My journey dealing with Imposter Syndrome
A blog of my personal journey dealing with Imposter Syndrome, by Emma:
I had heard the term ‘imposter syndrome’ many times over the last few years, but I had never really looked into what this meant, as I genuinely felt like it wouldn’t relate to me.
I felt the term was relevant to those in senior, high-level roles or star athletes representing their country at the highest level.
Why I had this belief, I am unsure. But I had no idea that all those little nagging feelings like:
“I’m not good enough for this job”
“How have I ended up in this role? I’m so not capable of this”
Were me experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
So, what is Imposter Syndrome?
If you don’t know what I’m referring to, Imposter Syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.
Feeling like you’re a fraud, devaluing your own worth or undermining your experience or expertise are all classic imposter syndrome thoughts. No matter how many qualifications, endorsements or accomplishments you have, you still feel this way.
Unfortunately, this can have a huge effect on your emotional well-being and performance as you tend to start working harder and holding yourself to even higher standards – like I found myself doing (and sometimes still do!).
When it all began
For me, this first started to happen as I developed my career and took on more challenging and demanding roles. At the time, I didn’t know what Imposter Syndrome was, let alone that I was starting to fall victim of it.
I strive in challenging environments and every opportunity I had to learn or grow I jumped on, which meant I was growing on both a personal and professional level (= gaining more skills, knowledge and recognition).
However, as I progressed and received promotions, I constantly felt inadequate or like I wasn’t good enough for the role I was in, or the promotion I was being offered.
You would think being offered a promotion would be reassurance in itself!
However, for some reason I would throw logic out the window and straight away I would doubt my ability to perform in this role.
In order to try and ‘prove myself’ I would set extreme expectations on myself, and when I say ‘extreme’ I mean even higher than my already high standards! I am what you would call a perfectionist across all areas of my life.
Words that my close friends and family, as well as myself, would use to describe me are:
As early as 2, I would sit with those wooden peg boards with all the different colours for hours, making sure everything was aligned and in patterns, and God help you if you came along and messed it up! This probably doesn’t sound like much, but this personality trait has stuck with me and metamorphosed from my school years through to work and home life (trust me, I can drive my husband crazy sometimes!).
The downward spiral
Setting these high expectations, which are quite often unachievable, mixed with working longer and harder is like setting myself up to fail. It’s quite a downward spiral; set higher expectations, fail, doubt myself more, beat myself up, setting ever higher standards.. and on and on it goes.
I also need to remember that sometimes there are things out of my control that limits my ability to perform to my level of standard.
Since learning about Imposter Syndrome and what comes along with it, I have found ways to mitigate and manage it, but I think, like most people, it will be an ongoing internal battle.
Stop underestimating my skills & abilities
Recently I have been told, on 2 separate occasions, that I ‘massively underestimated my ability’ which provides me with the reassurance that yes, I am actually pretty good at what I do!
Another big reassurance for me was being named as a finalist as top performing in my field of work. It came as a very big surprise, as I hadn’t planned on entering the awards, but a welcome surprise at that.
As I say, this is an on-going internal battle I find myself in regularly. Maybe it’s time I printed out those ‘you’ve underestimated your skill’ emails, as well as my qualifications and endorsements to have next to me in my office. There’s nothing better than a daily reminder of my capabilities to help squash those imposter feelings!
Ways I try to manage and mitigate the effects of Imposter Syndrome
When I find Imposter syndrome raising its ugly head the first step for me is to acknowledge the feeling and have a think about why I may be feeling it. By doing this, I am, in a way, avoiding the feeling from taking hold and controlling my next steps.
I am lucky to have a strong support network around me, including people who also experience imposter syndrome, so reaching out to them has been really helpful. Not only do they reassure me that what I am feeling is normal and offer an outsider’s perspective, but simply talking about it can take a weight off my shoulders.
Oh, and my 2 young daughters – without even realising, they’re my little helpers when the day has been tough! Watching them learn, grow and embrace what life throws their way, really puts everything back into perspective. If we all took life as seriously as a 3- and 5-year-old, maybe we’d all be a little more relaxed!