In this blog post Kim Leary, CEO of Squibble, shares her experience of dealing with imposter syndrome and offers some tips on how you can beat it.
Ever get the feeling that you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, and that any minute you’ll be found out? Does the thought of being labelled a fraud or a phoney strike fear into you?
Well, you’re not alone. In fact, this is something that many people—especially us women—face. This feeling, otherwise known as imposter syndrome, is something that hits especially hard on your career.
I should know, I’ve lived with it most of my working life. It starts with the smallest niggling feeling that you don’t fit in, aren’t ‘good enough’ and spirals into a detrimental descent that has the potential to destroy your career.
But dealing with imposter syndrome doesn’t have to mean you’re a sitting duck waiting for your career potential to be snatched away from you. There are ways you can learn to live with imposter syndrome, and even overcome it, which not only means you can stop limiting your ability, but also push forward and progress further than you ever thought possible.
Read on for a glimpse into my personal experience with imposter syndrome and to learn more about the ways I found to overcome it.
Today, I’m the CEO of my own creative agency. Better still, it’s won countless awards, including the prestigious Business Excellence Award. I’ve also been recognised with the Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards.
But the Kim from 10 or even 5 years ago wouldn’t believe this was possible. In fact, wind the clock back and past me wouldn’t believe any of it was. This was the debilitating self-doubt that the imposter syndrome web had me trapped in.
As I mentioned, I’m the founder of my own creative agency, I employ a number of amazing staff and we have worked with some pretty big clients, but did I mention that I never studied web development or graphic design at uni? As a matter of fact, what I did do (textiles) was far from it. Everything I know is self taught, all the experience I’ve gained to get to where I am today has been hard graft.
For years, this plagued me with the feeling of not belonging. Even after taking classes, practicing my craft and building a decent portfolio I felt like someone would find me out and tell me I didn’t know what I was doing.
Overcoming imposter syndrome
Overcoming might not be the right word for it. I still get this feeling today, on occasion. But it’s certainly something which has a quieter voice than it used to. I guess it’s more a case of ‘learning to live with it’ and drowning out the negative voice in my head.
I think the main thing that drove me to continue, and more importantly not give up, was my determination to do what I feel passionate about and succeed at it. But there’s more than just a stubbornness to do well that’s to thank. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few tips that have helped beat out the feeling of not belonging, and I want to share those with any of you that are feeling the same way.
1. Know you’re not alone
It sounds cliche, but it really is true. You might think everyone else has it together, knows what they’re doing and where they’re going, but the reality is that this is just not true.
In fact, even some of the most successful women in the world have dealt with imposter syndrome. Michelle Obama has spoken about her experience, saying that it ‘never goes away’. Sounds ludicrous that someone as awesome as Michelle Obama has struggled with imposter syndrome, right?
But that’s how imposter syndrome works. It creeps into your insecurities and does it’s best to manifest them in your mind. But remember, you and Penelope Cruz are going through the same thing, and so are so many others.
2. Saying good can make you feel good
Sounds a bit silly, psyching yourself up. But research suggests that the things you say to yourself can change the way you see yourself: saying is believing.
If you think you don’t belong, you’ll feel like you don’t either. But telling yourself you deserve to be where you are, that you’ve worked hard to get there and that you are qualified just the same as anyone else in your position can actually help to make you believe it.
3. Fight the imposter
When it comes to imposter syndrome, you really are your own worst enemy. No one else is telling you negative things about yourself, it all stems from the imposter within.
So what happens if one day you just decide to block it out and tell it ‘no!’?
Sometimes, the best way to get rid of the imposter is to take charge and fight it. Every time you have a negative thought, know it’s the imposter in you and block it out. If you can form a habit of this you’ll find you become more confident in your ability and, as a result, the imposter takes a back seat.
The imposter is still there. If I let down my guard it’ll take the opportunity to take up a position in the forefront of my mind. But I know that I can keep it at bay by continuing to push myself, prove myself and develop as a professional, and so can you.