a lot of understanding of what my options were. My parents were, my mom was an immigrant, my dad was a second-generation immigrant, or first Gen. They just really wanted a successful kid and I think you know in in the in those in that time it was like doctor, lawyer, businessperson. And so, I since I was a kid, I was really supported to kind of go and be a doctor a MD and and specifically I had I was like kids. So I thought I would be a pediatrician and you know, and I think when I entered school, I was a bio a very classically bio pre Med major and really struggled in the sciences and math in a way I’ve never struggled before or I hadn’t had struggles in math before, but not to the profound level where I can’t even pass the class. I just. I really, it’s just really didn’t know what to do. I really had not like failed something before and it put me in situations where I was barely passing classes and nearly failing calculus and so at my second semester of my freshman year, I had to meet with the Dean because I got a 1.6 my first semester and I think a 1.8 my second semester. And he was like, you’ve got to make a decision. Don’t think you can stay in the sciences, which you’ve gotta make another choice. Or else and you you only have, you don’t have too long on academic probation before things get bad, and so he was like, I would encourage you to make a decision based on something you’re doing well in. And at the time I was doing well in my English class and and so I thought, I think it was doing well making this pass. And doing well in Spanish. And so, I decided I was going to major in English, and I ended up like taking a billion languages while I was in grad school, cause I really loved languages. And so, I just switched and at the time, you know, my parents were immigrants. They’re paying a lot of money for my tuition, and they were disappointed and had never seen me perform so poorly. In their minds, I I I was just not doing what I was supposed to do. Meanwhile, I was studying all the time, had no social life like was really doing everything I could to keep my head above water, but they just couldn’t understand how that could be happening and that could be failing. They didn’t see that there could be any correlation between those two things. And so, my father had said to me, you need to get a 3.8. My father didn’t go to college. He didn’t know what a 3.8 was. He said you have to get a 3.8 next semester or I’m pulling you and you’re going. You’re coming to a, a, a university or Community College near us and I really didn’t want to go home. And so, I worked really hard that next semester. And I did get the I did get above a 3.8 that semester to make sure that I didn’t have go home and I really loved English. It was an opportunity for me to kind of write and read and and it was a really fun experience. And then I started to create this idea that maybe I would be a writer, and so I think that blossomed from this idea of what do you do with English professor, writer? And so, a very sort of narrow understanding of what’s possible. And my senior year of college, I was taking some like senior Capstone courses and writing and poetry, and it was really fun and I had, generally, I’m about to tell a story that isn’t very fun and we were working with a writer in one of the classes, not a professor in the university, but a a kind of visiting writer visiting scholar and who’s teaching the prose writing class and our our work for the semester was to write like a 70 like page Novella and I had started writing this Novella, and she just was brutal on me. She just this is the first time in my English career I was I was getting really negative feedback. About that I and I remembered very clearly my my writing was hackneyed and it was banal. And it was. It was boring and trite and and and she just came after me. And because, you know, the kids in the class were seniors and want to be writers, and they admired her. She was a published author. They all like ganged up on me, and so it was really rough. So, every time I presented they were just like, just tear me apart. And so, I was like, OK, I really can’t be a writer. Is this a clear indication I can’t be a writer? And so, I like finished that class and I spent the summer after graduation really lost feeling like, unmoored once again, that I just didn’t know where I was going to go. And I think, you know, I felt a lot of pressure to figure it out or and to get a job and so. I kind of spent that summer one month of that summer specifically thinking about what are the things I do well, what are the things that I can see myself pursuing? What happened in college that I, you know, was that I excelled at besides writing and stuff. And I I was an RA. And so, during my experiences of being an RA for two years, I really loved working with students and counseling them and supporting them in their own journeys in college. And I really love that job a ton. And I thought maybe I could be a counselor or a psychologist. And my father, at the time, worked at an insurance company and they happened to have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and he said “there’s a psychologist there. Do you want to talk to her about what it takes to become a psychologist?” And so, I said, yeah, I would love that. And so, I talked to her, and she happened to be a counseling psychologist. And she happened to also be an English major undergrad, and she said to me that you. Know you don’t have to be a psych major undergrad to go to grad school for psychology. And I had never heard of that concept before. I was like, oh, my God, you’re kidding me. I thought I was going to get another undergrad degree and she was like, no, you can. Actually, you know, in some cases they require the subject matter. The subject, you know, GRE. In some cases, they don’t. But in counseling psychology explained to me about counseling psychology, about how it’s about adaptive behavior, how it’s about a strength-based perspective. And I was like, I love all this stuff. And she was like, why don’t you just try a master’s degree out first, see if you like it, and if you like it, then think about pursuing the doctorate. And so, she was the first person who really introduced me to the idea of a counseling psychologist and gave me the entree into then pursuing my, actually pursued my master’s degree at Boston College as well and it started my real love of psychology. And that’s where it really began.
Well, you gave me a nice summary because my next follow-up question was you actually did stay at Boston College for your Master’s degree in counseling and there are many schools in Massachusetts that offer graduate degrees in psychology, but it sounds like through that interaction with her, she suggested, why don’t you just stay here and then just start your Master’s degree and see how that goes? Did you consider looking for other schools you know, graduate schools in counseling psychology at the time? Or did you just follow the advice and just stay there?
Actually, she didn’t advise me to stay at Boston College. She didn’t really. She wasn’t connected to Boston at all. I think she worked in New York at the time, but I knew Boston College. It was my undergrad. It was familiar to me. So I applied to Boston College and I applied, there was a program at the time, I don’t know if it was in guidance or whether it was in counselor Ed, there was a program at BU and I also applied to a program at BU. Uhm, and I think I got into both of them, but Boston College was familiar to me. I knew the lay of the land. I knew. You know, I just knew it. So, I ended up pursuing. I thought it was the least risky opportunity, so I went and pursued a master’s degree there and and actually what? And I really loved my classes. I loved my experience there. I think what really, like really, changed the game for me was my internship my second year where I did it at Tufts University at the counseling center there working with Jonathan Slavin, who was at at some point many points, actually the Division 39 President of Psychoanalysis and got the most amazing felt like once in a lifetime object relations training there and for a masters level student was very competitive internship and they only took a couple masters students mostly DOC students and I felt so happy to be there and and to get that experience of such a deep training. And they do a lot to educate us and to teach us and lots of supervision. And it just. I just fell in love there. I never I don’t think I ever, never felt the kind of feelings that I felt for a profession that I did while I was working at Tufts. I just fell in love, it just every single piece of it. I just couldn’t get enough. I was just so happy all the time, doing even really hard work. It was. It was a lot of really hard cases, but it was just a really supportive and just like it, just like blossoming environment, so it just really helped me to fall in love with it.
What a change from your previous experience in English class where you felt bombarded attacked to this different environment where you’re surrounded and you’re feeling so, so enthusiastic about the field so. One thing that I did notice is that after you worked on your Master of Arts and Counseling and Psychology, you then pursued a Master of Philosophy and your PhD in counseling at Columbia University. So, what drew you to Columbia?
So, I think in my second year of my master’s program, I think I decided I wanted to be a psychologist. At the time the licensed mental Health Counselor route was very, very new. They did have it in Massachusetts, but it was really new. People are having trouble getting jobs. And I was very worried about that trajectory for myself. And so, I thought about pursuing a PhD and I applied to a number of PhD programs, but my number one choice was Columbia, and the reason why was because I really wanted to study issues of race and culture and they were on the forefront of that. They were one of the the programs that were on the forefront of dealing with all kinds of issues of identity. Which were things that I was really excited about. And so, I went there to work on issues, specifically around racial identity. You know, when oftentimes when you’re pursuing a PhD, part of your thinking is really about like, where where they doing the research that I want to be doing because the the PhD programs are often science practitioner models and the science piece is really important for many these programs to find a fit between your interest and what they have there as professors who who do certain work. And so, that was what I was trying that I was wanting to do. I wanted to pursue that and and and as research and it was a great fit for me research wise. And so, it was it, out of the five programs I applied to it was the only one I got into. Oddly enough, as my number one choice, but it was a place where I felt like I could get the training I really wanted to get.
At the time when you were considering a doctoral program, did you consider as PsyD versus a PhD, and if so, explain why you chose the PhD and the reason I’m asking is many of our guests and some of our listeners ask well, you know, how do I decide between a PhD and a PsyD? And so that’s the reason for the question.
You know, I think you know the way that I understood it at the time was that I did apply to a PsyD program. I applied to the Rutger PsyD program. And you know, I was encouraged to apply to that program because my my supervisor at Tufts had a lot of close relationships there. He thought it was like the premier program in the country and so I I you know, I felt like I, you know, I kind of needed to do that. But I also, you know, I I liked the idea of the scholar practitioner model. I liked the kind, the different types of research the work that they would do in a more PsyD program, more clinically focused, kind of like case study, less kind of quantitative. Uhm, I liked that idea, but I actually really I you know, this is kind of a weird thing, but during my master’s program I actually started to fall in love with stats too, which given my history with calculus this sort of like this very odd turn of affairs, but I really I liked the applicability of statistics. I just like that you could actually understand human behavior from numbers which I never understood from like abstract kind of mathematics. Uhm, and that was fascinating to me. And so, I take, I took some higher levels like math courses that I didn’t need to take, but I just really enjoyed. So, I actually really wanted to go there and continue to pursue it. I wanted to go to a program where I could continue to pursue my statistics and I got to do that there. And so I really, I wanted to do more research more quantitative based research and so I think that’s what drew me more to PhD programs and and I’m grateful for that quant background even though I don’t probably don’t use it as much as I used to, far less than I used to, but I it was also a way of thinking that I really appreciate and still use today.
It helps you appreciate those who did do all of those complex research studies and you, you wonder, well, is it just surveys asking yes or no? How do you feel? No, it’s more than that.
It’s way more than that.
Yes, it’s definitely way more than that. So, what advice would you give to aspiring psychology students who are just starting their academic career? I know that you found your way eventually based on your experience. Any advice that you’d have for aspiring psychology students?
I mean, I think to keep your mind open. I, I don’t know if I would have imagined I would have ended up where I am today and I can see a sprinkle of all the different career pathways that I kind of dabbled in and touched along the way. Living in my current life as a psychologist and I just would be open, even if you you know exactly, you think you know exactly what you want to do, be open to the experiences. Take take classes outside of your comfort zone. Really open yourself up in your, on your internships and your externships to kind of experience something new and different. I don’t think I regret much about my educational experience, although much of it was hard and there was many, many painful moments. I think I learned from all of them. And you know, I think that piece I’m grateful for cause it kind of led me to this moment today. And so, I really it got even when I didn’t like something I knew I’d OK. I don’t ever want to do that again. It really helps me to kind of explore so many different pathways and there’s so many possibilities in psychology. Don’t limit yourself. There’s so much opportunity.
We were just talking before we started recording that typically people think academic route or practitioner route. You know, I have to own my own business or do my own practice. There’s so many different ways to apply your psychology degree and graduate degree outside in the real world, so I’m I’m glad that you’re bringing that up. Do you recall having a plan after you graduated with your doctorate? Did you know that you what you wanted to do, or did that kind of evolve? And I, I’m looking at your LinkedIn page and so I kind of see your experiences, but did you have a plan in mind as soon as you graduated with your doctorate? Tell us a little bit more about that.
Yeah, I mean I think when I first started my doctorate, my plan was to go into private practice. And then I really got a lot of exposure to research, did a lot of research and a lot, a lot of work in that area. And then I thought maybe I’ll go into academics, and I think when I graduated, probably my first. What I was thinking in the forefront of my mind. I had had a really difficult internship. I had done my internship at Kings County before the Department of Justice had done their investigations, and so it was a very difficult place before the DOJ got involved and it kind of made me frightened of clinical work to be very honest. And so, I thought, I’ll go down an academic route because like you said, it was two routes. Practice or like academic and so I took a substitute role in a Community College and I thought at that point it was super burnt out from my internship and finishing my doctorate. But I was like, it’ll probably be like super low stakes. I can really just figure things out. And it was a really lovely experience, but not something that was gonna turn into like, a tenure track role, but it it really kind of gave me a taste of it. And I was like, I don’t really like this. It just felt like there was a lot of politics about the the department about saving the, there was just so much going on. I really just didn’t enjoy the, you know, the teaching and. And the way there was just so many other things to deal with. And it wasn’t just it wasn’t my speed. And then I tried and then I worked in a role. I kind of got lost again and then I worked in a role in which we were actually teaching professors how to teach. So, it was like a pedagogical strategy role in a Center for teaching and learning, and it was kind of like a way station for me to try to figure things out because I, because I was so traumatized by my internship, I think that I didn’t take my licensing exam immediately and I kind of was afraid of it. And so, I didn’t really have other options at the moment. And so, it kind of just took this role. I was in it like 6-8 months. I had a horrible boss, a really terrible, terrible boss and ended up quitting that job and then deciding that I would work on I would work on my licensing exam and pass that and then start my practice. And that’s really what began the career that I currently have today is that horrible job led me to kind of do the thing I was avoiding and face the things I had feared so much and developed my practice which has given me so many opportunities and within it has provided me with a diverse set of things that I do professionally.
Well, as we discussed earlier, it’s nice to have that experience, even though it might be a bad experience, it lets you know, hey, this isn’t for me. And so, I think you’re referencing your short time, I think about three years at Fordham University as an adjunct assistant professor. And then you went on to Baruch College with the Starr Career Development Center. And during that time, actually at the beginning of that time, that’s when you got your licensure and then you actually started Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting, probably about 15, almost 16 years ago. And you actually co-founded it with your husband back in 2007. So, tell us a little bit more about Dynamic Transitions.
And actually, I wasn’t actually at Fordham. I was actually teaching for, at Fordham as an adjunct. So, I was teaching graduate courses and I had a wonderful experience at Fordham. That’s so that’s where my husband went to, got his PhD, and I had a lovely experience teaching the students there and working there. I was actually working at a Community College. I don’t even put it on my, I don’t even put on my LinkedIn, but I don’t really want anyone to know where it was because I actually talk about it quite openly…
…and it was very, very. It was very, very awful and and so and then I I worked. So, when I quit that job, like at that Community College, I then worked at Baruch and had a wonderful experience at Baruch and in essence, Baruch gave me a like there’s a serious foundation on career counseling. It was the boot camp of career counseling, and I had had, you know, as a counseling psychologist, one of the things we are expert in is career and it’s how we split it, how we split apart from clinical in the 50s. And so, we know career, we’ve trained in career, we’ve done all. Did career Externships I had career related jobs while I was in grad school but it, Baruch was just like it was just like the most. It was like Tufts. Tufts was a clinical like my Clinical boot camp for for getting started. You know, Baruch became my career. We learned how to test. We learned how to really see people for, for career counseling and not just, like, tell test them and tell them. Tell them they say test them and tell them. Where you just kind of get you. Just tell them what’s on the report and then you move on to therapy. It actually taught us how to do real career counseling and it was such a profound experience I got to just educate on career concepts. I learned about different career fields and trajectories for them. It was the most amazing experience that actually led me to having a career aspect of my practice. I don’t think if I had, you know, not been at Baruch, I wouldn’t have felt enough confidence in my understanding of career work to do that. And so, it was a wonder, and it was where I was working there part time and it was where I got to build my practice out. So, I was also working my practice part time and it was really a lovely opportunity where we started, you know, I started the practice with my husband and actually, you know, he was the one who suggested the practice. At the time, I was really still very gun shy after my experience and internship and he was like well, just start it for me and then just put your name on it. And he was like, you know, if you want to, you can practice. If you don’t, you don’t have to. And you know, I think it was his sly way of getting me involved in in the practice of that feeling that there was any kind of I didn’t owe anyone anything or I didn’t have to do anything and the first patients you know came came for me. And so, I started to practice again very trepidatiously, one or two clients, seeing if I could handle that. And I actually remembered how much I loved the work. And then we we had a very diversified practice, so we did psychotherapy, but we also did career counseling. And at the time we started the practice, as you might kind of note was the year before the crash. And so, the the Great Recession and you know, because our practice was diversified, we did, we did OK, we did well because people were not willing to, at the time, invest in psychotherapy, but they were willing to invest in career. And so, our career practice really thrived, and it became a mainstay of what we did and what we were known for because we were one of the few people offering in our area offering testing. We were one of the few people who actually knew how to write a report related to cure testing. We were knowing how we knew how to do job search. We knew how to understand the career and we knew all these different components because of our training at Baruch. And my husband then went on to kind of to start the first graduate course center at NYU. So, we had a really steeped kind of career background. And so, it really allowed us to kind of think about, like, could a practice, really maintain really diverse strains of of services we so we started offering organizational consulting and training and speaking engagements and it really just allowed us to really experiment with all the things we were that we loved, that we were trained in.
Well, I’m going to share the screen and is that where you met Rich at Fordham?
No, I met him at a career counseling job at a different Community College at Kingsborough Community College. We were working there together, and we ended up on the same project and so we met at Kingsborough Community College.
Well, isn’t that, isn’t that sweet? And so. Yeah, it’s nice to talk about the history of how you guys met as well. And I’m sharing dynamictransitionsllp.com on the screen for those of you who are just listening to the podcast instead of viewing it. And as you can see, you’ve already mentioned you guys offer many different services within the practice and we’re going to get to impostor syndrome in a, in a second here, because that’s going to be a nice transition to talk about your newest book. Consulting, executive coaching and then you have a blog and I like reading about each of you because there are some overlap, but each of you almost have your specialties as well it almost looks like so yeah, I like this website and then here’s the Ted talk that you guys that you did and you gave a Ted talk entitled The Impostor Syndrome Paradox: Unleashing the Power of You, and you have two books on the subject. So, tell us a little bit more about what is impostor syndrome.
Yeah, so impostor syndrome is the experience when you are credentialed. You know, you have experiences, you have competencies, you have skills, but you haven’t internalized them. And as a result of not internalizing them, you tend to get performance anxiety when triggered around like being able to show up as your competent full self. So, then you typically engage in either overwork or self-sabotage to manage that performance anxiety. When you get reviews, they’re often positive because we’re high performing often times but then we tend to ignore any compliments or or dismiss any kind of positive feedback and tend to hyper focus on negative feedback trying to make sure we never make those kinds of mistakes again. We can be very perfectionistic, can overestimate others and underestimate ourselves. Have real difficulty tolerating mistake making. You know have trouble dealing with failure as well as success. So those are all the different components of impostor syndrome.
Well, what actually interested me and and thank you for sending me your most recent book. I got to chapter 2. I didn’t get a chance to finish it, but I’m reading. I’m going. Oh my gosh, I can relate to this. I can relate to this and and the facts are that about 70% on up to almost all of us experience some form of impostor syndrome. And one thing that I can relate to to a lot of people is they say, you know, I don’t, I don’t accept a lot of the compliments, but if somebody gives me a criticism, I focus on that.
Yes, I’ll make sure I don’t make that mistake again.
It’s almost. It’s almost human nature, and so why is it that people tend to experience some of the symptoms or some of the impostor syndrome and how do we actually overcome that?
And so, for those who are steeped in the in the literature, it’s really referred to as the impostor phenomenon, especially because they, you know, there’s a real strong desire not to medicalize it. It’s not a diagnosis and you can’t find in the DSM. It was coined in the late 1970s by two psychologists working in a college counseling center. And I think you know, one of the things that we know about oftentimes dealing with imposter syndrome is the. And I refer to it as imposter syndrome cause that’s how people know it in the in the lay community. But I think one of the things that’s really, really important is to recognize that it often comes from early childhood dynamics and family roles. And so, the reason why it can be so hard. People say, oh, just change your mind, so stop doing that, stop thinking that it’s nearly impossible because it’s it’s been imbedded probably since you were a kid. And so we talk about, uhm, there are these really common roles that you can end up in childhood, either the intelligent one who is told like every everything comes easy to you so any time anything came hard to you, you thought it was a sign that you weren’t as smart as everyone thought you were. The hard-working ones, so the one usually there’s one identified already as the intelligent one. You get labeled as the hard-working one so everything has to come as a result of really hard work. We see a correlation between the hard working one and people who have learning differences, you know, or learning issues growing up especially cause they had to work super hard to to stay up with their peers. And then once they got the support they needed, that kind of got embedded as a way of coping. And then the last one is the survivor. So, you may not have gotten the support either from a parent or a caregiver if they either maybe weren’t around or neglectful or abusive, and as a result, your achievements were a method of like surviving. And so, for you, it can feel very tenuous and that if you make one mistake, everything can be taken from you, which oftentimes is not the case, but that’s what it feels like. And then family dynamics like, you know, conflict wasn’t well managed in the family, feeling a high need to please others in the family, getting stuck in very rigid roles in the family. You can’t be moved. You can’t be more than one thing. You get labeled as something, and that’s it. These kinds of dynamics, artistic parental figures, codependent dynamics, they or what leads to it and so dealing with it also means sort of dealing with those underlying issues and also being able to recognize that some of the current patterns that exist in your in your work life today about how it shows up often are reflective of those early patterns.
The other thing that I read from the book and and some other literature is you didn’t have a good role model when you’re growing up and and even if you had a role model, maybe it wasn’t the perfect type of role model to follow or you didn’t feel safe in that environment to actually speak your mind as well. And so, it’s interesting to me because I, I am somewhat of a perfectionist and so as soon as I started reading this, I’m and I saw their perfectionism come in. I’m like, no, hold on. Do I want to read this or not, you know.
And I and I started, I dove in because what I liked about both of the books and let me let me mention both books first. So, your first book is Own Your Greatness: Overcome Imposter Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life and that was back in April of 2020. The book was actually a finalist for the 2020 Foreword INDIES Book Award, and more recently I saw that it made the BetterUp’s list of the Top 14 Self-Help Books, so congratulations.
The second book, the most recent one that I mentioned, is Your Unstoppable Greatness: Break Free From Imposter Syndrome, Cultivate Your Agency, and Achieve Your Ultimate Career Goals and this came out in December of 2022. And it focuses primarily on having or sustaining an impostor free, an impostor syndrome free life, reduce burnout, burnout, improve healthy relationships and and leadership skills while conquering toxic work cultures. And so, tell us a little bit more about this book and how it differs from the first one and I’ll, I’ll give my $0.02. I think this one focuses almost serves as an interactive workbook with some exercises and prompts and activities for you to further develop and and dive into almost self-reflection and I guess my follow-up question for you is how do they differ? And then do you need to read the first one in order to get the most out of the second one? And I have mixed feelings about that cause you kept referring back to and our. And you know, if you read Own Your Greatness, you can apply what you learned there to this exercise. And so, I’ll stop talking and and let you kind of talk about the second book and how it differs. And then do we need to read the first one and would, would we get more out of the second book by reading the first one?
So, the way that we conceptualize the difference between the the books, both of them are workbooks, but the first one is really dealing with your interpersonal intrapersonal issues with impostors and so if you want to get over your own individual impostor syndrome, it’s book one, Own Your Greatness. If you know the reason why we developed book two was because when we were seeing people actually do the work from book one, we saw there were residual issues that were still remaining. And so those residual issues then we dealt with in book two. And so, in book two, it’s really like helping people reconnect to their dreams, what they want for themselves. As you can see in my own story, cause probably is, I haven’t said it yet, but it probably shouldn’t shock people, but I also had impostor syndrome and is why I ended up writing these books. And so, one of the things that became really important to me is really helping others with the systematic research-based methodology. And so, the first book really is based on the research, the 40 years of research, and it takes you through a nine-step model about how to overcome it. We’ve actually been looking at the data around it. And we’ve seen that people can actually reduce their impostor syndrome by 30% if they actually do that book. And the second book is really about, and quickly in about 14 weeks, so it can happen really quickly. Just it’s they’re very friendly looking books, but they’re hard because like you said, you have to face the hard things in the books. They’re not. They’re not a joyride even though they look really fun. They’re they’re you’re facing some difficult things, but the ideas on the other side will be worth it. The second book was really about once you’ve done the work of overcoming your own impostor syndrome, sometimes you find yourself kind of that a loss like you kind of realize I don’t really love this job. I don’t really love this work. I don’t really love this work environment. How do you reconnect to what you want, what you love? Because we can be often so people pleasing that our careers kind of get get caught with what other people want from us and we lose ourselves in that. So, the second book starts with that and then helps you to kind of identify how, we often get stuck in really toxic work environments because we will put up with a lot, because we’re so grateful to be there or just happy that we got an opportunity that we often take things that we shouldn’t take. And we also have the dysfunction that oftentimes we may have experienced growing up that that also is familiar in these work dynamics. And so it’s really helping you to identify what’s going on in your work dynamics that may be familiar and kind of break that and then also too, it’s really focused on leadership and and thinking of at every person who works in who goes into a workplace as a leader and how do you contribute to healthy work culture and what is healthy work culture has people think, oh, healthy work culture doesn’t exist? This, but we sort of talk about what are the components of healthy work culture and how you can actually actively contribute to that and kind of engage in anti, you know, impostor syndrome culture. And so, it’s really focused on like systemic and organizational dynamics and then how to how to break from some of the ones that have been toxic for us.
I know a lot of people who are going to be thinking about their own jobs. They’re reflecting as they’re listening and watching this saying, Oh my gosh, it is toxic. And how can I change it? And many people, quite honestly, are thinking I, there’s no way I can change the culture of the organization, but I can assure you, when you start reading these books. All you have to do is think about an individual. First, focus on yourself and then talk to other people and then form a small group. Almost a self-help group, if you think about it that way, and then change the way that you interact with others and that will actually spread throughout the culture. So, it’s almost like you, you can’t attack the, you can’t eat the elephant. You have to take one bite at a time, and so that’s the kind of the analogy that I thought of while I was reading the second book here. And to highlight some of the chapters is the 3 A’s, OK? The 3A’s each of the chapters focus. The first chapter starts looking at agency. The second chapter is assessment and then the third chapter is actualization. So, a lot of our listeners may be wondering, well, what does she mean by agency? So, I have to ask you, what do you mean by agency?
Agency is sort of the ability to recognize that you have power, and you can use it. Oftentimes when we struggle with impostor syndrome, we often don’t feel like we have power to change the situation. So, when I talked about that experience that I had in that toxic job after I got my PhD. Uhm, I, I needed to get out of that job and I really I, in my head, even though I had a PhD from Columbia, and I had all these credentials and all this experience, I thought that I couldn’t leave. In my head, I believed I couldn’t get another job. Nobody else will want me. Like this was it for me. And even though people were like you could get a job in a second, I didn’t believe any of them. And I because I didn’t believe my agency. I didn’t believe in my own power to do something different with my life until something really bad happened. And then I was like, I had no choice but to be Agentek because I was either keep putting up with it or get out. Uhm, and so I think that that’s the piece I’m trying to help people do and that we’re trying to help people do in that first phase of the book. The first couple chapters is helping you to locate your agency and find it and find the resources within you to kind of begin to believe that you do have choice that you know we often feel like I can’t do anything about this, but what is this, like you were saying, what is the small thing that I can actually do to change this for myself. Maybe it’s job search, maybe it’s build a coalition at work. Maybe it’s find a mentor like there are things you can do. Doing nothing is going to guarantee you stay in the same place, but doing something might change something for you, and so that’s what we’re trying to kind of recruit is that kind of agency.
And don’t be afraid to make that choice, because a lot of people will say, OK, if I sit still, I’m not going to change. But if I do something, what if I do something wrong? Well, as we were talking about earlier, Lisa, we, we found out, go ahead and do something wrong then that find, that helps you figure out that’s not where I want to go. That’s not the path that I want to take. I should mention I didn’t say this in the intro. You have been honored twice as a Top Voice on LinkedIn in the areas of Job Search & Careers and Mental Health. So, congratulations. I saw that on your LinkedIn as well. And then you have been sought out by the media and appeared in such outlets as the New York Times, NBC News, Forbes, Huffington Post and then Business Insider and Insight Into Diversity. And you already mentioned that that’s one of your passions as well when you were going through your academic career. One of the things that I did point out, as I said and as soon as I honed in on the perfectionism side, there are five steps, I realize, of giving up perfectionism, and I’ll say them. I was gonna put you on the spot, but I’ll say the five for everybody. #1 acknowledge that perfectionism is not responsible for your success. #2, accept the fact that the perceived benefits of perfectionism do not outweigh its costs. #3 embrace the growth mindset. #4 strive for greatness, not perfection. And that’s my problem. #5 Seek support when your perfectionism and imposter syndrome are triggered. And I want to focus on this last one for a second, because there are triggers that happens and you actually mentioned some of them. If you’re under pressure, you’re about to give a speech, you feel a time constraint and all of a sudden you get that trigger for that. Can you talk a little bit more about some of the other triggers for impostor syndrome?
So, there can be triggers like a new job or a new position, something that you feel rusty at that you haven’t done in a long time, so you feel like you don’t have mastery over it. Opportunities that feel like they’re highly visible and so a lot of important eyes are on it and also too, when you are from a historically marginalized community, things like discrimination, marginalization, isolation, lack of mentorship, all of these can also be triggers for feeling like you’re not good enough and that you’re a fraud.
Thank you. And I read more about that. I’ll continue reading the book. Anything else that you’d like to say about the book? I, I, go ahead.
Oh, I was just going to say I, I think one of the things we’re most proud of about the book is that it really does work, and it does help, and it’s based on research. And it’s really been really powerful to see people change from a different modality, so when we were trained, the main method of change was psychotherapy. And now we see people change from our work and being able to give them tools largely based on psychotherapy, but that they’re tools that they can use themselves. And so that’s something we’re super proud of. And this new book is really exciting for us because it gets to the systemic perspective and the systemic perspective is really important to us. But we also want people to feel that they have power within systems. And remember, I had an organizational psychology professor who used to say you can’t KISS a system and what she was referring to as saying like, you know when you’re trying to look and point the finger at somebody in the system like, who is the person responsible for this? There’s no person to hold accountable, but it’s so, so important that we recognize that people make up systems. People engage in the development of systems and that we need to take responsibility for our own part of the system. And that’s the most powerful perspective I think I, I have about a system is recognizing everyone has power to change that system, whether you acted on it, on it or not is another story.
And, and again, I’ll, I’ll reemphasize it. It only takes one person in that system to start making a change as well. So, I here are some of the exercises that you have in the second book. I, I want to get my hands on the first one as well because I should read that one as well because I want to talk and focus more about myself before I look at this. But I I really did enjoy this. It’s a it’s a very easy read. I I started reading it last night and I thought oh, I better read it for about an hour or so. I spent three hours just reading and and then I’ll and then all of a sudden I, I realized, Oh my gosh, it’s 1:30 in the morning.
Oh, my goodness.
I gotta put it down and. And so, I I like those type of books that engage you that way. And and this was definitely interesting for me. So, thank you for for sharing that and sharing your time with us.
You’re so welcome.
I do have a few other questions for you before we end. Here in your opinion, what are some of the most critical skills or qualities people should develop in order to exceed or excel in their careers?
I mean, I think the the ability of self-reflection. Being able to take feedback and take it usefully not in a way that it destroys you, but actually helps you to kind of move forward is so important. I think the ability to take risks and to recognize that yes, sometimes you take risks have been with safety nets around us, but it’s taking risks has been also an important part of my own career. And I think you know I think lastly, really allowing yourself to to dream. And to imagine what might be, I don’t. I I think part of what’s blossomed my career in the way that, that it has is that I really have allowed myself to dream and take risks. Some of them have gone well, some of them have gone poorly, but I really allow myself to kind of think about what I want next and dream. So, it’s been important to me.
It’s ironic, when we’re children and when we’re growing up, we’re asked what are our dreams and we continue to dream and then when we get out in the real world and start working, we don’t dream as much. And so, what I like about this book is that it almost forces you to rediscover or reinvent your dreams and and think outside the box as well. So, it’s very motivational in that respect. Dr. Orbé-Austin, what is, what do you love most about your job?
Ooh, that’s a that’s a hard question because I love so many things about my job. But I think I think one of the things that I love, probably if I think about it the most is like being able to, you know, see somebody in the very beginning who is clearly distressed by whatever has brought them to you and being able to see the possibilities for them before they can see them and really being able to be a part of witnessing those possibilities and getting to see them live in their fullest. There’s something so powerful to see somebody take a look at their lives after you’ve done some work with them and they’re proud of themselves. They can’t believe they are where they are. There’s something so magical about that moment and seeing them fully empowered to kind of live that life, they they might have never even dreamed that they could have. So that’s the thing I love the most.
I can relate to that as a teacher in in the university where I’d see the light bulb come on for a lot of my students and then be just motivated and and almost redirect their path once they open up that door. So, at the end of most of our podcasts, we usually ask a few fun questions, so I usually ask this one first. Tell us something unique about yourself.
I tried to become a hair stylist when I was in my PhD program.
For hair school and they, they, they wouldn’t let me. They were like, I think you need to finish your PhD first and then you can come back to us.
I wonder if.
I love hair.
I wonder if they were just thinking, you know, maybe you’re just reaching out. Maybe you should finish this, and maybe you’re not really into it.
Like maybe you’re burnt out. But I love hair. So that that that’s a little something I that that not many people know about me is when I try to go to hair school while in my PhD program.
Well, there you go. No, that is unique. What is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
I don’t know. That’s a that’s a good question. I’m thinking about all kinds of things. I think you know what’s interesting is one of the things that I think moved me a ton while I was in my training was interpersonal process theory. It was such a revelation about how we engaged with a client in the work and really allow the interpersonal process to move the work. I, I really found that work really profound and really just like, like moved me tremendously. I, I still see some of that in my work, but I think interpersonal process work was an interpersonal theory book that I read in grad school was mind blowing.
OK. And then do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
Yeah, it’s, it’s an, it’s an amazing world and I think if you can find the things in it that move you most, look, you have to as a part of being in that field, you have to learn all kinds of different things. But if you can find the things that move you, move toward them, you know, and, and embrace them. You know, part of why I have books today is because I was writing about impostor syndrome and my publisher happened to see that and reached out to me. And so, you know, allow yourself to be out there, be public, don’t be afraid of, because I think we didn’t really talk about that. But I have a a pretty large social media presence. There’s a lot of psychologists don’t have, and it has been also really helpful to my career tremendously in a variety of ways. And I think that being public and talking about my work and has been saying I’ve had to learn how to do, but has been incredibly supportive to my work.
It’s great to see that you have that supportive and I did see that, especially on LinkedIn, many, many different followers and and it’s nice to be transparent in what you’re working on because other people will see that, respect you for that, and then maybe learn from that as well. And so, they see your growth going along with you. So, one final question, that’s kind of a fun one that you can take a couple seconds to think of is if you had the time and money to complete one project, or go on one trip what would you do?
Well, that’s a great question. I would probably go to Italy for, for like a year, I would go to Italy for a year.
OK. And have you been?
And just enjoy it. Oh, a number of times. I love Italy so much and there’s like a place where it just feels like.
Life is the way it should be. Where there’s just like a calm pace of life and enjoyment of the land of, of food, of, of just people.
It just. I really appreciate the culture and the environment of Italy.
That sounds wonderful. I’ve been to Italy, and I agree with you. It’s a different culture over there and slow. Enjoy everything.
Enjoy your coffee, your tea, your bagel, anything. So, is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
I don’t know. I, I mean, I, I kind of I’m, I’m excited that a podcast like this existed exists like it didn’t exist when I was going going to school or trying to make my decisions and I would make incredible use out of the the resources that you have here, because I really wish I probably would have made the similar decisions, but at least I wouldn’t have felt so scared about making the wrong one. But I think it would have been nice to have an environment to to learn from so.
I appreciate that. I appreciate that. Dr. Orbé-Austin, thanks again for sharing your journey and talking about your book with us. I, like I said, I’m going to finish the book and maybe offline. I’ll talk to you and maybe persuade you to send the first book for me.
All right, thank you so much for your time.
has a hard time discerning whether or not people care about the subject she is talking about
reason she doesnt show an interest in the ideas of others is because shes too socially anxious