Updated: Jan 7
“Well, I suppose I was just in the right place at the right time.” – we are all guilty of explaining our successes like this at one point, which may be fine, unless thinking this way affects your career and the opportunities you’re offered. If you have ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome, that leads the most skilled and qualified to believe that they are incompetent and inadequate, you will understand the power this phenomenon can have on your life
As part of our Speakers Collectives work for the Women@ConvaTec network, Jo Emmerson and I shared our experience of Imposter Syndrome, both successful women who talk confidently and honestly in public about difficult issues with successful careers, both affected by the insecurities that imposter syndrome can bring.
At its most innocuous Imposter Syndrome can simply make you feel like a fraud: feeling that at any moment someone will tap you on the shoulder and say, “Oh no, sorry. We didn’t mean to give you the job.” For me, it all started at Uni. Back in 1995, I spent the first 6 months waiting for s in the right place and actually, this was absolutely the right place for people exactly like me. ”
At its most acute, these feelings can stop your career in its tracks, stifling any potential opportunities and decimating your confidence. Jo shared her experience of not applying for senior roles after redundancy. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in my skin and like I was in the right place and actually, this was absolutely the right place for people exactly like me.
It reared its head again when after the BAFTA nomination I was still tempted to take down the phone number in the local Delicatessen’s window for a waiting job for when my luck ran out and eventually people realised I was an imposter. A real synergy with Jo’s story of looking in estate agents windows for job vacancies, whilst leading The Speakers Collective.
We shared some of the practical tips we had used to fight the negative feelings:
1. Do your research and check out the Clance Imposter Syndrome Scale. This is a self-scoring scale and the first few statements capture the Syndrome’s potential impact: ‘I have often succeeded on a test or task even though I was afraid that I would not do well before I undertook the task’ ‘I can give the impression that I’m more competent than I really am and I sometimes think I obtained my present position or gained my present success because I happened to be in the right place at the right time or knew the right people’
2. Throw away your lucky charm - your talent will get you where you want to be and your skills will keep you there, lucky pants or not!
3. Put an image of your biggest achievement right in front of you – frame those certificates, print out those articles you have written.
4. Never apologise for an ask. I receive so many emails that start with ‘Sorry to bother you’ and end with ‘It’s ok if not’ You can still be polite without being apologetic.
5. Ask someone else to write what they consider your skillset to be. This helps to separate your feelings from the facts.
6. Don’t pass it on…talk about it. Like so many other areas that the Speakers Collective addresses being open and honest about how you feel is the way to go.
7. This is not about changing your leadership style…it’s about recognising it. Not knowing the answer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there. My experiences have made me into a ‘Servant Leader’, hopefully leading by example and supporting those around me to achieve their potential because I know exactly how it feels to not see your own potential!
8. Reward yourself, identifying your protective factors and focusing on your skills and recognising your skills and talents can help massively.
9. Always focus on skills and talents. never the right place at the right time.
10. Keep a record of your daily achievements and log your thank you emails.
Imposter Syndrome affects so many of us, there is some thought it may be currently exasperated by the isolation of working from home, that lack of social interaction that can bring over-thinking and over-working. It was evident from the zoom chat, with over 70 people taking part from across the world, that Jo and I were not alone, as others empathized with our experiences, sharing their own stories.
Both of us were delighted to have had the opportunity to open up about our own Imposter Syndrome, we hope that by doing so, others will be empowered to do the same, Speakers Collective know the value of sharing lived experience which helps us all understand we are not alone.
Always great to have ‘conversations that make a difference’.
The Speakers Collective is a Social Enterprise. We work together with a shared commitment to challenge stigma, facilitate important conversations and promote learning on a variety of social issues. If you are looking for a speaker for an upcoming event then please do get in contact with Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org.