You know that sinking feeling you get when a client comes to you with a question directly related to your field of expertise and you don’t know the answer?
Now, magnify that by a hundred if you’re already harboring some tendencies toward Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is defined as an inability to internalize your accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud” – and speaking from experience, it can feel paralyzing. It’s also pretty inconvenient, to say the least, in a job where clients turn to you for your expertise all day long.
If you find yourself constantly checking and re-checking your work, over-internalizing and blaming yourself for failures, unable to set appropriate boundaries around workload or constantly fearing being exposed as unqualified or a fraud, you’re not alone. According to Forbes, researchers claim that up to 70% people have reportedly experienced symptoms of imposter syndrome at some point.
And I’m one of them.
I’ve been working to identify ways to become more aware of and overcome my own beliefs that I don’t measure up. Easier said than done, right? Even when it was suggested that I write this blog post about it I said, “You mean you want me to admit to the world all my feelings of inadequacy? Do you realize what you’re asking me to do? Have you learned nothing about the symptoms of imposter syndrome?!”
And then, I realized, maybe that is exactly what I need to do. Because part of overcoming something is first acknowledging it, right?
Hi, my name is Brooke and I have imposter syndrome. (Hi, Brooke)
Steps To Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Now that I’ve admitted it, here’s how I’m going to try to remind myself that I merely have imposter syndrome, not that I am actually an imposter (you can feel free to hold me accountable the next time you see me):
- Surround myself with people who will cheer me on.
Work culture can make or break someone with imposter syndrome. I honestly don’t know how I would get through the day without this incredible team standing behind me, building me up. They are often the ones reminding me of my competence and successes, not-so-silently pushing me to keep going. And I need to start believing them when they tell me I’ve done good work and accept their praise.
- Get comfortable with mistakes
I am lucky to work in a place that values some degree of calculated risk-taking, knowing full well that this is how we learn, grow and discover new and better ways of doing things. Of course, with that risk and potential for reward also comes the potential for mistakes, too. But I’m learning that mistakes don’t have to define me.
- Honor my expertise – and be willing to accept credit for my successes
As much as writing reports can be a drag, it’s actually an incredibly useful tool for this “imposter.” It’s not only a proof point of the campaign’s success, but also of my own. For example, one of my recent SEO campaigns garnered a 46% increase in organic search traffic year-over-year for a client’s website. Even when my natural instinct is to brush it off attributing success to luck or other external factors, it’s hard to argue with numbers like that. That didn’t happen by accident.
- Seek assistance from those whose strengths complement mine
I have often let the fact that I don’t know everything there is to know about search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (pay-per-click/PPC) make me feel inadequate. As much as I want to know everything there is to know about SEO/PPC, I can’t possibly do so. And I have to get comfortable with that. The world of search marketing encompasses a wide range of skills and no one is an expert in all of it. So why do I expect myself to be? No one else expects me to be everything to everyone. This is why we hire other people whose expertise in these fields differs from mine. Having other people on our team who are smarter than me in other areas of search marketing makes us a stronger team and allows me to focus on the pieces that I am strongest in.
I’ll admit; It does feel freeing simply having said this “out loud.” That new level of awareness is huge. But now the real work of trying to overcome it begins (as if simply writing this blog post wasn’t hard enough, right?!).
I recognize that this is going to take a lot of practice. So I’m going for progress, not perfection — the irony of which is not lost on my imposter-syndromed heart.