Beyond Impostor Syndrome: How Kim Meninger Found Her Calling

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“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”

In this inspiring episode, career coach Kim Meninger shares her journey from a corporate career to entrepreneurship. She discusses the challenges of career advancement, including grappling with impostor syndrome and managing internal and external pressures. Kim reveals her deepest aspiration: to make a meaningful impact in both her career and life. If you share this aspiration, join us now in listening to Kim's story!


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Beyond Impostor Syndrome: How Kim Meninger Found Her Calling

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest in this episode, Kim Meninger. Kim is a leadership coach, consultant, and TEDx speaker on a mission to make it easier to be human at work. She recognizes that the greatest challenges we face in the workplace are not related to our competencies but to our confidence levels. She arrives to provide actual strategies to help us overcome self-doubt, build deeper connections, and foster more psychologically safe workplaces for everyone.

Kim hosts The Imposter Syndrome Files podcast and leads a weekly human discussion group, which is free and open to all. She lives in Groton, Massachusetts with her husband and two boys. I am so honored and want to welcome you to the show, Kim.

Thank you so much, Tony. I am thrilled to be here.

We're going to have a great conversation. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to not only share with the audience but also to understand some of the journeys and the moments that have defined who you are and made you into this person making an impact in the world and serving so many amazing workplaces. I'd love to hear what we call these flashpoints or these points that have ignited your gifts into the world and share them along. You can start wherever you'd like and share what you’re called to share. We'll pause along the way and see what themes are showing up as you're sharing. Sound good?

That sounds perfect. Thank you.

Kim, why don't you take it away and share what you'd like to share?

How The Dots Connect

It's funny how you never see how the dots are connecting when you're moving forward. You only see them in hindsight. I've had the opportunity to reflect a bit on this over time. When I was a child, my childhood was defined by my curiosity and empathy. I've always been super empathetic to the point where I almost over-empathize with people. It has made me very anxious at times, but I've also been curious about people's stories. I always want to dig below the surface and understand what motivates people to do the things they do, good or bad.

I read a lot of biographies when I was growing up. I always wanted to know more. I was never satisfied with the superficial level of conversation. I decided when I was about 12 or 13 that I wanted to be a therapist. When I grew up, that was all I ever wanted to do. I wanted to help people. That guided all of my decisions about what I studied in high school and what I did when I was in college. Everything was oriented toward going into a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology.

That was never in question. I was undoubtedly going to do that until it came time to apply for a Ph.D. program. I was 24 years old and made no money as a research assistant. It’s at this crossroads where I thought, "Can I do another 4 to 6 years of full-time education? What's my life going to look like on the other side of this? I'm still going to have to live at home."

I decided to push the pause button and went into high-tech. I thought one of two things was going to happen. This is either going to give me that push that I need to get back to that application for grad school, or it's going to take me in a new direction, and we'll see what happens. That started my career. I'll stop there to see if you want to comment or if you think I should keep going.

I always have something to comment on. First of all, I love that you started with this idea of curiosity and empathy. At this point in your journey, it's an essence of leaning in and saying that you can be curious and empathetic with yourself about going into a new direction. This could be an amazing venture, and I have to be empathetic with myself about what I'm going to be embarking on. I can't be too hard on myself. Maybe it won't work out or maybe it will. It's leaning into new situations but also allowing yourself to take the learnings and potentially the failures that come along the journey. I think that's part of life.

One of the things that I didn't share about my childhood is I moved roughly every one to two years. My dad worked for the car industry, and we were always on alert for the time he was going to come home and say, "We're leaving. We're going someplace else." It made me very comfortable meeting new people and probably sparked a lot of my curiosity too because I always had to go into a new situation and find my way through it.

It also had the effect of uprooting me from communities where I had just started to get comfortable. Now, I have to start all over again. I see that a lot in my journey as to your point. I'm not afraid to take risks. I'm pretty action-oriented. I'll put myself out there pretty easily. I also am very hard on myself. Finding that balance can be tricky.

It's hard to get that out of ourselves. We can be hard on ourselves, but also make sure that at times, we step back and look at it and say, "Why am I being hard on myself? What is that telling me at this moment?"

A Place Called Self-Acceptance

Part of my journey has been challenging my perfectionism, getting to a place of self-acceptance, and also not taking myself so seriously. That is something that I would love to tell my 25-year-old, 35-year-old self. This came from starting a business. When I was in corporate, especially in an environment that I never planned to be part of, I always felt a little bit self-conscious. I had a lot of imposter syndrome that I didn't belong there.

I always felt like everybody had this blueprint that I didn't have access to. Everybody's doing it right. I'm the one on the outside who's trying to figure it out. Now that I've had the opportunity to grow my business over the years, I realize everyone is making it up as they can go along. There's something very powerful about feeling like there isn't just one way to do something. If you can let go of that, you can have a lot more fun.

I love that you revealed everyone's secret that nobody knows anything. They are making up as they go. Now that secret has been revealed, but I love that you share that. I want to rewind for a moment. When you stepped into the corporate world, what were you doing? I might've missed it in the story, but share with the audience what were you doing in the work.

I was always in relationship management. I always worked with partners in our larger ecosystem. In some cases, that was resellers. In some cases, it was software vendors that were integrating their technology with ours. In some cases, it was professional service providers, but it was always rooted in ensuring that there was a good partnership or a good relationship, which served me well having the psychology background that I had.

I also found myself surrounded by super smart people. I felt like everybody around me was an engineer. They all understood technology. It felt like they were speaking a language that I didn't know and didn't have any way of translating. In hindsight, I realized I didn't need to know all the things that I had put pressure on myself to know. I was good at the parts that I needed to be good at to do my job, but I was so focused on comparing myself to other people and feeling like I needed to know more.

It leads me to a question. When you're working with technically savvy people, you almost want to ask them, “What do I need to know to be able to be the conduit, to share the highlights, not to dive too deep, but to be the bridge?”

That is a question I wish I had known to ask back then because that is how I advise people now who share similar kinds of insecurities. You don't have to know everything. You need to be that bridge as you're describing. I didn't know to ask that. I think being able to say to people, "Explain it to me like I'm a five-year-old. Tell me what is the most important information that I need to know.” Be grateful that that person exists so you don't have to know all the things.

You don't have to know everything.

Tell me what happens. What was the next flashpoint? Here, you are sitting in the corporate world, doing this amazing work and feeling like an imposter. What happens next?

I describe my corporate life as the best of times and the worst of times. There were aspects of that that I enjoyed. I'm a competitive person. I liked being part of a culture that valued being a high-performance company. We were always at the top in our market, and there were all kinds of what felt like pep rallies, giving everybody that sense that we were the best. That was fun for me. There were aspects of the culture that didn't align with my values.

I think when you are part of a very results-driven company, sometimes people will do things to get to the outcome that isn't always the most ethical or the way that I would approach things. I worked with a lot of people that made me uncomfortable from time to time. While I was working in that environment, I went back to school and got an MBA where I focused on organizational leadership. That opened my eyes to good leadership. I looked around and I saw a lot of people who were getting promoted because they were great individual contributors but not necessarily leadership material.

The Virtual Campfire | Kim Meninger | Impostor Syndrome

I found that the more I studied this and the more that I got into it, the more I couldn't unsee. I was having this internal battle of "I can't fix the problem, but every day I come here, I feel like I'm endorsing the problem." I didn't know what to do from my vantage point. I didn't see a bridge to HR. I wanted to consider making a career change, but I didn't see how I could do that without starting over. I was in this identity crisis for a while.

I feel that. It's funny I can relate to your journey there because there's a sense of unease that comes with not feeling like you belong but wanting more out of your situation. You can't go back to being ignorant and being unknowing of what is possible once you peek behind the curtain. You now know that there's something out there that could be better, but you don't know how to create that better or to bridge to that next thing. It's frustrating.

To your point, once you peek behind that curtain, you can not know what's behind it. I think that was where I ended up with, “What do I do now?” Now that I know this and the more I think about it, what do I do now? My first step was to switch to another company. I thought maybe a different culture. This was the only company I'd ever worked for. I'd been there for almost ten years. I didn't know what I didn't know. I thought if I moved someplace else, maybe I'd have more influence. I'll have an ability. It was a smaller company. I thought maybe I'd have the ability to affect change. That company had its own set of issues. I kept myself frustrated for different reasons. Finally, I ended up going on maternity leave with my older son and never came back. That began my entrepreneurial journey.

It's tough when you think about that here you have a shift in your life trajectory, and you feel like, "What do I do now?" A beautiful moment in your life now shifts you to think, "What do I do now? What do I create?" I think that is an interesting shift because a lot of people have that. Whether they're thrust into it for good reasons or bad reasons, it has your rethinking. Just like the pandemic, we had these moments where we're like, "Am I doing the things that I want to be doing? Is this the right path for me? Maybe it's time to reinvent." Tell me about your experience of now deciding to go and become an entrepreneur on your own.

The Epic

I think that's a good way to describe it. I went on the journey before it became the theme of the pandemic, but it's very similar. I want to acknowledge that I had a lot of privileges that others might not have. I had a husband with a full-time job who carried our benefits. We had a conversation when I decided to leave my corporate career about what impact that would have on our finances, and we agreed that it was a risk that we could take. I think that not everybody necessarily has that luxury.

It got me for the first time in a long time because I had taken it for granted. I knew what I was going to be when I grew up from a very young age. I pivoted into this whole new world, and it had been so long since I had asked myself, "What do I enjoy doing?" I knew there were parts of my career that I enjoyed, but I could not access them. I didn't know how to even get back in touch with that side of myself until I started to sit down and give myself some time to think about it and to ask myself soul-searching questions like, "When were the times when you felt like you were using your strengths or what are your proudest moments?" The kinds of questions that, as coaches, we guide other people through.

I can remember there was a time in my corporate career when I was managing a young team. A lot of them had started in sales because their parents had told them that's a good way to get a foot in the door. It didn't align with their values, and I helped them to develop and I helped them to find their strengths, and move in another direction. That was when I was at my peak, and I started thinking to myself, "If I could be a professional mentor or something without knowing about coaching at all." I thought that's where I would get the most enjoyment.

A friend of mine said, "What about life coaching?" I'm like, "Coaching. Who am I to help people with their lives?" I started looking more into it. It was like, "Maybe work-related coaching would be a better fit for me." That's how it happened. I was never going to become a business owner. That was never part of my plan, but I followed the steps in front of me, and I've been doing this now for thirteen years with a focus on helping, as you said in the intro, people to make it easier to be human at work. What are the insecurities? What are the doubts? What are the challenging things that we face that keep us from being who we want to be and achieving the definition of success that we have for ourselves?

People make it easier to be human at work.

It's amazing when you think about this. Thirteen years is not a short period of time. I'm sure there have been a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, you realize that being an entrepreneur, your heart has to be in it. You have to be driven by the desire to want to do this work. That's one of the things that I've come to realize through all the people whom I talked to in this show but in general, when you start to see that the visceral reaction at first of, “How would I be an entrepreneur?”

You have to first come up with this idea of what lights you up. What is it that makes you come alive? If you start there, then any other challenge that you face, like the idea of being an entrepreneur or the idea of doing anything else will become secondary. It has to be driven by that core purpose of wanting to make a change in the way work gets done and wanting to do the work that makes you feel good.

I'm so glad you said that because that's a good way to describe it. I think entrepreneurship was the vehicle. It wasn't the end goal. I've seen a lot of people over the years having done this work for as long as I had that have come and gone. Some people come in and it's an effort to not have a gap on their resume while they're looking for something else, or they want an escape from their career that they don't love. They think they're going to be able to make more money doing something on their own. It's not enough of a motivator to stick through the ups and downs of it. It’s finding what is motivating to you and what is your key purpose.

I'll even take it a step further to say that it's not even about the coaching itself. It's about the underlying reason why you do the coaching. If you think of coaching as a tool, not to discount coaching as a title, but it's only a tool. It's a method, but the underlying reason why you do it is the result that you get for people.

I say very sincerely that I strive to be the resource to others that I wish I had during my time. The people I serve are very much people like me who have big dreams and want to make an impact and care about other people and their careers, and they can't figure out how to get around some of the roadblocks. Whether it's coaching or consulting, having conversations like this is what I live and breathe all day.

We've covered a lot of ground, but I want to ask. Is there another flashpoint that you feel was meaningful in your journey? I'd love to even talk about the TED talk, which I know was probably a big moment for you because I know it was for me. Tell me about some moments that were some challenges or big pivots for you.

I'm glad you brought that up because the good and the bad of being a business owner is that you set your own goals. There are some times when you’re like, "I wish I had a boss right now that helped me focus or give me that extra push that I need." One of the goals that I had set for myself pretty early on was to do a TEDx Talk. I've always wanted to be on that stage. It was important to me. Having that opportunity felt like my chance to climb Mount Everest. I'm not a physical person. I'm never climbing any mountains. To me, that was my metaphorical mountain because it had been such a big goal. Until you do it, it seems so far out there. Walking off of that stage, I felt this sense of I'd done what I wanted to do.

The Virtual Campfire | Kim Meninger | Impostor Syndrome

It's funny because I had not slept the night before. I was up all night practicing. I was on this adrenaline high. Finally, my husband and I get in the car to leave, and I look at him. I'm like, "Now, I got to find my next big thing that I'm going to focus on." I had finally achieved it and he's like, "You might want to take a nap first." That's how my mind works. Once I get through a big goal, what's the next thing after that? I took a bit to bask in the glory of it, but since then, I've been thinking about, "Now, what's my next TEDx? What's the next thing that I need to focus on?" That's another example of the double-edged sword of being motivated to take action but also being hard on yourself. It's like, "Just breathe. It will come."

It's funny because I'm sure you do this with a lot of your clients too. I know I do with mine. It is a sense of wanting them to celebrate their wins and take the moment to bask in that glory. We often run a million miles an hour to the next thing because we're like, "That happened." Now we're doing what's next. I think that's part of being an achiever and sometimes an overachiever.

It is a sense that we don't know how to truly slow down and appreciate the moment. It's about knowing what you need to do to fill that void. I think it's what Laura Gassner-Otting talks about when she talks about wonder hell. It is the sense that you do all these great things and all of a sudden, you have a hangover from having all these amazing things in the world.

It is such an interesting way to think about it. It's also what keeps us going because when you're at something for a while, you want to keep it new, you want to continue to challenge yourself and it's how do you do that without driving yourself into the ground.

What are the things that come to mind around the things that are pushing you forward? What are some of the ideas that make you come alive now that you want to share?

A Book Journey

I promised myself I never would, but I am at the beginning of a book journey. I feel like I want to have a bigger conversation, and there's a limit to how much you can reach people. When I'm doing a presentation, it's contained to the people who show up in that presentation. It feels like a natural next step for me to expand the reach of my ideas.

As part of that, I've been on this journey to expand my platform on social media and not get too attached to all of the likes and things like that. It's always an interesting battle. Going back to what we were talking about before, your core purpose. I feel called to be part of a bigger conversation that we're having in a lot of ways now. That's what's driving me.

I love that you share that. One of the things that I've come to realize is people think, "We write all these books because it's great for people who love these books, and they buy them, and it becomes marketable and all that." First and foremost, if we slow things down for a moment, we write these books for ourselves. It is a moment to codify for ourselves like, "What is it that I need to hear most?"

As you enter this journey, and you're probably a little bit further along than I said you're entering it, you start to think, "What do I need to hear most, and what do I need to read most?" You start writing about that. It becomes the journey that you're on. Before you know it, the book is finished. You start saying, "I feel different because of this book."

That gives me inspiration to keep going down this road.

You've done a lot of great things. You've worked with some amazing clients along the way. What are some lessons you haven't shared about yourself that you have learned, and want to share with people?

It sounds so cliche, but the older I get, the more I realize how much energy I have wasted worrying about things that don't matter. I think if I could impart that wisdom to anyone, I hope that people would reach that point sooner in their lives. There's a reason why it takes time, but all the things that we sweat about, all the nights that I stayed up worrying about what I did or didn't say in a meeting, they don't matter. No one else is thinking about that. Everyone's thinking about their own fears, doubts, and insecurities.

The thing that I wish I had done more throughout my life because this goes way back to even trying to integrate into new communities as a child is I wish I had stayed true to myself. I wish I hadn't tried so hard to impress people. I wish that I wasn't always trying to figure out what's the right thing to do or say here and had trusted my values and stayed true to what I thought was the right thing to do. What I've learned over time is that we very rarely regret being true to ourselves.

The Virtual Campfire | Kim Meninger | Impostor Syndrome

There's something so amazing about what you shared. I love that you share this because we spend so much time looking backward and saying, "I wish I had said that. I wish I'd done that because that wasn't who I am." The beauty of hindsight and now, the great thing is that we always have a chance to begin again. We had the opportunity because we're still here. We're still breathing and we still have an opportunity to make an impact. We had to take all of that learning and say, "How would I want to use that learning and apply it tomorrow?" I think that's a great thing. We can't go backward, but we can learn from looking backward.

I love that. Begin again. There's a new chance.

This conversation has been great because it allows us to share some of the ideas that a lot of people often struggle with. First of all, imposter syndrome has been the throughline of a lot of this. There's also a sense of how we learn from the past, which is what you've shared a lot.

Thank you for doing this. This has been great.

Is there anything else you wanted to share before I go to my last question?

I don't think so. I would say another cliche. it’s to trust yourself. That's what I try to tell everybody. You know more than you think you do.

Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.

I agree. We often don't trust ourselves, and it gets in the way of us being able to show up and contribute because trust in ourselves doesn't allow us to have that voice in the room. Are you ready for the last question?

I am ready.

What are 1 or 2 books or 3 that have had an impact on you and why?

I have two very different books. The first one is the Phantom Tollbooth. I loved that book as a child, and I've read it to my kids, and I love the play on words. It never gets old for me. It's such a fun book. The second one is The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown because I've never felt so seen. That's why I read that book.

I don't know where Brene got it from, but she channeled some divine light from that book. It struck lightning in so many people's hearts. I love that book, and it's been mentioned a billion times on this show. It was almost like a permission slip to be able to be okay with being okay. I love that. I'm going to have to go check and see if I can find a copy of the Phantom Tollbooth because I don't think I remember it. That'll be an interesting read.

It's good for all ages.

Kim, this has been great. I appreciate you coming on the show, sharing all of your brilliance, and having a great conversation with you. It made my day. Thank you.

Thank you so much for your questions and thank you for doing this more broadly. I think this is such a gift to the world. I appreciate you doing this.

Before I let you go, I want to make sure that people know where to find you. Where can they learn more about the group that you offer and you in general? What's the best place?

Thank you. My website has the information about the group. That's, and then I'm most active on LinkedIn. That's my most active social media platform. I'm sharing a lot of resources and themes related to what we talked about now there. I'd welcome anybody who wants to connect with me.

Thank you so much, and thanks to the audience for coming on the journey. I know you're leaving with a little bit more optimism in the day and some insights to go take your journey to another level. Thank you so much, Kim. Have a great day.

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