(Grammatical note on imposter syndrome: both imposter and impostor are ok. I go back and forth sometimes, but lately have seen imposter more frequently.)
Ah, imposter syndrome. It’s plagued me professionally for quite some time and now I find it creeping into other areas of my life as well.
I work in a communications/PR role. I’m surrounded by some truly brilliant people. Many of them have advanced degrees in communications. Most of them are managing communications for the most senior leaders in our company. My director worked as a speechwriter for President Obama when he was on the campaign trail. These people are legit.
When I compare myself to those people, I always end up thinking, “why in the heck did they hire me?”
Imposter syndrome is when you feel like you’re not good enough even though there’s evidence to the contrary. According to Forbes contributor Ashley Stahl, many people are fighting imposter syndrome, particularly high achievers, perfectionists and kids who developed it based on questionable parenting skills. I definitely fall somewhere into the high achiever or perfectionist categories.
I feel fairly certain that imposter syndrome has held me back at work. Constantly questioning myself means I’m not putting myself out there as often as I should. Beyond that, even when I do, I’m not always putting my FULL self out there. I had lunch with a colleague today who even commented on the fact that I seemed different—more relaxed and comfortable—during our lunch. I told him he was exactly right, because even though I have known my work group for ages (eight years!) and I adore them personally and know they like me back, I am still convinced I don’t belong with them in professional settings.
Honestly, it’s kind of a bummer.
And now that I’m blogging, I find it happening here too. How long do you have to blog before you can call yourself a blogger?
I’ve heard people talk about runners and say that as long as you put on the shoes and take a step, you can call yourself a runner. Does it work that way with blogging? Publish one post and boom—you qualify?
I’ve only been publishing consistently for a few months, so I don’t expect to feel legit at this point. But I’m wondering if I will always feel like I’m not quite there, or if a certain threshold (# of posts? # of readers? # of something else?) would assuage these concerns.
I don’t think so.
I was a dancer from 1990-2007 and then a coach until 2014. And yet, if you asked me if I was a dancer at all during those years, I’d have hemmed and hawed and debated my answer. Technically I took the classes and performed on the stage and occasionally placed at competitions, so yes, I was a dancer. But something about not being the best made me feel like I never quite earned the title.
The Forbes article suggests a few different ways to overcome imposter syndrome. The most tactical of the suggestions is taking note of your achievements. While my first reaction to that was an eye roll—this stuff is required at work for annual reviews and I’m no good at it—the practical side of me can see how it would be helpful. When a friend is feeling uncertain, we don’t hesitate to list out the reasons she is wonderful and awesome and amazing. It’s just so much harder to do it for yourself.
Maybe some people will always feel like imposters when it comes to specific roles in their lives. Maybe I will never feel like a real dancer or PR pro or blogger and maybe I need to accept that my self-perception is always going to be a little bit skewed. However, being aware of my limitations—including my limitation of limiting myself (getting a little meta here, I know)—feels like a good first step to accepting the different roles I play in my life and finally calling myself by the titles I’ve always wanted to feel worthy of.
Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome? Did you figure out a way to overcome it, or is it something you still struggle with?