At some point, in every job I’ve ever had, I’ve felt like an impostor. I’ve felt unqualified to make coffee, not good enough to manage a team and certainly not smart enough to write a book.
But you know what? I’ve done all of those things, and while I can’t guarantee my cappuccinos were ever frothy enough to win any prizes, I was never truly an impostor.
It was all in my head.
Here’s what I wish I’d know…..
1. It’s real and totally normal
It’s a psychological pattern in which you doubt your accomplishments and have a persistent, internalised fear of being exposed.
2. It gets worse the higher up the ladder you climb
It always amazes me to think that even billionaires feel like impostors sometimes. Every Oscar-winner has probably felt like a fraudster as they make their acceptance speech, having the most exciting moment of their career live on stage in front of the world.
Part of impostor syndrome is that it’s actually rife amongst seasoned experts. Scientists and writers at the top of their game are all likely to experience it even though the world sees them as extremely knowledgable in their field.
3. It’s not just women who get it
While early research assumed impostor syndrome was most common amongst high-achieving women, it’s now widely acknowledged as an issue experienced by both sexes. Tom Hanks gets it!
I didn’t realise that every small piece of criticism I got was feeding into my impostor syndrome. I could get hundreds of positive comments from my boss and then one small negative thing would stick with me for weeks or even months, grinding down my self esteem. This made me feel like a failure and like I was a really bad employee and just a rubbish person in general.
5. It makes you work hard
The more I succumbed to impostor syndrome the more intent I became on proving myself wrong. I was so scared that I was going to be disciplined or fired that I worked really hard to prove to the world that I was a good manager.
6. Sometimes a little too hard
Yes, impostor syndrome definitely contributed to me busting a gut and saying yes to way more things than I could actually handle. I thought that saying ‘no’ was proof that I was unqualified so I bit off more than I could chew which led to burnout and ultimately a mental breakdown.
7. Sometimes it’s a sign you need to move on
I’ve learned recently is that it’s OK to quit. If you constantly feel like a failure and you think that it’s related to your job then maybe it’s not right for you. There is a time in life for getting out of your comfort zone but there’s also a time when you need to be right there in it, just coasting along and enjoying other things.
8. But most of the time it’s a sign that you’re embarking on something exciting
Feeling a mix of fear and excitement at work is quite special. It can propel you forwards. I’ve recently started doing a lot of speaking engagements and I’m choosing to look at it as a learning opportunity. I may not be qualified but the more I do it the better I’ll get at it!
I’ve learned two really simple and effective ways to cope with impostor syndrome, so much so that I managed to make a huge career change from working in catering to becoming a freelance writer and published author in just a few years without any relevant qualifications. I explain these techniques in detail in my new eBook Impostor Syndrome – A Practical Guide.
I’ve written a book all about impostor syndrome and how I managed to overcome it! Available on Etsy now.
10. Sometimes it’s helpful
Don’t believe me? Cosmopolitan editor Farrah Storr puts is like this:
“Those that ask questions are those that get ahead,” says Farrah. Impostor syndrome is nothing but a “control valve that alerts us when we are in our discomfort zone”. And what happens in that dreaded zone? Personal growth. Accelerated growth to be exact.
Have you experienced impostor syndrome? How did you deal with it?
If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll already know that I started 2019 with an exciting new project, the Positive People Podcast.
I know what you’re thinking, EVERYONE HAS A PODCAST. Granted, you are correct and I’m not going to deny that the podcast market is somewhat saturated. But personally, I am currently subscribed to 50+ podcasts and listen to hours of episodes every day so I’m hopeful that there are plenty of you folks out there who can spare an hour a week to listen to our show.
I say ‘our show’ of course because I have an amazing co-host called Amy Holland.
Amy is my internet wifey, the gal who I call when I need to talk and the person who will leave me 7 minute long voice notes on a daily basis. She too has experienced mental illness and started her own business I Can Cards as a result.
We are both so obsessed with the mental health community online and really want to help add value to the content we produce. That’s why we decided that a podcast would be the best way to deliver our message of positivity as well as highlight some of the incredible people and stories we come across every day.
We don’t really believe in the ‘think positive’ philosophy.
Instead, we think that owning all the negative aspects of life is actually key to making you feel more positive and powerful in your own skin. We say sit in the sadness when it comes, take the bad days when they come and learn from them. Do what you can and above all, show yourself some self-compassion along the way.
It seems fitting that the last 12 months of my life have been bookended by two amazing – yet entirely different – holidays.
In the summer of 2017, I watched as everyone else in my workplace jetted off to various locations from Tenerife to South Wales, only to throw my hands up in the air towards the end of September and scream ‘I NEED A HOLIDAY’ in an entirely unnecessary and dramatic fashion.
I called my mum and within a few days, we had booked to go to Menorca for the last week in October, getting a bargain deal and returning home on the last flight before the island quite literally shut up shop for the year. As I write this blog post, its almost a full year later and I’m on an airplane returning from a very different trip entirely.
We have have spent the last fortnight kangaroo spotting and beach-hopping in Melbourne, Australia, where we visited my brother and his wife. See my comedic grin above where I was snapped chilling out with my little brother in Oz.
We’ve never been keen travellers, so having two sunny trips abroad in the space of a year has felt like a real treat, but I think it’s also fair to say that I’ve felt in dire need of the true relaxation that comes with getting away from UK life, the pressures of work and the painful reliance on social media and technology on a minute by minute basis.
If you’ve read my blog before you’ll be well aware that I’ve struggled with my mental health. It’s not something that I’m ashamed of anymore, in fact, I kind of make a living out of talking about it.
Whilst I was lying poolside in Menorca last October I realised that after writing hundreds of blog posts about depression and anxiety, I was ready to embark on something new, something more exciting.
I jotted down the title Depression In A Digital Age and thought that it would make a really cool book title.
Just a few weeks before I packed my suitcase to travel down under at the end of last month, I submitted the final draft of my memoir called ‘Depression In A Digital Age’ and I now patiently await its release at the end of November.
Can a holiday really change your life?
Had you asked me that in June of 2012 I would have laughed and cried simultaneously, as I slid into my sixth week of sick leave from work with a fresh diagnosis of stress, depression and anxiety.
I had booked a week in Spain a few months beforehand and the thought of going away was filling me with dread.
As I struggled to keep my head above water and come to terms with the black cloud which followed be around on a daily basis, my mum chirped positively ‘maybe a holiday will do you good!’
In this particular case, a week in the sun was nowhere near close to the kind of self-care and medical attention needed to bring me back to life, but I can see now that in less pressing circumstances how a holiday can do wonders for the soul.
Just look at how happy I was to get my picture taken with this image of a carrot when I was in Oz! How much more proof could you need?
I’ve spent a lot of my recovery attached to my phone. As a textbook introvert, I feel at home online where I can carefully work out my anxious, complicated thoughts in a WhatsApp message or one of these lengthy blog posts.
I’ve unexpectedly connected with some of the best people in the world, making life friends who are not relegated to my DMs but have become coffee buddies, workmates and people who I call when I need to talk.
But with the online world comes the addiction and self-gratification of posting selfies (nothing wrong with that) and checking how many likes said selfie has received every 5 minutes until it reaches a number that feels good.
In the same way that my work inbox gets to an unmanageable stage a few times throughout the year, the constant ringing of smartphone notifications becomes stimulation overload to the point where I need to go cold turkey.
One of the best bits about going on holiday is selecting the books I want to read, and whilst in Australia, I read a collection of essays by Laura Jane Williams called Ice Cream For Breakfast.
It’s been on my reading list for months and I devoured it whilst we drove in between vineyards in the Yarra Valley in Australia just a few days ago.
Sometimes you need to actively seek out those magic moments. Book the holiday, schedule in the downtime and make a conscious decision to turn off your data (actual heaven) and be in the moment.
In between tasting the finest pinot noir in the world, spending two weeks with my favourite people and reflecting on the best year of my career so far I even accidentally managed to fulfill one of Laura’s best pieces of advice by literally having ice cream for breakfast.