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?

Must read to write

After publishing my previous post, I kept thinking… telling people not to read is not a good message, especially for myself. Life is a contradiction, so here is my new post about a very inspiring book: LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg -Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

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A good friend gave it to me on one of her visits to London. I never knew I had to read it at that time, the earlier you read it -the better. It’s about doing what you love, but really going for it, in order to have more women in leadership jobs. Either you want to be the best at work, a super Mum, a singer, travel the world, whatever else you want.

“Success is making the best choices we can … and accepting them.”

The book tells us (with plenty of statistics, research, and life experiences) how few women are in top roles because of internal obstacles, even before society places more in their way. Prejudices, opportunities, the education we receive, family decisions, all hold us back from what we want. It is a reality that men are earning more than women, men go for leadership roles more often, men are more willing to negotiate salary, men apply for jobs -even when they are not fully skilled, dads-to-be don’t think twice when applying for a job. So what is happening? Why do we women keep stopping ourselves?

I tell you my reasons. I’ve been working since I finished Uni at different advertising agencies, and when I found out I was pregnant I just had finished a contract with Expedia London. Uh oh! There is no perfect time to have a baby, but babies are the most perfect things I’ve seen.

I was more eager to get a job because of my news, so went to interviews camouflaging my belly with winter coats (I shouldn’t say this on my blog, but kids are expensive, so you need a job -it’s a fact). I started contacting people from different agencies and finally, I was very grateful when Ariadna US, an agency based in Miami, took me on board after some freelance work. I had my baby and kept working remotely, it was amazing attending KFC meetings on Skype and presenting Amex campaigns over the phone. Baby sleep time was my office opening hours. How? You just find the energy if you love it. And then a startup called me to join their team, and here I am dividing myself between motherhood and projects. Maybe I stopped myself from working in an office but haven’t slowed down.

There are two faces when you work from home, the crazy and the crazier. I can tell you a lot of stories of multitasking/working Mum moments. The first that comes to mind happened when I was listening to the annual company’s review (while I was potty training my oldest daughter).  Nobody from the meeting knew what was happening on the other end of the line and thank God for the MUTE button.

Or that time, when I spent the entire day, on my own, waiting for the team to get together to hear my presentation. They all had busy agendas and just when I picked my 2 girls from the nursery, very tired and irritable, my team sent me a text: We are ready.  So I gave my girls a couple of ice creams, sat them on a picnic blanket in the middle of the garden and started presenting my ideas from the patio (where I could see them but not hear them). I reckon when working remotely, the main skill you need is availability.

Anyway, this post is not about crazy stories whilst multitasking. Freelancing was my choice and I assumed it. It is about persuading yourself to lean in and go for it. We need a change of mindset, first from us, and them from the people surrounding us. Work-life balance when having kids, it’s not easy, nor is it impossible.

“You can’t have it all”

This is my favorite sentence from the book. CEOs are human too and Sheryl tells how difficult was for her leaving her daughter crying and asking her not to go when she had to fly to a TED Conference. True leaders are human.

There are plenty of quotes and inspiring bits, I’m not going to spoil it for you. I just had to share the fever after reading this book, and when that stops here are my top mantras:

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    1. We are the choices we make. Simple. Life will follow our decisions.
    2. We are what we are thinking about. This is so true. If I’m thinking of strategies, and awards…I’m an ad woman. If I’m thinking about my kids and places to take them… I’m a Mum. If I’m thinking of others all the time, I’m just a bored neighbour.
    3. Compare yourself to yourself. Stop scrolling Instagram (note to myself) where people seem to live the perfect life with the perfect filters. Think of yourself ‘the one you want to be’ and become that person, that will make you the happiest woman/man in the world.

Life won’t become easier but it will become more exciting. If you are not there yet, LEAN IN and good luck!