The Duality of Imposter Syndrome-My experience
I am not enough. The thought runs through our minds so often, well-through mine anyway and I'm sure enough others that Imposter syndrome was born.
Here's the thing--you can live with this, let it freeze you or abandon the dreams that you aren't "good enough" to do right now. It's up to you how you move through it. You didn't always know how to ride a bike or cook an omelet--yet most of us were able to get past not knowing to knowing and for some into mastery. For me imposter syndrome is quite the same.
Here is a bit of how I work through this as it shows up.
I have the thought…"I'm not good enough" which often sounds a bit different. Often it's in comparison to something or someone else…who is smarter than me, more put together than me, with a bigger title or paycheck than me…you name it--I am sure there is a way to feel "less than" that person, group or situation.
After all-I'm just little ole me right? I know intimately ALL of my imperfections (real or perceived). I KNOW I am not perfect. The more I type the deeper a hole I sink into. If I keep going it may swallow me whole. OR give me the slow torture of sinking into it like quicksand until just the tip of my head is visible. That sounds like such a fun way to walk through the world, right? (insert sarcastic laugh here)
So how do I pull myself out? By finding ONE (yes, just one) true thought. Here's the secret--It doesn't even need to be my own. It can be something someone else believes to be true about me.
I know. Right?
When I was a new leader and would be faced with a challenge or someone would question what I was doing or how I was approaching things with my team , I would often fall into self doubt and become fatalistic about myself and my competency. I was fortunate to have a few things in my corner during this time, or I probably wouldn't have made it.
I was stubborn. There was no giving up. I would not waive a flag succumb to the popular thought of the day--unless I also believed it was sustainable. I succeed.
I had strong leadership above me. Not to tell me what to do or how to do that (though sometimes that happened too) but to help me separate fact from emotion. To learn more tools to objectively support or disprove my points. To teach me what to look for. To think through who's lens the information was coming from and why they might think that way. And when that failed (as it sometimes did) to remind me WHY they hired me into that role.
Peer support. Not everyone has this-I know. For me I had a peer group that thrived on collaboration with each other. There was plenty of competition among us as well, but each of us had differing strengths and developed those along with the others. We took courses or read leadership books together. We learned from one another. I began listening to what questions were being asked of me. And I noticed a pattern. Following that-I began to build confidence in my own strengths, some of which I had previously been completely unaware of. This is the value of a mastermind group. If you don't have one built in where you work-I'd encourage you to find one outside of work. It is so helpful to be able to bounce ideas off someone else who gets the space you are in.
These 3 items were the start of letting go of that imposter syndrome and truly believing that I COULD do it and was more than good enough for the role I was in.
That said-there were times when it still showed up. I began to counter it in a new way. When walking into a room filled with executives more senior than I, I would remind myself that they were at the end of the day humans too. And if they could do it all they would, but they had to know that they weren't an expert at everything ALL the time--which is why I was employed. I had something that they also needed, or I wouldn't be there. And they were all at one time in the space I was in.
This led me to be prepared with details that I hoped would be useful in these conversations and to feel confident in sharing my insights and questions. As one peer encouraged me-to be "the brave one" and say what needed to be said. Often starting with what was in it for THEM. Very much leaning into my intuition on how much and when to share, to find the right moments. I'm sure for some people I was always "too much", but more often what I got back was validation and sometimes-even some wins for my team and or myself.
I also used feedback to continue to grow and balance myself in those questioning moments. Anything constructive or lacking I really took a look at to ensure I could learn to do something in a more cohesive way while also understanding that I wasn't going to be able to please everyone. I changed my thought around making a mistake from fatal thinking- "this is the end of the world" to an open mindset- "I made a mistake and that means I am trying something new. Now I know one thing that won't work-what can I try that might".
I would also take the positive feedback and started to keep it--either in a "compliments" journal or brag book or in a file on my computer. ***I kept this separate from team accomplishments--as those were owned by the team. It was my role to help them shine** I would use these to remind myself of moments I showed up at my best, things others saw in me that surprised me, or were hard wins from previous challenge points. At my most doubtful moments reflecting on these wins boosted my confidence or morale to pull me back to center. That is the duality I find in Imposter Syndrome. It is there. It will show up again. BUT if you can look back to who you used to be and find power in the growth you have obtained this far, then you can push through it and have confidence in yourself. Where you are today is exactly where you are supposed to be.
Do I still battle with this--HECK YES! Especially now as I have shifted career paths and am a solo-preneur. It's me, myself and I everyday--with the exception of peers I've surrounded myself with and my amazing clients who I love that I get to work with. I'm not quite at square one-as I am so proud of what I've accomplished and looking back, own my growth and achievements thus far, but I am "New" again in this role as a business owner--while not "new" at my coaching work--it was my favorite thing to do as a leader and the time I spent training for certifications confirmed that for me, the business "how to" for me is new and so fun to get to dive into.
I'm finding leaning back on the same tools I learned in my corporate space so helpful here to counter those imposter vibes.
If you've been here--what tools have you used to get you out? What did you realize about yourself along the way? Talking through this and sharing can be so helpful to support others along their way.
At the end of the day-we are all on our own journeys of growth. When you are in the muck--Let it mean that you are growing! When you are feeling a bit lost and unknowing--congratulate yourself! It means you are learning AND aware. It doesn't mean that you aren't good enough or shouldn't be there. You're just a seed, waiting to sprout and you CAN do it.