I’ve recently been thinking about my work-life while on maternity leave.
Ever since I began my ‘proper’, grown-up career in analytics and/or marketing, I have been plagued by what is commonly referred to as Imposter Syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
According to Auntie Google, it’s technically not an actual condition, but more of a concept that describes the feelings of a growing number of men and women in the workplace. These feelings are based around a fear that you aren’t good enough at what you do and that you’ll soon be ‘found out’. You don’t quite know how you achieved your success and sooner or later, someone is going to clock-on that you’re a big, fat fraud.
Many articles that I have found on Imposter Syndrome describe it affecting ‘high achieving individuals’, but what does this mean?
I’m not the CEO of a multi-national company. In fact, I’m just a lowly analyst/digital marketer. I earn a pretty decent wage, but besides that, do I have the right to feel like an imposter?
Apparently not. If high-achieving is defined as a position of power or authority (as it commonly seems to be).
So why do I think I have it?
I have spent my adult life so far dabbling with a few different career choices. It just seems to flow that way.
One day, I’m learning analytics, the next I’m getting to grips with marketing, then I’m brushing up on customer experience. All of which I’m not too shabby at. But it scares me the ease at which these switches into totally different roles seemed to come.
I studied English Literature at University and always thought I’d eventually be some sort of writer. Then I entered the real world and realised that I needed other skills. So I grafted, I learned and I landed some great roles. But it all seemed to happen too easily.
I’m sure many of my lovely managers will tell you that’s because I did a good job – but I can’t shake the feeling that they’re missing something. That one day, they’d come into the office and notice that everything I had done up until that moment was entirely wrong. Which would finally explain how I’d managed to claw my way up the corporate ladder from working in the Next bathroom department straight out of Uni.
I don’t think high-achieving necessarily means ‘top Executive’ anymore. I believe any of us who want to achieve anything in life can feel this debilitating fear.
How do I deal with Imposter Syndrome?
I know, I know – it sounds like I’m moaning about my work being too easy.
That’s not the case at all. I have found every one of these roles incredibly challenging. What I worry about is that I consistently overcame the challenges. Deep down, I know it must be a mixture of talent, hard work and my ability to learn quickly. I’ve always been a fast learner and could pass tests at school with minimum effort and no revision.
But this doesn’t sound reasonable to the imposter in my desk chair. She needs more proof.
So I deal with her the best way I can:
- By reminding her that I haven’t been ‘found out’
- That for every piece of critical feedback I receive, I get twice as much praise
- That I really have worked hard for my development and the skills I’ve acquired – own it girl!
- And most importantly, that even if I was unmasked as a giant imposter in an office suit, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’m not a surgeon, I don’t have people’s lives in my hands.
This helps. It doesn’t eradicate the self-doubt entirely, but it goes a long way to reassuring me that I’m on the right path.
I’ve gained an excellent perspective on how far I’ve come in my career since being on maternity leave. It’s much easier to recognise the signs of Imposter Syndrome when you are far away from the boardroom and comfortable in your own environment. I’m looking forward to returning to work and ‘owning’ my success instead.
Oh and in case you were wondering, I’m pursuing my love of writing with this very blog that you’re reading. Now just to avoid feeling like an imposter in the written form….