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The day I discovered I was an Imposter

Image courtesy of Kristina Flour at Unsplash

Image courtesy of Kristina Flour at Unsplash

I remember as clear as anything the day I discovered that I was an Imposter.  Sitting in my office in 2016 I was on a call to my coach and we were talking about this "feeling" that I had for the majority of my career. 

I was describing this underlying feeling that I had that despite all my success, that I never really believed I was good enough.  That I never felt up to the job I was fulfilling.  That each time I achieved something I would think thank goodness I pulled that off.  I would feel nervous before and in certain meetings in case I didn't have all the answers.  That I would dread my yearly review waiting for them to spring on me that I wasn't performing.  I also thought that everyone who I worked with must be crazy as they hadn't yet figured out that I wasn't up for the job and pretty soon someone was going to have the chat with me.  Or I imagined that they would be talking about me behind my back talking about my incompetence.  However there was no evidence to back this up.  People would tell me how great they thought I was and what a good job I was doing and I would get glowing yearly reviews but I never believed them.  I would hide away where possible of being visible and found it difficult to be in the limelight.  I would look at other people and think they were smarter, more educated and sounded clever than me.  Most of the time I thought I was winging it and sooner or later someone was going to expose me for being for the fraud that I was.  I would wear a mask of false confidence that allowed me to hide away how I really felt as how could I ever tell anyone how I truly felt and let me tell you, that was exhausting and used to show up with bouts of exhaustion and burnout.  I thought if I exposed myself then that would be the end of my career.

You see throughout my career I had very rarely put myself forward for a change in role.  In fact the majority of my job changes were due to someone else believing that I was capable of more and pretty much cajoling me into accepting the promotions.  But I never felt like I deserved or indeed could fulfil that role.  That nagging self doubt robbed me of enjoying my career.  I wonder now where I would be if I didn't have people who believed in me and pushed me to step up to the opportunities that presented themselves to me. 

So back to the day I found out.  When she said that it sounds like Imposter Syndrome I wrote it down as an action to go away and look at it and immediately after the call I googled it.  When I started to read about the symptoms, my first reaction was huge relief.  But do you want to know what the best part was?  That I knew I wasn't alone.  That lots of other people felt the same way - in fact 7 out of 10 people are thought to feel like an Imposter at some time in their life.  Because here is the thing with Imposter Syndrome, it thrives on isolation.  I wanted to celebrate, to shout it from the rooftops that I finally knew what had been "wrong" with me all that time.  I finally had a name that I could explain all those feelings I had for so many years.  

But here's the thing.  When I found out I was an Imposter, it wasn't at the time I felt an Imposter.  It was in fact at a time when I had more self belief than I had for a long time because I had done the work on my mindset.  I had learnt how to recognise my achievements, articulate my skills and expertise and trust in my abilities.  I had also learnt how to show myself love and compassion.  

When I first embarked on finding a coach in 2011, I didn't actually know that I felt like an Imposter.   What I could put into words at that time was that I was unhappy in my job, uncertain of my future career prospects, knowing I wanted to leave the HR profession but for some reason I just couldn't take the action to make it happen.  I could explain that I was feeling unfulfilled, lost, scared and lacking in confidence what my next career move could be.   But looking back I am so grateful for the me that was able to articulate how I used to feel. I am grateful that I was open to being vulnerable, that I wasn't scared of sharing my experiences or of being judged.  

Because in all honesty it does crop back up.  Every time I take on a new challenge that I haven't done before or decide that I want to up level it rears its head and tries to keep me small.  But I now I know what it is, instead of believing it and letting it hold me back, I greet it like a old friend and decide to move forward regardless.  

But if I could give you one piece of advice.  Speak about it to at least one person.  Say it out loud.  Don't let it thrive on the silence.  Take away its power as that is the first step to dissolving it in your life.

Or if you are ready to face those feelings head on and start your journey to dissolve self doubt, stop holding yourself back and recognise the magic within you, then contact me and let's arrange a chat to see how I can support you on this journey to self belief, self compassion and self love.