The amount of times I’ve thought to myself at work, ‘How have you got here?’. Followed by, ‘At what point will someone realize I shouldn’t be?’.

If you’ve ever felt the same, welcome to imposter syndrome. A self-deflating little bugger of a mindset that makes you think you’ve somehow fooled everyone into believing you’re pretty good at your job, were worth promoting, actually know what the heck you’re doing and deserve to be in the role you’re in. When you actually feel that you really do not deserve any of it and at some point, you’re going to be found out for a fraud. 

And the trouble with imposter syndrome is, I end up working way harder than I actually need too, to prove that my accomplishments are founded. Also to try and reduce that self-doubting internal speech that keeps telling me I shouldn’t be where I am. And I feel uncomfortable when someone praises me, because deep down, there’s conflict within me. Something telling me that it was all down to good timing really, right place right time. Nothing to do with me at all. I’m not where I am from my own merits.

“I just got lucky I guess.”

Recently someone was speaking to me about my career journey over the past decade, and they gave me a little praise. Queue my awkward vibes (as I can’t seem to accept any kind of compliment) and then my reply, “I just got lucky I guess.” Genuinely said because I do believe that luck, had a major role to play.

And then I thought, luck did all the work did it? No, of course it didn’t.

Even though rationally I know I’m a hard worker. I have skills, I’m good at what I do. Sure, I can always learn and do better, I’m not THE best (I’m not sure anyone is) I’ve got to where I am through hard work and determination, and because other people saw something in me. Why oh why, do I still attribute all of that with a bit of handy luck? And so never seem to shake that feeling that I’ve unintentionally fooled people into thinking I’m better than I am? 

There is conflict between how I perceive myself, and what I think others will eventually figure out

Which is that I shouldn’t be in the role I am.

Something in me keeps saying I need to continually prove it to myself and everyone else, or feel bad about it all. It’s a tricky situation, and one that creates a toll on emotional well-being and mental health. It’s a right fucker for your anxiety too

I’m really not sure why I have this self-doubt, or why we collectively struggle with accepting that we are in fact in roles we deserve, and don’t need to feel all this guilt as if we’ve cleverly tricked the world, when we actually haven’t. But I do know that consistently trying to prove my worth has led to burnout. It’s utterly exhausting trying to reassure myself that I’m right where I should be, when I often feel that I shouldn’t.

“No-one knows what the hell they are doing really. You just accept a job, and figure it out as you go along.”

When I told a colleague about this struggle, he said, “No-one knows what the hell they are doing really. You just accept a job, and figure it out as you go along.” I liked that.

He wasn’t saying it like It’s applicable to working as a plumber who actually can’t plumb. He just meant it in the way it was intended. That I should try not to worry so much about feeling like I might not be 100% perfect at my role, because everyone feels that way at times. Most of us are figuring out a lot of it as we go, but it doesn’t mean we are less deserving of where we’ve got too. And likely, in a room full of people there aren’t many who won’t feel like an imposter in some way or another.

Success doesn’t mean being perfect. Failure or not knowing something doesn’t make us a fraud

In reality, I don’t need to be perfect, or a genius, or in fact an expert in every single thing that my role will throw at me, even though I kinda still think I ought to be. But I really don’t need to have all the answers. Or push myself to the brink of burnout in order to prove anything to anyone. I did that already, but can’t seem to recognise that journey. And if I don’t know an answer to something, sure the guilt sets in. Gets right comfy telling me how I don’t know shit and that’s why I shouldn’t be in the position I am. But seriously, I can’t know everything. People take years to gain all their knowledge. So now my colleagues words ring loud now when I get that mindset kicking in. “No-one knows what the hell they are doing really. You just accept a job, and figure it out as you go along.” We all learn as we go, in pretty much everything we do in life. So why am I pressuring myself so much to know it all in the 9-5? 

Women struggle with imposter syndrome more than men

Maybe it comes down to that deep rooted sense of apology us women feel held too? The natural, “I’m sorry I accepted this job. That I’m not 100000% bloody brilliant at it. Would you kindly accept 120% effort or shall I give you my notice immediately?” thoughts that seem to exist deep down in that self-depreciative way women are more susceptible too. A 2019 study found that up to 82% of people reported feeling like an imposter at work, so imposter syndrome is something a lot of people can relate too. 

However if nearly 82% of us feel this way, doesn’t that very fact challenge the need to be so self-doubting?

Because we’re not the only ones going through it. There are more people in the room feeling like an imposter than not. No matter what business we’re in, we’re likely in good company and its apparently not the least bit abnormal to feel those imposter vibes. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a known cure for this syndrome, but I’m going to keep repeating my colleagues words, remembering that most people feel the same way, and try my best to not credit the work I do and position I’m in to luck alone, as opposed to via my own merit.  

How has imposter syndrome affected you?.

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.