On the weekend I read an article at The Cut about Impostor Syndrome. It focused on 25 famous women who admitted to suffering the same self-doubt as the rest of us.
Women as successful in their craft as Natalie Portman, Amy Schumer and Jessica Chastain. There is a even a quote in there from Sheryl Sandberg.
In 2012 Chastain was quoted on E! News as saying, “I always think I’m going to get fired…”
In 2015, at ELLE’s 22nd annual Women In Hollywood Awards, Schumer revealed, “I feel like a tourist in Hollywood …The truth is, I make a lot of jokes about myself, and I have the same moments where I lose all self-esteem and cannot believe anyone has managed to get an erection at my expense.”
In 2015, speaking at Harvard Commencement, Portman, a Harvard graduate, shared, “I have to admit that today, even 12 years after graduation, I’m still insecure about my own worthiness. I have to remind myself today, You are here for a reason.”
And in her bestselling book on female leadership Lean In, Sandberg wrote about her schooling, “And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up …”
I have also suffered Impostor Syndrome throughout my career. It creeps up on me suddenly and invades my thoughts until I can find a way to push it to the back of my mind.
If you understand what Impostor Syndrome is, and that it affects most women including some of the most successful in their fields, then you can begin to depersonalise it. This isn’t a problem that is specific to you. It isn’t actually about you, it’s about your gender. You are not feeling insecure about your capability because you are incapable. There is no way that most women are incapable. So it must be an irrational thought that needs to be eradicated. That’s how I like to rationalise it. And it does help.
Over the years I have over-compensated for this fear by ensuring my skills and knowledge are superior. Some of that was achieved through education, from highly targeted short courses through to an MBA. Some was achieved through ensuring that I knew everything about the job that I was doing and I would stay at my desk long into the night to increase my self-confidence. But I also achieved greater confidence by getting a mentor and working with that person on negating that little voice in my head that was telling me that I wasn’t good enough.
So there has been a benefit to experiencing Impostor Syndrome. It drove me to learn more, experience more and network more. And that in turn helped elevate my career.