Shut up Imposter!

I didn’t know there was such a thing as Imposter Syndrome until Wednesday night. I started my 2019 eager to rejoin the Creative London circles, SheSays sent me an email…and Couching sounded good to me -so I attended their first event of the year.

the imposter syndrome

I got to Wieden+Kennedy’s London office and we headed downstairs. I was amazed by the attendance, as we had a full house. Alison Green and Fabiana Xavier, SheSays President, led the talk and here is my summary:

Imposter Syndrome is a phenomenon of self-doubt and lack of self-belief in your accomplishments, as you may assume that they are just down to luck. It is a persistent, internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud” that basically holds you back.

Perfectionism plays a significant role in Imposter Syndrome. You might think this is not the “right time” to do something, you need to be more senior to apply to that role, you need more time to do that project, you need to study more to work on that field, you put off making a phone call because you are not ready yet… Impostor Syndrome comes in all forms and you may procrastinate due to your high standards. Does that sound familiar? Welcome to the Club.

The first step to let your imposter out of the way is to admit it, and reveal it. When we did an exercise visualizing the Imposter, I couldn’t imagine mine as a monster, or a giant – sorry no Sci-fi from my side. The Imposter is just me, a tall Colombian with big glasses sitting in front of me and judging me from the outside… quite friendly though.

The next step is to know that it’s normal. Everybody has felt like that, from the new guy to Michelle Obama. And if you think it will go away as you become senior, bad news. It becomes more prevalent, rather than less.

Unfortunately, this syndrome tends to affect more women than men. We, women, tend to blame failures on our own abilities, and success due to luck. When men fail they tend to blame something else.

Imposters love new events, so every time you make a decision, think of a new project, or do something else, they appear back with its 3 annoying aspects:

  • The sense that someone’s got a view. (Everybody is judging you)
  • Someone is going to realise I’m not good enough at this. (I’m going to fail)
  • If I succeed, it’s just luck. (A bit hard on yourself)
So now it comes the good part and the final step. You can’t deny or destroy it but you can tackle the Imposter.
We don’t feel confident by thinking, only by doing. Take the next step.
It may or may not work, but take the risk.
Be open, curious and playful. Promote your strengths so you don’t lose sight of your goal. You have a unique set of skills, be clear about that.
To yourself, as you will be to somebody else – or even kinder. We tent to be super critical of ourselves.
The moral is: Imposters are self-limiting bastards. Next time you are about to do something and start hearing that voice… “better later, not now, I don’t have the tools, I will wait, not ready yet… What will you say to your Imposter?

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