That itty-bitty feeling that creeps in from the pit of your stomach when you’re not looking. It makes you doubt yourself and your abilities. It’s a concoction of nerves, a dash of stress and a touch of anxiety that hits all at once. It might smack you right when you’re congratulated for doing a good job, or when a big challenge lies ahead at work, or maybe it’s bang on when you have to give a presentation. You think, hang on, I’m secretly no good at this. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m just making it all up. The jig’s nearly up. I’m going to get caught. Someone’s bound to find out sooner or later I’m a fraud?!
Hello, imposter syndrome.
Whether it’s a fleeting visit of the ol’ imposter-itis or something that hangs around a little longer, a lot of us face that fear of being “found out” at one time or another.
Although not a medical condition as such (if only because then we might be able to pop a little pill to make it go away), it’s something a lot of us come up against in the workforce, arguably affecting more women than men. It even strikes the most confident of girl bosses.
Tina Fey admitted to having a case of it: “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud,” she said.
We all know the famous words of Emma Watson on the issue too. “When I was younger, I just did it. I just acted. It was just there. So now when I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself. I feel like an impostor. It was just something I did,” she said.
Imposter syndrome might be something you face throughout your whole life (I’m even getting spouts of it whilst writing this! Tapping away on the keyboard feeling like an imposter because I couldn’t possibly write about imposter syndrome because it’s not something that I really truly face?! Oh but it is.”). Or it might come in bursts in the early-mid stage of your career. Apparently it’s something ambitious people more commonly face.
The tip-top important thing is to not let it get to you. It’s going to come in ebbs and flows.
So here’s how to deal.
Get all Frozen-like and ‘let it go’. Trust me, you don’t want to hold onto this thing. Those feelings are not the truth. Say it with me. It. Is. Not. True. Whenever the feeling hits, try not to buy into it.
Back yourself. It’s not just luck that you got you where you are. Think about all of your hard work and achievements. Make a list of all of your accomplishments and remind yourself of the hard work you put in to make each of things successful.
Rely on your team. One millennial gal who experiences Imposter Syndrome, a Kiwi living in London, Ella McIntosh, says the team culture is crucial to getting through it. “I’m a big fan of recognising it in others and therefore championing their successes,” she said. “Creating an environment of support and affirmation is key. Now that I’m a team lead, I have the influence to foster this situation. It’s not always big, but for example I like to buy my team (who happen to all be women!) coffees as a surprise or celebrate their wins with wider divisions. Support drives support and whenever I feel like I’m ‘about to be caught’ I can rely on my team to back me in the same way I back them.”
Talk to others & seek advice. If you’ve got the icky feeling looming over you like a dark cloud, then it could be a bit more than a fleeting case of the imposter cold. You might have more of like the flu, in which case you need professional advice. Yep, go to someone about it. Whether it’s the boyf, the BFF or the boss, have a deep and meaningful. You’ll feel better afterwards. Let them know what’s eating you up and get their help to put measures in place to assist. Together, you’ll figure it out.
Moments like these in my career still happen – where I turn up to work and wonder how on earth I got where I am. But the reality is, there is a reason that you have the job you were given,” – Lauren Watling.
No one really knows what they’re doing. Another millennial, Producer Lauren Watling, said she comes up against Imposter Syndrome. She shared her experience: “I had been working as a TV Producer for about two years and I was organising the biggest shoot of my life with a huge crew. I turned up to set and someone asked me where the Producer was; thinking that I was the Production Assistant. I was 23, probably looked 18, and this comment absolutely threw me. I was already on edge, wondering how on earth I had landed this gig and could actually be in charge. I went and spoke to the Director about it, who laughed and said, “Well good thing you’re not the runner, or this shoot wouldn’t be happening today”. It was then I realised all of the people were in the room because I had put them there and it was my responsibility to manage the job. Moments like these in my career still happen – where I turn up to work and wonder how on earth I got where I am. But the reality is, there is a reason that you have the job you were given. Embrace the fact that we are responsible for the role and never doubt yourself or your ability. I honestly believe no one gets into a role that they 100% know inside and out – but there’s a reason you were given the opportunity.”
Know that it’s going to get better. Keep in mind, the more experience you get climbing that career ladder, the more and more you can handle. I’ve found now that I’m managing other staff and the leader on big projects, I can feel the success of it more ‘authentically’. It feels a little more real and like I can enjoy it because I know I’m the “manager” and therefore in charge so the results are a true reflection of myself.
Gotta feel the lows to feel the highs. It is a rocky journey. With mountains. There will be peaks and troughs to get through but just know, you’ll always come out the other side. So put your boots on and climb.
Use these tips to help yourself, and others around you, to kick ass in your careers.