Are you an imposter?
Hello, my name is Emily and I’m an imposter.
I’m happy to hold my hands up and say I’ve been a long-time sufferer of imposter syndrome. Maybe you have too? Have you ever had that feeling that you you’re not up to a particular task, but you’ve duped people around you into thinking that you can do that task or that you’ve just been lucky so far, and at some point someone else is going to realise that and expose you as a fraud? Yup, that’s imposter syndrome alright.
It’s not just in my professional life that I’ve felt like an imposter. I was shocked and amazed on passing my driving test first time and was convinced the examiner had made a mistake – I was 100% sure I had failed and my response was to ask “really?!”.
The driving test example is probably pretty common, but it’s quite a regular occurrence in my day-to-day life. I’m often left questioning why people have thanked me for a good job, or asked me to do certain tasks that I don’t think I have the capability for.
I’d love to be self-assured like so many friends and colleagues are (or at least appear to be on the surface), but I’ve been reading up on imposter syndrome and it actually sounds like a pretty good diagnosis.
It’s far more common than you might expect and even some truly great minds have succumbed to it – I’m honoured to be in such good company! In her book, Lean In, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg writes “Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself - or even excelled - I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up”. American author and poet Maya Angelou once shared a similar thought – “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out’.”.
So, there’s no need to wallow if you’ve been struck by a case of imposter syndrome. But what can we do to relieve the symptoms?
Give yourself a break!
If you haven’t already accepted that IT’S COMPLETELY OK TO HAVE DOUBTS, then try some well known tips for getting yourself out of that anxious mindset.
Take a break and try some positive body language tips to boost your confidence – I love this TED talk from Amy Cuddy on power poses. Why not have a quick blast of your favourite uplifting track – personal experience has taught me how impactful it can be to shout along to Eminem’s ‘Lose It’ whilst in the car with a good friend just before going in to a scary meeting.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Channel the confidence of someone who you really admire and respect, be that Beyoncé, Arianna Huffington, or a legendary football manager. If you start responding in a different way and own the compliments you receive, the more it becomes the norm and you’ll get to a point when you’ll genuinely start to accept it as reality.
Choose your boss wisely
From a work POV, I love being part of the team at Trinity McQueen. I’ve worked with amazing individuals in the past who have encouraged my confidence but there’s something different about this agency – maybe it’s the celebration culture, where team members celebrate the successes of colleagues who may be too shy to shout about it themselves.
Trinity McQueen has given me opportunities to push my boundaries in an environment where I don’t feel completely out of control. I’ve been asked to give training to others, that was a real eye-opener and made me think “maybe I do know something about this research malarkey”.
In summary, you’re not alone. Acknowledge it for what it is (just one perception of what’s going on) and regain that belief in yourself by listening to the other perceptions of what has happened i.e. the people telling you that you’ve done a good job. Think about this: maybe the real imposters are actually the ones who never have a single doubt about their abilities and just carry on regardless. And, as a final thought, in the words of the relentlessly positive football manager Danny Cowley – “impossible is just an opinion”.
Emily Van Rooyen, Research Manager