A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at an online youth event. I couldn’t wrap my head around that. Did I wonder why me? This isn’t for me. I’m not the type of speaker they want. What have I done that is worth talking about? How could I possibly compare myself, and all of my failures, to the brilliant women who could have spoken on that day?
I was intimidated; the imposter syndrome was doing its job. I continued to lurk in the shadows of the internet. I read about the trolls and wondered if I was ready for that. I then went on YouTube and watched all the brilliant speeches I would. It wasn’t until 5 days before the event that I decided to take the leap of faith. I committed to passing a message to this particular group. I wanted to tell them what I thought they needed to hear.
At that point, I figured what is the worst that could happen? If I don’t accept this offer, then this imposter syndrome would eat away at me for the rest of my life. Vulnerability and honesty were the only paths I could think of.
I can’t explain what I felt the moment I clicked ‘join meeting’. A sense of calm, I felt like a winner. At that point, I believed in myself and I had so much fun while at it.
As women, we often feel like frauds don’t we? I know I do and often, and there’s a term for it: the imposter syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome: an inescapable or pervasive feeling that you are not good enough, not smart enough, and don’t belong. Feeling as if you are a fake, a phony. Feeling insecure and doubting yourself, often despite evidence to the contrary. Feeling that you “got lucky” getting a job or into a school, not that you actually deserved it.
The term ‘imposter syndrome’ was originally coined by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in their landmark 1978 study of 150 highly successful professional women in various fields where despite great achievement, ranking and salary, many women felt like frauds.
It boils down to confidence, and despite more women than ever thriving in the workplace, it’s sad to admit, we’re so often our own worst enemies.
One of the greatest women, Mayo Angelou suffered from the syndrome,
‘I have written eleven 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.” ‘
Oscar-winner Kate Winslet feels it,
‘Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud’.
In a December 2018 girls event, in North London, Michelle Obama was asked how she felt about being viewed as a “symbol of hope.”
This is what she said, “I still have a little [bit of] impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you’re actually listening to me.”
What have I gathered along the way; How do we crush this monster?
Know the signs
Pay attention to your language choices, both when you’re talking to other people and when you’re talking to yourself — especially when it comes to talking about work. If you find your own success or the praise others give you uncomfortable, do some reflective thinking on where those types of thoughts came from and what it means in your professional life.
Claim Your Title
You need to CLAIM your title. Like, riiiiight now. Take out a piece of paper and a pen, or open the Notes app on your phone, and start a list. Write down your title. Like if someone asked you the question, “What do you do?” and you answered without fear, what would that title be? CLAIM IT.
Then, make three bullet points and answer these questions: Who do you serve? How do you serve them? What is their end result? One of the best ways to combat Imposter Syndrome is getting confident talking about what you do. If the next time someone asked you that question you could respond with your title and a summary of the answers to these questions, you’re claiming the title that used to make you feel like a fraud. Don’t add any caveats or verbal disclaimers, just a prompt and clear response, and leave it at that.
Admit You Don’t Have All the Answers
I want to make one thing crystal clear: Just because you own your title does not mean you need to have all the answers. In fact, I want you to admit that you don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay.
If you’re faced with a question about your line of work, THAT’S OKAY. You have permission to always be learning, to start with imperfect action and keep getting better over time. I’d hate for you to hide your magic from the world because you’re afraid of getting stumped by a little question from someone who doesn’t have a single clue about all the big things you’re destined to do.
I challenge you to take imperfect action, and to continue to grow. Imperfect action makes things happen. Take big, bold, imperfect steps forward. If you get a question that you can’t answer. Say it: I don’t know… And then ask for help along the way. And with every imperfect step forward, you’ll start to learn the answers to those questions that once stumped you. You’ll start moving in the right direction. New questions will arise… Trust me, they never stop popping up, but just because you don’t have the answer right now doesn’t make you an imposter.
Let go of your inner perfectionist
Many people who suffer from impostor syndrome are high achievers; people who set extremely high standards for themselves and are committed to doing their best and being the best.
But perfectionism only feeds into your impostor syndrome. When you feel like a fraud, it’s usually because you’re comparing yourself to some *perfect* outcome that’s either impossible or unrealistic.
Not only can no one do everything perfectly, but holding yourself to that standard can actually be super counterproductive. At some point, you need to take a step back and ask yourself: When is good enough good enough?
Bottom line? While striving for perfection is certainly noble, it’s usually not realistic — and often, it’s counterproductive and will only make you feel more like a fraud.
Celebrate Small Wins
Celebrate your accomplishments even if those are small wins. This has been such a game-changer for me. Whether you finished a project, accomplished a task or goal, take time to celebrate it, and recognize that you did it. Everyday progress — even a small win — can make all the difference in how you feel and perform.
I would wish to hear your Imposter Syndrome stories and how you overcame them.