I am not who everyone thinks I am. And it’s only a matter of time before someone finds out.
When my manager told me she is expanding our department and hiring new people, I had a thought that maybe she was planning to fire me. Maybe she had realized I’m not as good at my job as she previously thought and was hiring my replacement.
Last week I returned to work from vacation to find that my manager submitted my name for an award. Her submission said:
“Although I should be used to it by now as she is so consistent, Jamie is constantly surprising me by how she kicks every project up a notch and follows through with a countless number of requests and projects, completing them better than I would have myself. Jamie, not everyone could be able to handle as much as you do, especially with such poise and high levels of success. Thank you for all you do!”
I read it a few times to make sure I was reading it correctly. My internal reaction was:
“Does she really believe this about me? My contribution is small, and my work is by no means amazing. If she really knew my work processes and took a closer look at what I’ve produced thus far, I’d probably be in trouble instead of being nominated for an award.”
My immediate reaction was to discredit the kind and complimentary words from my manager about myself and my work ethic. I began trying to reason away the award nomination in my head because what I read could not be the truth.
Does any of this sound familiar? This is Imposter Syndrome.
I first discovered the concept via author Brene Brown. Imposter Syndrome is feeling like a fraud. You believe others see you as being better than you truly are, and you think that eventually people will find out and realize you are a fraud.
I experience this in both my professional and personal life. Realizing this is a phenomenon that many other people experience left me feeling less alone. During an office book club meeting, I mentioned Imposter Syndrome and everyone perked up, unfamiliar with the term. I explained the meaning and immediately saw the change in their faces. A few people spoke up. “I experience that every day.” “I thought that was just me.”
Imposter Syndrome sounds ludicrous logically, but it’s very real. Recent research suggests that both women and men struggle with this and that people from all walks of life are susceptible. Neil Gaiman, Maya Angelou, and Tina Fey have all opened up publicly about their own fears of “being found out.”
In learning about all of this, I realized I can tackle these thoughts and turn them around. There are a variety of tactics you can use to manage your feelings of being a fraud, but here is what helps me:
- I remind myself that every day I aim to be the best person that I can be, and I am enough.
- I remember that people are entitled to their own opinions. If my manager truly believes that I am doing great work, why discredit her? She is smart enough to make her own judgment.
- I think about all of the compliments I have received in my profession and personal life. Not all of them can be wrong about me, so I aim to internalize those compliments and own my successes.
- I remind myself to stop comparing myself to others.
- I remind myself that it is the Imposter Syndrome talking, and I silence the fear-based, self-deprecating thoughts. They are not the real me.
All of this is easier said than done, of course. I am still reacting to the imposter thoughts rather than getting in front of them and heading them off at the pass, but I am making progress.
Do you experience Imposter Syndrome? How do you cope with and manage these thoughts?
Photo via VisualHunt.com