How To Tackle Imposter Syndrome With NFL Player Kelvin Beachum

Our chief philanthropy officer Ebony Beckwith chats with Beachum on the inaugural episode of her #BossTalks series, aimed at career-oriented professionals on LinkedIn.

Kelvin Beachum and Ebony Beckwith
Kelvin Beachum and Ebony Beckwith talk about imposter syndrome.

“Imposter syndrome is that little voice inside that creeps in and makes you question your own ability,” said Ebony Beckwith, Salesforce’s chief philanthropy officer in a recent conversation with NFL player Kelvin Beachum. Imposter syndrome is the feeling you don’t belong in a certain professional scenario, no matter how much experience you have in your field. If you are discounting your worth at work, chances are imposter syndrome is at play. 

Even someone like Beckwith — who manages a $400M+ portfolio as CEO of the Salesforce Foundation and sits on numerous boards, including the Warrior’s Foundation and Hamilton Families — experiences imposter syndrome from time to time. That’s why Beckwith tackles this subject in the premiere of her new career advice series on LinkedIn, #BossTalks, created to inspire professional growth.

This first episode shows Beckwith in conversation with Kelvin Beachum, Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle, professional speaker, and entrepreneur. Beachum also mentors youth, runs an annual football camp in Texas, and has led programs to increase minority access to careers within science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). They discuss:

  • It’s not about the thought, but what you do with it
  • How to tackle imposter syndrome with preparedness 
  • Be who you are. Whatever that is, be you
  • Beachum’s journey from fixing cars to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list
  • How to raise a mini-boss
  • How to determine your superpower

Let’s jump in, shall we? Scroll down to see the video and transcript in full, or breeze through the highlights: 

It’s not the thought, but what you do with it

Beckwith said imposter syndrome for her pops up unconsciously from time to time, whether through self doubt, stress, trying to feel perfect, or feeling like she’s failing. It’s when you recognize those thoughts you can do something about it, she adds. Beachum says the negative self-talk can affect your self esteem and it’s important to knock it aside — for yourself and your teammates if you see it emerge in them. “For me, it’s going back to the fundamentals and coming back to a foundation,” Beachum said. “Then starting to prep myself for those next phases, whether it’s mentally, psychologically, or whatever it may be, to get me back to where I know I can do this.”

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Tackle imposter syndrome with preparedness

Both Beckwith and Beachum agree that if you put in the hard work and the long hours, imposter syndrome has no place in your life. “If you know you’re prepared, you put in the time, you put in the work, you put in the research and the diligence,” Beachum said, “you can walk in with your chest up, your head up, proud, and know you can go in there and slay like you need to.”

Be who you are — whatever that is, be you

As people who have both dealt with imposter syndrome and have achieved greatness in their work, Beckwith and Beachum use their experience to guide younger people. They believe in imparting their wisdom to help others succeed and steer clear of that creeping negative voice. “One of the biggest things I tell my mentees is be who you are, whatever that is, be you,” Beachum shares. “Be confidently you. Be comfortable in your own skin. I don’t think we talk about that particular topic enough.” It’s something so many of us can relate to and need to hear — and listen to.

From fixing cars to pitching CEOs

Beachum earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Southern Methodist University, where he also graduated top of his class. He got drafted to play in the NFL and was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in sports. As an entrepreneur, he now gets meetings with CEOs and billionaires and, naturally, that nasty little voice tries to tell him he isn’t welcome in their company. Then he reminds himself that while he grew up fixing cars and feeding cattle in Texas, he does belong there. Why? He earned it.

How to raise a mini boss

The 31-year-old football player has three young children with his wife, Jessica, who is preparing for medical school. Beachum says he was raised by a strong mother alongside strong sisters (his younger sister was a Texas state basketball champion) and wants to impart that same strength onto his daughters and son. Even before his first daughter’s birth, he would talk to her in the womb and tell her she was a genius. His advice to other parents who want to push too hard? “We have to allow these young people to be kids,” he said. “Allow them to mature, and take risks, and experience life. But, at the same time, find a way to provide affirmations every day.” He says it’s about investing time in your kids, especially young girls, and communicating with them. He even asked his oldest daughter once if he was being too hard on her and said, “What can daddy do better?”

Determine your superpower

Beckwith asks all her guests about their superpower after sharing hers: the ability to take big risks. For Beachum, it’s all about paying it forward. “I get so much joy out of opening doors for people,” he admits. “I take pride in it. I enjoy it. I look forward to it. That’s what’s allowed me to get to where I am today, and where I know I’m going to be going in the future.”

Want to read the full interview — including viewer questions at the end? Here it is:

Ebony Beckwith:
Hello, everyone. And welcome to the very first episode of Boss Talks. This is a new series presented by Salesforce featuring candid career conversations with people I admire and trust to keep it real. Today, we’re talking about imposter syndrome. This is a topic I get asked about all the time, and it’s likely because everyone, I don’t care who you are, has experienced imposter syndrome at one point or another.

Imposter syndrome is that little voice inside that creeps in telling you that you can’t do something and makes you question your own ability. This is something that can still pop up for me from time to time, and sometimes it just creeps in unconsciously. It can show up in a lot of different ways whether it’s feelings of self-doubt, or that feel of failure, even perfectionism, or stress.

But what really matters isn’t the thought itself, but what you do with it, and that’s where we’re going to focus the conversation today. To help me out with that, I’ve invited my friend, investor, and NFL athlete, Kelvin Beachum, to share his experience and tips for turning negative self-talk into a powerful source of motivation. Kelvin, welcome to Boss Talks. Thank you so much for joining us today.

By Ian M.

Hi! I'm Ian! I take pictures of people, places, and things.

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