December 2019; I vividly remember leaving my small shared office to lock myself in the toilet to have a little cry. The stress all felt too much and crying was the release I needed.
What had triggered this episode in the toilet was a comment from a more senior colleague that insinuated she’d been waiting too long for a report I was due to run for her. That’s how it played out in my head anyway. I was convinced that this colleague I respected thought I was incompetent, and it stung hugely.
The comment was just one of a couple which broke the camel’s back as it were. I had been feeling like a fraud and like I was ‘winging it’ for months, convinced that I was doing a bad job. In that moment in the toilet I felt so overwhelmed with my work load and increasing responsibility, that I seriously considered leaving.
Just over a year earlier I had accepted the job knowing that it would be a challenge, (I had no previous experience in the field) but feeling relatively confident that I could draw on all the previous career and life experience I had and make it work. I told myself then that I wouldn’t have been given the role if my boss didn’t think I could do it.
Cut to early February 2020, and I finally admitted to my boss that I was struggling with feeling anxious and not good enough. As soon as the words were out, it felt like a massive weight had been lifted. I had avoided saying anything for so long because I thought it would be admitting I was weak.
Which I know sounds ridiculous – and it was ridiculous because in my yearly review my boss told me I was doing really well. She also changed the way she gave me constructive feedback so that it didn’t feed my anxiety any further.
It was only after admitting that I was struggling, and doing a little research of my own, that I realised I had been suffering with Imposter Syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
There is no Imposter Syndrome ‘test’ as it were, (or certainly not one that I’m aware of anyway) but there are definitely signs to be aware of. For example, if any part of my story resonates with you, then it’s likely that it’s something you’re trying to deal with too.
To begin to help tame that inner imposter, I find that it helps to have an understanding of exactly what it is. Imposter Syndrome stems from the core belief that we’re inadequate, incompetent and a failure, despite evidence that shows we’re skilled and successful. It’s when you feel like an intellectual fraud – unable to internalise or celebrate your achievements.
If this is all sounding familiar, perhaps these everyday examples might help solidify things further.
Like me, do you worry that you’re not living up to the expectations of other people? Especially when it comes to work.
Do you go overboard with with planning tasks and goal setting? I was writing such extensive to-do lists, that it was scary just looking at them!
Or, have you avoided asking for a raise even though you’ve been in your job for a while and would be worthy of it?
The good news is that we’re by no means alone in this. In fact, we’re in great company. Kate Winslet, Emma Watson, Tina Fey and Lady Gaga are just a few hugely successful women that have identified as having Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career.
It’s so easy to get lost in the overwhelm that feeling like an imposter plunges you into. I let it drag me under for several months. However, here’s how I’ve started to overcome Imposter Syndrome, and I hope what I’ve learnt can help guide you with doing the same too.
Break Your Silence
Speak to someone about how you’re feeling. If you don’t feel strong enough to tell your boss just yet, tell a trusted friend. Talking things through will help you get out of your own head. When I eventually told my boss I was so surprised and relieved to realise that everything I had been telling myself had no evidence to validate it being true.
Accept Praise As Genuine
People aren’t just being nice! You wouldn’t be given praise if there wasn’t reason for it. Believe me, it can be so easy to explain away your achievements as something that any one could have done, or just luck. They’re not – you worked hard and deserve to be recognised for it.
Know You’re Doing Your Best
We set such a high bar for ourselves of standards we should be achieving, that often the goals we set aren’t even realistic. Try to start measuring your own success on whether you’ve tried your best today. If you have, no one can ask anything more from you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. How has Imposter Syndrome made you feel? And what has it taught you about yourself?
Featured Image by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
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