Imposter Syndrome is a term that describes a person who often doubts their abilities and thinks less of themselves, especially after succeeding in an endeavor. It mainly affects high-achievers who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments and question whether they truly deserve any good thing life has to offer. In this article, Marcela from the in-flow department at Fetchly shares her experience with imposter syndrome in the workplace and how she overcame it. She talked about having a lot of self-doubt in her work experience, even after getting a promotion and validation from co-workers. However, she never thought the self-doubt was linked to Imposter syndrome. It took a leadership course Marcela attended this year to reveal that she had the syndrome. Thankfully, taking the course changed the overall perspective she had about herself. Marcela became more confident in her abilities, accepted she had strengths and weaknesses and learned to take constructive criticism from others in a bid to grow.
Imposter syndrome is quite common in the work environment, though a lot of people don't talk about it.
The first myth we often hear about imposter syndrome is that it's not real or that it's all a thing of the mind, and such invalidation can become a bigger issue in the long run. As someone who has experienced imposter syndrome, I feel that more people need to know about it, especially as it affects people in a work setting.
That being said, I'll be using this medium to share my experience with imposter syndrome and some ways I dealt with it.
Let's get into it!
My First Experience with Imposter Syndrome
I never thought of myself as the ideal professional. I always thought that what I knew was, and still is, general knowledge. I'm not exactly an expert in anything, so why would anyone want to hire me? These were some thoughts I had about myself, but I never thought they were connected to any syndrome. We all have doubts about what we can accomplish, some more, some less. So I've always had the idea that the feeling of self-doubt was something everyone experienced.
I first realized I had this syndrome during a leadership course I enrolled in this year. The professor made me answer some hard questions about myself, like "What am I good at?" and "What do I do better than 1 million people?". I couldn't answer them. All I could think of was that I wasn't good at anything, let alone better than 1 million people. My inability to answer these questions at the time was when I realized I had many of the symptoms, like the inability to realistically assess my competence and skills. I would often attribute my success to other people or external factors, even when I clearly put in the work. I also had self-doubt and fear that I wouldn't live up to my boss's expectations and criticize my performance.
During the course, I also realized I was having these feelings at work too. I was recently promoted to a position where I didn't particularly have any technical expertise. At most of the meetings with top executives like CMOs, CTOs, and CEOs, I would think less about myself, as I would start comparing my little experience with their huge ones.Two questions I asked myself were, "why am I really here?" "If I'm asked about something, will I be able to answer it correctly?" So, I was constantly afraid and feeling like I was a fraud.
These were clear signs of imposter syndrome, and after the course, I understood that and focused on little things I could do daily to ease those feelings.
Some ways I dealt with Imposter Syndrome
One of the first things I realized is that we need to change our perspective on how we think about ourselves. I had to change how I looked at my skills and capabilities, and it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Here's an example, China has a population of over 1 billion people. If you speak any language other than Mandarin, you sure do it better than 1 million people. So, taking a few steps back and looking from a distance, we can see more clearly that we have what it takes to get us where we want to be.
Next, I learned to be more open to what others had to say about me, which helped me get validation and see myself through others' eyes. I was open to positive and negative feedback and prepared myself to see the negatives as a learning opportunity. Listening to ex-bosses, colleagues, and even parents saying that I was good at many things gave me the confidence I needed to start feeling better and less like a fraud.
The last thing I did was create a list of all my achievements from when I was younger till date. As I went through the list, I understood that some of our strengths lie in little details. Our achievements may not be enormous and may not have the most significant impact. Still, those are ours, and they contributed to our journey and led us to where we are today. I was grateful for that and even more confident that I could feel good about my accomplishments.
This journey has taught me that it helps to be curious about your personality, strengths, and weaknesses. You'll learn to accept who you are, be more confident, be open to constructive criticism, and relate well with others.
Ultimately, when you change your perspective, you will see the world from a different angle and learn to appreciate yourself and others in your life like never before.
*This is not the official Fetchly opinion but the opinion of the writer who is employed by Fetchly*