I thought International Women’s Day would be a good day to write about this subject…imposter syndrome. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and come across a lot in my work and amongst my community and is something that I think is not exclusive to, but is particularly prevalent in women…
What is ‘Imposter Syndrome’?
In my terms, it’s essentially when you lack confidence in yourself and doubt your ability. You think you don’t deserve the attention, accolades or respect you’re getting in whatever walk of life it’s relating to and therefore you feel like an imposter.
I’ve met so many incredible women who have admitted they feel like this. Women who are strong, powerful, intelligent and making waves in the world. Women who are mothers, partners, single. Women who “had the ovaries” to start their own business, or leave their jobs, or be a stay-at-home-mum. Women who are far from imposters in their lives, in fact they’re owning their lives! They just don’t realise it.
My experiences with Imposter Syndrome
When I was made redundant on maternity leave, I took a massive knock to my confidence. In fact, I didn’t realise it at the time, but I’d been taking blows to my confidence for a couple of years leading up to that too, in my professional life. I had let people make me think I wasn’t good at my job or good enough to succeed, progress or even be where I was. I’d let people get inside my head and make me doubt myself…that’s not a good place to be!
Luckily, with an incredibly supportive husband and family, I managed to not let that feeling spiral out of control and by the time I was made redundant, with a beautiful 6-month old baby in my arms, I was ready for it and so happy that it had come. I knew there was something more out there for me and I knew I had to carve my own path (with the help of my husband), to create the career and work-life balance I wanted.
But when I decided to start my own business and turn what was essentially a hobby into some sort of career (this blog and WeBlogNorth that is), I was riddled with self-doubt and worry. What if I couldn’t do it? What if people thought I wasn’t worth it? What if they doubted my expertise? These were thoughts constantly circling my head and it was destructive at the time, I’ll admit.
I didn’t have a business plan, I had carved my own “thing” which I felt was unique and wasn’t quite sure how I could make it a career. Especially a career that would mean I could work flexibly and have more time with my children and family. I wasn’t “insta famous” (and that wasn’t my goal), so would people think I wasn’t worthy on speaking about the subject?
Honestly, these feelings were there almost constantly and I realised that if I allowed myself to feel like that, I would be blocking my own path. No one else was actually making me feel like that, just me. It was only me getting in my own way.
Stepping out of your comfort zone?
There’s no getting round it, when you struggle with Imposter Syndrome, the only way to combat it (in my opinion), is to step out of your comfort zone. Those worries that you have about not feeling worthy, not being an expert, not being respected…you’ve got to face them head on. Put yourself out there, be proud, tell the world who you are and what you do.
This was the way I got round it – I started saying “yes” to things. Accepting opportunities, talking on guest-panels (something I would have been so nervous about a couple of years ago!), presenting myself as the expert that I actually was and being proud of it.
And you know what? The response has been so positive and I’m doing it and each time I do something like this, my self-confidence grows that little bit more and it makes me more motivated to succeed.
The majority of people out there are nice and they’re routing for you, remember that. There’s only ever a few that spoil it (trolls, bullies etc.) and that’s always down to their own insecurities, so we have to not let them ruin our own successes.
Finding a community
A big thing for me, was finding my community, my friends, my tribe. That has mainly been through WeBlogNorth, where I’ve made a bunch of amazing, like-minded friends (who are all incredibly powerful and inspirational women in their own rights (and a few fellas too I might add!)). But I’ve also made a community of mum-friends and insta-friends and local-friends who are so amazing, so supportive and help me daily, to keep that imposter syndrome at bay.
To finish this piece off, I’d just like to say two more things:
You’re not the only one feeling like this. Most of us have suffered with imposter syndrome at some stage in our life, man or woman. Most of us worry and have moments of self-doubt and lack self-confidence. Even the seemingly high-flying success stories out there, have been there too. Even the people you look up to and presume are totally confident, probably aren’t.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. People that build you up, not knock you down. Distance yourself from the negativity and remember that what you put out there, you’ll get back. So be nice, be supportive, show some love.
This is how I try to live my life and I’m enjoying meeting some amazing, spirited, inspirational people on that journey.