Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

A few years ago, I experienced a bit of a professional crisis. I was working in my job as Evidence Based Researcher (and loving the projects I was leading), chairing CILIP West Midlands, and participating in ALA Emerging Leaders. Everything was great and I was really relishing all the challenges and experiences. Internally though, when I stopped to think about all the great opportunities I had, I was panicking. How had I managed to get this great job? How had I managed to secure such a brilliant project? How had I managed to get people to support my involvement in CILIP and ALA? Surely I wasn’t good enough to be doing all these things I’d seen ‘the great and good’ doing? I felt like a fraud. I thought I would get ‘found out’ and lose the opportunities. Others seemed to think I deserved these things, but I told myself that they didn’t know the real me and they were just being kind.

In order to combat this feeling of not being good enough, I invested so much time and energy into ‘doing my best’ hoping that I could perhaps feel like I deserved these things. I went above and beyond in all aspects of what I was doing, partly because I enjoyed them all so much but partly because I felt I had to in order to earn the right to be doing these things. Unfortunately, I invested so much time and energy in them that I neglected other needs in my life, and I experienced burnout.

Slowly but surely I realised this was my imposter syndrome rearing its head and causing unnecessary doubt, and I realised I wanted to pay attention to it but not let it rule my way of being. I started to relax and respect my time more (including my downtime). I started to do things the way I wanted to, in a way that felt authentic to me, rather than the way I thought I ‘ought’ to because of what others do. I began to pay more attention to what others were sharing with me, especially when they were expressing thanks and appreciation for my work (I was already paying plenty of attention to what they were saying about how things could be better!). I tuned into my strengths, skills, and experience that helped me fulfil these roles. I started to see that maybe I was the right person at that moment for those roles, and I started to respect the fact others had put their trust in me. It was a beautiful feeling and it enabled me to wholeheartedly apply myself to the different roles.

Imposter syndrome is something that will always be with me, but over time I’ve developed a number of different strategies to help reduce the impact in terms of longevity and intensity. It’s a work in progress and I’m picking up new strategies all the time. Later this year I’ll be sharing my experiences in the Overcoming Imposter Syndrome online course that I’m co-facilitating with Sarah Durrant as part of our Mindful Leadership for Women Programme. If imposter syndrome is something that impacts your work too, perhaps you’d like to join us. There are a few places left and if you book before 30th September you can get the early bird price (£325/$425). For more information on the course see the Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Course Overview and to book your place visit the Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Course Booking Form.