How to overcome your impostor syndrome?
When I started my corporate career at 22, I felt no fear. Ever. I felt confident, cocky at times as I could clearly foresee the career trajectory lying front of me. I knew I had a role to play; I was backed-up by great mentors and had a supporting network of women and men wishing me to succeed.
Then I changed job, moved country and considerably upgraded my job’s responsibilities and financial compensation. And with that, came like rushing a wave of self-doubt and inadequacy I had never experienced before. In my head, all I could hear was that I wasn’t cut for it nor did I deserved this lifestyle; I would inevitably disappoint my boss and the people I managed, and just knew it was a matter of time before someone realize I was not the savior people had hired for this type of job. And yet I survived and did great. But the seed to what was to come was there.
Fast forward to me moving to Norway and losing my job in a startup within 6 months due to restructuring and lack of finances. This crushed me, in a way I couldn’t anticipate then. Sure, at the time I shared the financial stress that this caused after just having bought a house, sure this created some shame in social occasions; but what it really instilled in me was this fear I would then carry into my new job: the constant fear of this happening again. And when it had nothing to do with my competences, what the voice keeps telling me is that I wasn’t wanted, I wasn’t necessary, I wasn’t good enough. And this is an occurrence I actively have to fight every day.
If you have ever felt this stomach-plunging fear that you’ll be revealed as a fraud; that somehow someday people will realize they had made a big mistake hiring you; or that you probably cost too much or keep failing to hit the mark; you know what I mean.
After research, I found that this is actually a very commonplace among high-achievers who think they’ve never done enough; and people with perfectionist tendencies, who think they could have done better work. Is has nothing to do with external validation, but everything with self-worth (or lack of rather).
I had to learn to deep-dive into why these thoughts were creating so much pain and anxiety into my life. What was this fear all about? What terrifying outcome was I so anxious to prevent? And I realized that it wasn’t about not being liked, or not belonging. What terrified me was the possibility of people suddenly realizing I was not really needed. That my role did not contribute to anything, so that I could be let go. And having to own up to the fact that I would have failed to attain the perfection-threaded expectations for my life.
For a long time, I was scared and ashamed to even open-up about recurrent anxiety. About the panic attacks I would have at work or the insomnia episodes. I thought I was alone. And then I spoke out. And I received the warmest encouragements, and realized that most of us were going through this in one or another area of our lives.
So when your impostor syndrome comes rushing, when this internal voice does creep out, try this:
#1 It’s OK to stop and look back on what you have achieved
Write down all the projects you have delivered this last quarter, and this year. And even if you feel you are just delivering as expected, chances are your expectations are probably higher than everyone else’s. You’ve done awesome work, you’ve made some great connections, you have delivered and you have learnt a tone of new things. . If you are like me, you’ll fight back and dismiss the term ‘achievement’, but just take it girlfriend.
#2 Cut yourself some slack
OK – this particular aspect of a project or this industry is new to you; but who has worked in every industry and been involved in every scope of projects and managed all ranks and ages of people? Exactly. Stop freaking out because you feel you are lying your way to the top.
#3 Remember, everyone else improvises
Some are just better at owning up to it and therefore concealing their lack of knowledge or experience. I remember asking my good friend V – who was constantly (in my eyes) nailing it at work and managing a lot of people and traveling across Europe on a weekly basis with such ease – how she was managing it all with such grace and poise and strength without doubting herself. She answered plainly ‘I fake it, till I make it. And so, does everyone else’. Her answer blew my mind. Another thing that fraud syndrome does, is make you think you are alone on your island of doubts. No one else knows, but everyone tries.
#4 This is just you not trusting yourself
When you get nervous for being called into a meeting, or when your personal review comes up or when you have to present your work front of a new or more senior audience: remember that people are not hoping for you to trip over, people are not waiting to crack you wide open and expose you.
I also keep this quick bullet point list on my notes app. A quick glance when in doubt:
- You are here because you did something good
- What you’re feeling isn’t founded on anything real
- People actually want you to do well
- Everyone is too focused being focused on themselves
- Go to the bathroom and breathe in and out deeply for 10 minutes
Friend, you are great. You are trying and yes maybe failing at times, but who isn’t? Try to look at the bigger picture and be more gentle with yourself. You are doing just fine, if not better xx
If you are interested in self-care and dealing with anxiety, you will like these articles:
Hope to see and read from you soon girlfriends x