Ever felt a creeping dread that things are going far too well at work, and that soon enough it will all come crashing down culminating in you not being as good as everyone thought you were? Or that feeling after the excitement of being invited to an event or picked to do something special at work , that gives you that nervous doubting feeling? Or something akin to this?
Welcome to Imposter Syndrome.
I feel like this installation in Wroclaw represents this quite accurately. On the surface (from a distance) it looks like one thing (a nice sturdy solid object) but close up when you get to look you can see it’s actually different (it’s like a rib cage kind of effect).
What actually is imposter syndrome?
The fear that you will be ‘found out’ for what you are, what you’re not achieving, what you’re not delivering and so on, and what can sometimes get worse when you do achieve. I distinctly remember being sat with my boss thinking surely one day he’s going to say well, actually Lucy that was rubbish. He never did! I remember thinking is this it? Am I actually doing this now? As quite frankly it’s not that difficult! Maybe I’m missing something, maybe I’m not as good as I think I am, maybe this isn’t it!?
Spoiler alert I wasn’t, I was and it was!
You see the theme now I’m sure. It’s that internal voice that knocks what confidence you may have, makes you compare yourself to others, and generally makes you put yourself down before others can. Pretty shitty right!
So How Did I Overcome It? I Sought Validation.
Imposter syndrome for me hinged on being ‘found out’. When I looked into this it was because I didn’t have a cheerleader telling me I was doing great, I was on my own, carrying on doing what I was doing without checking in at points where it mattered to see if I was on the right track or heading in the right direction (other variants of this can involve being self critical, or fearing you’re too confident for what you did achieve). So I looked at the three things I wanted to put in place to help me overcome this nagging feeling of incompetence.
1. Manage expectations and understand theirs
What is expected of you in the task you’ve been given? What is the track you should be one? What do you need to do or give follow up on after that event you’ve going to go to. What can you physically achieve and when by? Tell them! I always like the idea of under promise and over deliver but I just can’t ever do it, I have to set my standards high at the start (perfectionist some may say- also doesn’t help with the imposter feelings!)
2. Check in with this expectations if you start to doubt
There’s no harm in checking in, be it a question you need to ask, or just to understand if you’re on the right track to manage those expectations. It doesn’t have to be who you are delivering it to either, it can be peers, mentors, friends or wider team members that can give advice once you’ve given them a five min download on what’s required.
3. Look Back
Sometimes taking a few minutes to look back when you are doubting what you are doing can really help. Remind yourself of what you’ve achieved to date, when you last felt the way you feel at that moment- what was the outcome? You’ll always not give yourself enough credit until you start to remind yourself of what you’ve done so far. For those that are very self critical though this step probably won’t work, so instead start to focus on the parts that did go well instead of the bits you felt that didn’t go so well.
Unfortunately on some industries you don’t have cheerleaders or people there to help get lessen the imposter syndrome feeling. And in some you have those waiting in the wings for you to fall. So it’s all on you! Think about how it impacts you, what are the triggers, what is the cycle you need to break to stop it? I’d love to know stories on how you’ve managed this and what your struggles have been so please comment below!
Coat: ASOS Curve Removable Faux Fur Parka (Pink sold out. Black, yellow and grey available in core range and Tall range £75)
Pom Pom Hat :River Island £16
Boots: Sorel Joan of Arctic £165
Ps I’m no expert, and I’ll always share my experiences or others that I’ve been given permission to share.