Executive coaches Kate Purmal, Lee Epting and Joshua Isaac Smith work with ambitious, successful women whose confidence doesn’t match their achievements, leading to significant stress and anxiety. Using a series of case studies of executive clients, their book walks readers through the common causes of this lack of confidence and effective ways of building it back up.
The book is written in first person, from the viewpoint of Purmal. Its “composure” framing device and title is a bit of a red herring. While Purmal notes the importance of confidence-building and working on self-awareness so that our outer selves can keep cool under pressure, the book focuses mostly on the better-understood concept of Imposter Syndrome, which involves “a lack of confidence, rejection sensitivity, perfectionism, depressed entitlement [undervaluing what you deserve], and feeling like a fraud.”
The book covers the various ways in which (mostly) women arrive at this state of mind, including childhood triumphs and traumas, and the characteristics that are built alongside: overdeveloped external motivation, collection of performance indicators such as grades and awards, a tendency to avoid new challenges to evade the possibility of failure, and a hypersensitivity to criticism. The authors suggest that readers work on developing the five key abilities associated with composure: confidence, composure, credibility, clarity and connection. The journey to move past Impostor Syndrome is long but worthwhile, comprising three phases: awareness, resolution, and transformation.
Composure is a quick, crisply written read, consisting mostly of dialogues between Purmal and some of her clients. They work through issues like setting intentions, acting as-if, setting boundaries, dealing with conflict, and limiting negative self-talk and inaccurate internal beliefs. There’s plenty of encouragement and suggestions for avoiding common professional derailment points.
The misleading title and marketing copy may make it difficult for readers who would most benefit from the book to discover it, but those who pick it up will find useful thought exercises to assist them in putting their Imposter Syndrome to rest.
Highly recommended for fans of Valerie Young, Jennifer Hunt, Ash Ambirge, Caroline Flanagan