Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Coaching Advice

2020 was the year of imposter syndrome for me. This challenged me in ways I never saw coming, but also made me such a stronger leader, friend, and partner as a result. 

I had never experienced imposter syndrome in my career before, I typically carried myself with full confidence in my career and felt strongly that I knew my capabilities and worth. I took on a new job in March of 2020. I started the same week we went into “Safer at home” quarantine orders in Los Angeles due to the COVID pandemic. My new role had a set of responsibilities that I hadn’t ever done before, but I had initially felt confident that I could leverage my past experience and education to be successful. 

What I didn’t see coming was the forced shift to working from home, due to the pandemic. I had never worked from home before, with the exception of a few days here and there over the years. I actually used to say that I would never do it, because I thrive on a team environment full of social interaction with my colleagues to keep me in my flow. But here I was– in a completely new company, a new role, with a new team that I have never met in person before, and left isolated in my condo without social interaction due to the virus. All things combined, I was sent into an imposter syndrome spiral that got completely out of control. 

The negative self-talk got so loud at times, I could barely hear myself think. “You don’t know what you are doing.” “They are going to figure you out.” “You are too stupid to figure this out.” “You could never do this job, who were you kidding even trying.” “You sound like an idiot on the phone.” “They know you don’t know what you’re doing, and they are all talking about you behind your back.” “You should just quit now before they figure you out.”

The list could go on and on and on… It was affecting my work, my attitude, and my personal life.

I hated how I felt, and somewhere deep inside knew that these things weren’t true. I started researching this topic and diving into how to get myself out of this shame spiral that was negatively impacting my work and those around me. Ultimately, I found three things that worked really well for me:

  1. Speak it out loud

As soon as I started sharing this with my colleagues and friends, I immediately learned I was not alone. Every single person I spoke to about this, was either experiencing it themselves in that moment or had experienced it in the past. It helped me to gain social support where I needed it and confirm for me that I wasn’t inadequate, rather someone going through this very common human experience. Journaling on days where I struggled also helped me to see, once the words were on paper, that they lost their hold on me and I could slowly start to take back my thoughts and turn them into positive ones. 

  1. Give yourself credit when credit is due

If you feel proud of yourself for doing something, literally anything, give yourself credit. Text a friend, post it on social media, brag in your company’s slack chat, buy yourself lunch or flowers. Celebrate the wins, big or small. 

To tackle my new role, I broke down seemingly unrealistic, daunting goals, into small attainable chunks and took things one day at a time. Every task I completed, I physically checked it off in my day planner. At the end of day, I was able to look at my list and feel accomplished, even if I didn’t complete the whole thing. This helped me build my confidence back up that I wasn’t an imposter, but someone who belonged in that role.

  1. Write down what you know to be true about yourself

I spent some time writing down what I know to be true about my knowledge, strengths, and value. I went back to this list when my inner critic got loud and I needed to be reminded of what I can do, rather than what I can’t. 

I still feel like an imposter some days, and I’m not sure if or when that will ever subside. I do, however, feel like I have a much better grasp on how to manage it when it does come up so it doesn’t completely take over my day. 

Has imposter syndrome creeped into your life? What things have you found helpful to get back on track when your inner critic is getting too loud?

Until next time,

Kristin

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