Tap, tap, tap.
Tap, tap, tap.
Tap, tap, tap.
I was sat in the coffeeshop adjacent to my condo, staring at my computer screen, the cursor blinking, my mind racing, pen tap-tap-tapping the tabletop. My gaze wandered to the guy sitting next to me, who shot me a sideways glance, one that distinctly read: “I’m-about-two-seconds-away-from-shoving-that-pen-down-your-throat-sweetheart.” I mouthed ‘sorry’ and sat on my hands, the only way I could get the fidgeting to subside.
In my inbox sat two emails, both requesting me to be a guest speaker at pretty big conferences later in the year. They’d been opened a few days prior, gathering moss and awaiting my response, which I’m sure was expected to be an enthusiastic, “Yes!”. But my initial reaction wasn’t of excitement or pride in myself. Despite the fact that both of these people had reached out to me, my initial feeling was a lump in my throat and the fear-mongering voice inside saying, “You’re not good enough.”
The same feeling had been plaguing me earlier that week, as I started planning my next chapter of This Renegade Love, a workshop + education studio on branding + blogging that I’m calling That Renegade Girl. As I began envisioning what it would look like and writing the copy for the site, I typed and deleted, typed and deleted, then sat frozen at my computer thinking, “What if no one signs up?”
In both instances, I didn’t even given myself a chance to fail before I told myself I couldn’t do it. And although I’m normally quite a confident person who doesn’t give an ounce of a f*ck what people think of me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to be caught out for being a fraud, for pretending to be more knowledgable than I actually was. Why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say? And why would they actually pay for it? This unwavering self-doubt I was experiencing, this self-inflicted perception of how others view me, has a name – it’s called ‘impostor syndrome’.
And I was hella deep in it.
Okay, so I know ‘impostor syndrome’ sounds like some sort of sci-fi thriller on cable TV, but it’s a legitimate term that was coined in the late ’70s to describe high-achieving individuals who are marked by a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’ – some research even suggests that around 70% of us experience the feeling at least once in our lifetime.
The first time I heard of impostor syndrome was when Sheryl Sandberg wrote about it in her book Lean In, describing how – even as the COO of Facebook – it still plagues her.
From the outside, we think, “Um, pardon me? WTF has Sheryl Sandberg got to worry about?” But that’s the thing with impostor syndrome – it affects the most ambitious of us, the classic over-achievers, causing us to focus not on what we’ve achieved thus far, but what we haven’t yet achieved. And it’s been recognized that women experience these feelings of impostor syndrome more frequently than men do, partly because of pre-existing stereotypes that question their competence in the workplace. Even Maya Angelou (a Nobel laureate!) said at one point, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ ”
And that’s exactly what I was dealing with. Regardless of the fact that I had 10 years of professional experience behind me and had amassed a group of loyal readers after starting my own brand, I couldn’t help but focus on the ‘what-ifs’ and my perceived lack-of-ability – what I assumed other people would sense the moment I stood at the front of the room.
So how do we get over it?
Well, it definitely helps to talk to others about how you’re feeling, because impostor syndrome thrives on isolation. The more you internalize it, the less likely you’ll be able to move past it. And even though it’s something I think I’ll encounter again in my life as I push my brand forward and take risks, there are a few ways I’ve learned to manage impostor syndrome and shift my direction of thought:
- Write a daily reflection journal – I’ve spoken about this one a lot, and it’s something that has helped me put shed a positive light on my goals and reinforce my achievements regularly. Starting your day with intentions and ending it by reflecting on the good has a huge impact on the way you see yourself and your achievements.
- Keep a ‘love notes’ folder – It helps put things in perspective. To stop focusing on the negatives and focus on the positive ways you’ve had an impact on people, whether it’s another colleague or a reader of your blog. I have an e-mail folder where I keep every reader/partner e-mail that expresses gratitude or praise for the work I do – reading through them helps me to readjust my thinking and say a big “F.U.” to impostor syndrome.
- Read You Are A Badass – I’ve been reading this book for the past couple of weeks, and although it’s not ground-breaking by any means, it’s an excellent reminder that you are amazing and that most of the things you assume people think of you are really just in your own head. I even have pages flagged to skim through each time impostor syndrome rears its ugly head. (you can find the book here)
- Find a mentor in your field – It’s great to have your mum tell you how amazing of a computer engineer you are, but when she knows nothing about it, the pep-talk loses its worth (sorry mums). Look for a mentor within your field who you can turn to and who understands your profession and the demands within it. Talking through your ideas with someone you respect professionally and having their vote of confidence will help melt away any feelings of impostor syndrome.
- Just do it – Gotta say, Nike nailed it with their motto. The more we just try things and go for it, the more capable we believe ourselves to be. Even if you do fail on the first shot, you’ll recognize what you need to do differently the next time around to make it a success.
Do any of you deal with impostor syndrome?
How do you squash those feelings of self-doubt?
Let us know in the comments below!
I’ve felt this a lot! Mainly in the photography world. I’ve come to realize that “known information” -As we see it, isn’t always known information. We’re so used to doing the things we do in our field every day that it seems obvious that thats what’s being done. You have a lot to teach, from the outside, no one has any idea what goes into things. Annnnnddd I found people want to know how YOU do it, not how it’s supposed to be done.
Head up girl xx You’re doing great
Ooooh, I really like that perspective – of recognizing that people want to hear about my personal experience, not necessarily an overarching lesson on how to do something. You can’t really go wrong when you’re talking about your own life 🙂 Thanks Allie!
Thanks for sharing this Lauren. Refreshing to hear we are not alone out there and I will definitely use your tips! Also, This Renegade Girl sounds incredible!! xx
Cheers Marlie! xoxo
My company just turned 6 months and I have this feeling all the time! I know what I’m putting out is good, but every time I see a similar product or brand, I feel like I’m playing house and the other brand is the “real” professional. It’s so interesting you mentioned journaling, because I literally just wrote my first journal entry to catalog my challenges and triumphs through the business. My first entry was yesterday. Perfect timing! Thank you for another honest and useful “real life” post.
I love this advice and really appreciate your honesty. Talking about it with others is so important–my first reaction is to internalize this type of thinking but you’re right, impostor syndrome thrives on this! Also key to have great people in your life who can remind you of your badass status.
LOL before i even finish this article hahaha that first paragraph made me laugh. I am the QUEEN of giving those looks.
Hahahha me too girl…. but more of the leg shaker when you’re at a communal table (STOP. IT. NOW.).
OK, i’m back.
This was an awesome read and something i didn’t know actually had a specific TERM for. I think this about myself every now and then, but have so far not let it ever get to me. Now that i’m running these bootcamps and gaining way more exposure than i expected in such a short period of time, i’m worried that these thoughts will start to come up more and more. there are SO MANY people in this world who know so much more than i do when it comes to fitness and health, but we have to just keep telling ourselves that there are people who know even more than THEM. I think one of the things to help alleviate these feelings is to continually be learning and putting yourself out there to become better, smarter, and more experienced in your field.
Cheers Bev! The interesting thing about impostor syndrome is that it mostly affects people who are very well-qualified in what they’re doing – that’s why it’s such an anomaly. The most experienced people in their fields STILL have these feelings (like mothaeffin’ Sheryl Sandberg!). So it’s less about learning and growing (although that’s obviously something we should all be doing anyways) – it’s about recognizing and being driven by everything you HAVE achieved, rather than focus on what you’ve YET to achieve.
I get over it by coming back to my main goal when I started my career: I wanted to make enough money to call it a living. Whenever I get stressed about everyone doing it better/bigger than me I refocus on why I started and remind myself that my opinion is the only one that matters because I’m the one living this life!
Left a comment on your IG, but had to also express here that I’m so glad you shared this post. I still feel like a fraud a times, but what’s helped me most is honestly time–and proving to myself over and over that I DO know my shit. Discomfort is sometimes good, and we just need to embrace it and prove to the haters (AKA one’s own mind in this case lol) that we’re good enough.
Lauren! Thanks so much for writing this!
As someone with a teensy following, who is trying to build a personal brand, there are so many times that I wonder, “Why should anyone care what I have to say?” It’s even worse sometimes ’cause it’s so easy to compare yourself to people (something I actively avoid doing) who seem to have it all figured out and look like they’re just cruising through life effortlessly. I really appreciate when people talk about their success AND their struggle, because it’s a nice reminder that you can’t always have one without the other.
I hope this feeling passes for you, girl, ’cause you’re killing it! Thanks again for sharing.
I can most definitely relate to these feelings Lauren, I too write and delete and write and delete I have fragments of my thoughts piled up in my iPhone notes in my computer in my notebooks and even on receipts and napkins I want to write and share my thoughts with the world yet I second guess myself thinking the same as you and also the same as the other readers am I good enough? I am rather blunt and a bit weird so I’ve struggled with being the brunt of people’s jokes more than once and it can be scary and debilitating. I’m lucky I’ve had encouragement from awesome women like yourself and others that love me for who I am and want to see me succeed I love your attitude that the world is big enough for all of us you succeed without being vapid, petty or competitive it speaks to your authenticity and also your heart. For me, I try to see myself through the eyes of the people I love (upcoming post about this) I let my friend take total creative direction when she shoots me and I take risks outside of my comfort zone I may see flaws in my photographs but she just loves me so much she only sees awesomeness. My fiancé who doesn’t have personal social media is always reminding me to be present in real life that the content will flow from there and he supports me and takes pictures and edits my writing even though it’s not his thing it’s nice to know he understands that its mine. My childhood best friend Laura is the one who encourages my writing she makes me feel like I could win a Pulitzer Prize. I have a metaphor to describe the feeling it’s as if sometimes I am calling into a radio station but listening at the same time live so I’m not able to really hear what I want to tell myself , friends and families are the aired later episode so I hear what they have to say even when I told myself the same things but just don’t believe them. I think it’s especially important to look to my friends when I feel negative about what someone has said. My first day of blogging after spending so much time doubting if I’m good enough or if anyone will care what I have to say, the first day I very obviously launched my blog in the top left corner of a blogger I thought was a friend asked me if I was starting a blog then didn’t follow me or send any good wishes and it truly made my heart sink a little and feel like a total imposter infringing on territory I wasn’t welcome in , normally I would maul over why someone treated me like this while feeling sad but instead I reminded myself that my self worth isn’t tied up in whether someone else supports me or not I just decided to focus on all of the people who did engage with me and encourage me and felt embraced by their love. A few weeks ago when I told you I really wanted to start my blog you smiled hugely with the most encouragement and said I think you should go for it so casually because even though I may not have fully believed in myself you believed in me you could have made me feel like an imposter but you didn’t. Lauren I believe in you too girlfriend and I’m so excited to see you grow your brand you have such engaging and powerful writing you are funny you are brave you are kind you are smart you are beautiful you are everything renegade and Im so excited for you and the big things ahead for you!
Imposter syndrome is super common in my field – super super common in the sciences. I felt it recently and still feel it when I was offered a job right after finishing my Phd. I thought, what if I can’t measure up, what if I’m just a fraud and sold myself better than I am. I talked about it with my advisor. So many people in the sciences and every field feel it, and it sucks, but the tips you suggested are great ones to getting over it. Guess it’s something we all just have to work thru ! Thanks for sharing – you aren’t alone. Thanks for always being honest and real! Breath of fresh air in today’s blogging world!
This is something I think almost everyone struggles with, and sadly I think a lot of us let it win. Thank you for this post and reminding me to fight it!
Hey Lauren! Obviously, I love your writing as always. I often get that same feeling of feeling like perhaps I am “not good enough”. It is also part of the reason why I do not like being called an influencer: Why I do feel that it seems boastful, I also feel uncomfortable about the idea that people think that I would be in anyway interesting enough to “influence” people. There are only a handful of people that I would qualify as an influencer but you’re definitely included in that group. People always value and respect your honest opinions and they will keep on reading your posts even if they don’t always agree with them. You have a wondrous mind that you should never be afraid or ashamed of sharing with the world.
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