What happens when you consistently prove that you can achieve whatever it is that you need to achieve – quotas, targets, followers, sales – but despite all of the evidence proving otherwise, you still don’t feel cut out for the job?
When that feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt becomes a part of your everyday life — well, that is commonly known as Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is the combination of emotions, feelings, and senses that manifests into negative self-talk, anxiety, restlessness, and all the behaviours that come with feeling like you can’t belong, or that you’re an imposter. And while the term was first coined in the 1970s by some pretty cool psychologists named Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, I hadn’t heard of it until my third year of university.
I’d worked in hospitality and food services, manufacturing, construction, and had been a college or university student all throughout. But one summer, as a part of my Equity Diversity and Inclusion: Unconscious Bias training for my new, volunteer role as a member of my faculty’s black hiring committee, I learned about Imposter Syndrome, and it hit home.
I was overwhelmed by how a single term could resonate so much with the kind of feelings that I had been struggling with as a member of the committee.
Here I was, the youngest, least experienced, least ‘qualified’ member of a committee supposed to help interview and develop recommendations my faculty would use to hire a black faculty member.
I felt lucky to be there, but that was just it — I was a part of my faculty’s black caucus and I believed I was just there as one of few undergraduates who had the time to be there. I felt okay ‘being’ there, but ‘belonging’ was still a while away. And I absolutely did not feel like I should be recommending to my faculty who they should hire next.
At the same time, I was learning about how to put words to those feelings, and about how I might feel unable to trust my competency and skills. Why did I need to attribute my success and/or ‘being there’ to external factors?
As a result, I started to berate my performance, out of a fear of inadequacy and self-doubt. And while there are some ‘benefits’ to imposter syndrome, like being driven to overachieve or over prepare, these things come at a pretty steep price — stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Thing is, dealing with imposter syndrome is a process, and one training won’t change everything at once.
But the best part about working with people towards a common goal, and for the same reasons, is that there will probably be at least one person there that understands – to some degree or another – how you feel. And training like the one we all went through reminds people that personal struggles are often invisible, and that ‘being’ there doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel like you ‘belong’ there.
I know my story is different from most — not everybody has the privilege of easy access to training and workshops designed to help guide their experiences. But if you’re reading this, and if you struggle with imposter syndrome, I want you to know that nine-times out-of-ten, over-preparing and overachieving are not the solution.
I asked myself some tough questions about my core beliefs, about my thoughts on ‘worth’ and ‘approval’, and about why I believe I don’t deserve the position I’m in. Imposter syndrome comes in all shapes and sizes – whatever it is that informs your negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself, write it down and name it. Because what you’re actually doing is confronting imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome can take meaning away from those more important parts of life and accomplishment — so why let it? When the solution can be as simple as getting to know yourself better, and potentially pave the way forward for others in the same position, letting imposter syndrome win is not worth it.
This blog post was written by Nathi Zamisa of the First Work Youth Council.