For this Mental Health Awareness month, I wanted to talk about Impostor syndrome. I am not a trained professional on this topic. I just want to share my own experiences hoping that it can help you. I know that knowing about this syndrome earlier would have been good for me.
I experienced impostor syndrome all the time when I was younger – not knowing that there was a term for what I was feeling. Having those emotions of fear and anxiety like I do not belong, like I am going to get found out, like I was not good enough, like I was not supposed to be where I was. It was years later that I learned about the term, “Impostor Syndrome” in a seminar that Accenture (where I worked at the time) held for minorities. Bingo! I was diagnosed! All of a sudden, I felt like I was not the only one who felt that way, which was a huge relief. It turned out that a lot of minorities feel this way. When I tell people I experienced impostor syndrome, I usually get, “I would have never thought that because you come off very confident.”
I wish I could point to a pill, a video, a quick fix to help you get rid of it, but I can’t. What I can do is share with you what helped me.
1. Surround yourself with cheerleaders
There are people who give you energy! I am not sure what it is, but it is a feeling or what the cool kids will call it now, a vibe. Have you ever been hyped or felt like you can take over the world? Look around you, who brings those feelings and emotions out of you? Who makes you feel confident? Keep those people around you and look for more people like that. Work with them!
Just like there are people who give you energy, there are people who suck the energy out of you. Stay away from these people! If you are ever stuck in a situation with people who make you uncomfortable, give yourself more time to do your work. Always tell yourself that their views on you do not define you.
“Just like there are people who give you energy, there are people who suck the energy out of you. Stay away from these people!”
2. Fake it ‘til you become it (here is the video where I got that saying from)
When I got the news I was getting a final interview with the job of my dreams, Accenture. I was so happy and terrified at the same time. I was not only competing with the best students from my school, but from the best schools in the nation. I remember walking into my professor’s office and telling him that I was nervous about what to say so that could help me stand out because I was feeling like everyone was a better candidate than I.
To this day, I can recite what he told me, “you have worked to put yourself in school while many of your classmates cannot say the same. The 3.2 GPA that you are so nervous about is a 4.2 in my eyes because of all the struggle and challenges you have overcome. That job is yours! You walk in there and claim it!” And I did! I needed that pep talk.
I walked in there and talked so highly of myself to the point that the interviewer was pretty much like, “okay okay what are your top 3 locations to work at?” Couple weeks later, I heard back from the recruiter who told me I was hired. I was the only person who got recruited from my whole school, UCF. It turns out that your GPA will help you get an interview or call back, but you are there to close the deal. I faked it (my confidence) or maybe I believed it because of the pep talk my professor gave me, and it worked! I got the job of my dreams. After that, it was only up to me to stay.
“ I was feeling like everyone was a better candidate than I”
3. Own your whole self
I was always afraid of being too much at work. I am usually very bubbly, energetic, and fun, but I wanted to be taken seriously, so I would act like this whole other person at work. I dressed differently because I did not want to come off as too girly. I was always at conflict on who I was outside of work and at work until I stopped giving zero f***s. I started loving every part of myself. I loved fashion, and I started showing it at work. I noticed that I was happier when I was more comfortable with who I was portraying on the outside because it was reflecting with the person I was on the inside.
I started just being myself, and I noticed that I started flourishing at work. I did not want to fit in anymore because I wanted to stand out. I was unapologetically my whole self whether that resonated with people or not, and I loved it. I started giving more opinions and asking more questions. I wanted to be heard and seen because no one is going to remember you if you don’t speak. BE SEEN, so people can know your brand and help you climb that corporate ladder.
“I did not want to fit in anymore because I wanted to stand out.”
4. Know what you do not know
Being confident about what you don’t know is a great skill to develop. Sometimes, we as women do not want to come off as we do not know something. When we try to compensate in any of our areas of weakness, we come off nervous – people can just tell we do not know what we are talking about.
“Being confident about what you don’t know is a great skill to develop.”
While I was consulting, I did a project at the most sought after place to work. A place where you would think people are geniuses. While I was in a meeting, I would hear things like, “I do not understand what you are talking about”, “I do not know how to do that”, “I do not get it”, etc. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! They are so confident when they say they do not know something. I can’t believe it is okay to not know something.”
You are not gonna come off as dumb if you ask more questions. You have to be confident at saying, “listen I have never done that, but I will figure it out. Let me ask you clarifying questions.” Because when you do not ask questions, people will assume you do know what you are doing. It is far worse to mess up after a week than to be honest when you do not know how to do something.
I really hope this helps you understand that you are not alone. A lot more people than you can think of have gone through this. I really think it is not just about being a minority, but being new at something. Never stop trying because with each failure you are getting closer to being successful. Any successful person you meet has failed a lot of times. Any inexperienced person you meet has tried less times than you did. Be kind to yourself and to everyone! I am reading, “The subtle art of not giving a f***” and for complete transparency. The last two sentences came from that book. I highly recommend it.
With this, I also wanted to introduce you to Chill Pill (launching on May 10th), a mental health app created only for self-identified females who would like to talk to other people about their experiences in private. Sometimes talking about your experiences is good for you to understand how many others may be going through the same situations you are going through. Some of those people may have tips for you <3
Chill Pill’s mission is to make mental health support accessible to the younger generation. Chill Pill is a community or female-identifying and non-binary people ages 13-25 to share about their mental health and get support from each other. Their community lives on the Chill Pill iOS app, where members can by attending audio support groups, which are led by their peers who are volunteer members of the community, and by posting their daily thoughts and reflections, either with their username visible or anonymously, to Chill Pill’s judgement-free journal feed. Chill Pill is built by, for, and alongside their community.