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Imposter Syndrome

Summary of the first episode of The Phenomenal Career Podcast which you can check out here. I had the great pleasure of being part of a Think-In, which is one of Tortoise Media’s signature experiences. It was a thought-provoking discussion around recruitment tech, diversity and the involvement of AI. I was there as both a career success coach but also, as a consultant for Hustle Crew.

I was nervous. And that’s what I want to talk to you about. In hindsight, what I experienced was actually imposter syndrome. I have an interesting relationship with this because I’ve never really connected with the whole idea that I think I’m going to get found out. But I think in some ways, today has proven that it’s in there. There is a statistic that says about 80% of us face imposter syndrome, but it can be hard to pinpoint, especially because the education around it is just around that whole feeling of getting found out.

Now for me, it meant that I had a horrible night’s sleep.

As a career success coach, I still felt like I needed to run off and get a qualification. I had my clear instructions, but I still felt like that wasn’t enough. In hindsight, I was perfect for the conversation. In hindsight, I enjoyed it. In hindsight, I got amazing feedback. I had valid points without having to have a degree.

We build up this picture in our minds that everything has to be difficult, and everything has to be academically approached. It’s so sad because it holds us back, it means we don’t apply for opportunities. We don’t apply for the job.

Instead, we pass it on to someone else. Our careers then don’t grow, and we don’t do the things we want to be doing. So as somebody who didn’t relate to imposter syndrome, I’m now looking at her right in the face.

The five different types of Imposter Syndrome

The Perfectionist

I found imposter syndrome showed up a lot in school. You know, there was that person who set ridiculous goals for themselves.

They would have been off sick but expected to spend three weeks studying and get an A+. When they didn’t reach their goal, they would worry that they had ruined their perfect track record. This then manifests in the workplace as a feeling that your work has to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time.

It creates an issue with you being the person who can’t ask for help. You become the person who will work overtime to get things perfect when really your manager just expected it to be done. It creates somebody who micromanages in a group project. Even successful moments don’t feel successful to the perfectionist. If that is you, I want to encourage you to take time with yourself.

I want to encourage you to level-set your own standards with the environment. That’s not me saying lower your standards, I just mean give yourself some grace, especially within the workplace.

The Super Man/Woman

This is the person that says yes to everything. They’re amazing. They smash it out of the park, and ultimately, they have to keep working.

These are the self-confessed workaholics. They sacrifice hobbies, sacrifice passions, and I 100% relate to this one. I didn’t realise it because I enjoy what I do, but I have to make sure that I keep things and myself, in check. Is it performative working? Is it because I don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to rest? For me, accountability is key. My partner is my sense check.

If I close the laptop, everything won’t fall apart. You can love your job without being a workaholic. You can be amazing at your job without being a workaholic. Are you addicted to the validation that comes from being seen? Do you do everything for the approval of others?

I recommend reading Arianna Huffington Lean In article. She shares her story of burnout and neglect of herself, in the face of being a workaholic and a super. If you’re a super, I’m with you, I’m here for you, and I relate to you.

The Natural Genius

I relate to this one as well. When you think about these types in the context of your educational history, the natural genius was the child that was always told they were smart. The internal bar for these natural geniuses is on the same level as the perfectionist. Everything they accept they excel at, they are used to excelling without much effort.

So when they are put into a scenario where they need to make an effort, it feels bizarre and foreign. This feeling makes us second guess our intelligence – I must not be as smart as I thought I was? A lot of these imposter syndromes lead to us working overtime. But ultimately, it hits harder when you’re a natural genius because you connect performances to who you are. This can be powerful in terms of avoiding opportunities in your career as any opportunity that will not prove you to be a genius is a risk. You end up playing small and isolating yourself because you don’t feel you deserve equal space to be vulnerable. If you were to be vulnerable, and have those conversations with people, you would realise very quickly that everybody has to work hard at some things.

The Expert

This is that friend who has a great idea for something. Then the next thing that comes out of their mouth is, “I found a course, I’m going back to uni”. “Maybe then I’ll pursue the idea”. “Maybe then I’ll apply for the job”. A lot of the times this shows up as the person who is amazing at what they do but doesn’t feel validated because they don’t have a degree or “the right” education. A lot of the time it just takes a little bit of bravery to remind yourself that you don’t have to have a degree. You don’t have to be the expert. Especially when it comes to careers, it’s about proving you can make the impact and get the result.

The Soloist

This one is interesting. I recently watched a film called The Soloist with Jamie Foxx. I encourage you to watch it because it has so many parallels. The soloist needs to do things by themselves, that’s the only way they can get the credit. It’s all about worthiness, about feeling like you deserve to be in a room. A soloist never needs help. This leads to a very interesting work-life balance. It leads to overtime, in life and work.

I want to encourage you to look for the moments where you’re not winging it. Recognise that you have enough. That you are enough. I want to encourage you in doing what it takes to understand and truly believe that you are enough. Don’t discount. Don’t play small. Don’t shy away from opportunities because many of those opportunities can be the most fulfilling and most exciting adventures of your career.

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