Imposter Syndrome

Yesterday I decided to pack up my laptop and after dropping my eldest off at work, have some time to myself (to write) in the coffee shop opposite his bar. Whilst that didn’t happen for a couple of reasons I did have a fantastic conversation with a lovely friend who she told me she was wanting to continue a business she’d previously set up but ‘Imposter Syndrome’ was in full force and stopping her from moving forward.

Imposter Syndrome, as defined by Harvard Business Review, is A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.’

Imposter Syndrome makes you doubt yourself and your abilities despite having tangible evidence that you’re actually very capable at the thing you want to do. It can creep into every part of your life from work to relationships, parenting to career aspirations; it seems there’s no area where feelings of ‘being found out’ cannot invade.

I’ve personally had Imposter Syndrome at various points of my life and I would say that it’s definitely held me back from where I wanted to go and part of the reason this was so is because I didn’t even know that I had Imposter Syndrome. The fact that we’re naming these feelings, talking about them and you’re reading this means that it is (and will be) more well-known for future humans to learn about. It’s good to understand how your brain works because this can help you navigate life a little better if you’re struggling. Absolutely knowledge is no easy cure, but it can help us to be kinder to ourselves.

And I am being kinder to myself these days.

Luckily the job I am doing is also a special interest of mine and this magic combination, has been the thing that’s very much helped my brain to settle and, dare I say it, enjoy myself at work. I don’t know everything and the paperwork side is all new to me but even before I applied for the role I approached my boss and my ‘big boss’ to ask for their opinions as to whether I should even consider applying. They both said lovely things about me and I actually listened to them (ever get that? people say nice things and you just don’t seem to hear them?) and that evening I found myself updating my CV to send in to HR.

Maybe being totally upfront and honest at the beginning was the thing that helped? (Though they had both seen my CV so it wasn’t a total surprise.) Maybe it’s my age and I was looking for something to use the knowledge I’d gained over the years of having 4 neurodivergent children so suddenly became braver? Maybe it was that I consider this ‘my time’ now because I’ve been a mum for 18+ years and in that time all my work has centred around the children and fitting in with them? Maybe this was now my time to go after what I want to achieve and ensure I have something that’s mine after the children have all left home?


I suppose I’ll never know.

My friend though is an incredibly talented person who has had success in what she wants to continue with but there’s a nagging doubt of, ‘Could I do it? Would people pay me? Would they pay me the going rate? Would it impact on my children? (My friend is divorced and has her children 50% of the time so a usual job with usual hours is tricky to fit in.) So many questions that stop her from even trying.

My car parking time was running out and my friend needed to go and get her children so we ended the call but what she said was still very much on my mind.

I’m one of those who seems to be really good at looking dispassionately at someone else’s difficulties and am known for giving good advice (I am also known for giving an opinion that’s quite blunt and not always asked for so this is a fine line I do tread), whilst finding it so much more challenging to do this with my own life. Throughout the afternoon what my friend and I had talked about was playing on my mind.

I messaged her later and suggested a few things that she could do to get started. Ideas such as not putting too much pressure on herself to be running a business and wondering how on earth this was going to happen. I suggested that she might pick 3 projects (she does have contacts so this is realistic), work with the clients to build test cases she can have on her website and at the end she can evaluate how the process went and whether she answered her initial goals of 1) Was this financially rewarding?, 2) Did it fit in with my family life? and 3? DO I want to do this again? I think it’s perfectly okay to stop and think about the things that are important to her rather than just getting on the treadmill and not getting off for a few years.

I also suggested that we ‘meet’ (in person/online/messaging is all fine) once a month to talk through our progress and set new goals for the coming month. For me, accountability helps but it can also add a pressure that I can buckle under. I’ve been friends with my lovely friend for over 20 years and I know she is empathetic to my challenges but also that she wouldn’t excuse me in the way that others might. This is the perfect combination for success I think.

By the end of the evening my friend had sorted a business name, designed a logo, run it past my dyslexics (font style is SO important to get right so all your clients/customers have equity in reading your signs and logos). She’d set up all her social media channels and I think she’s now up and running. Sometimes it’s that first step you need to take and not just think of the marathon that you want to run someday.

Her energy has inspired me to get my socials in order. I bought a book, have worked through some exercises and are now planning my content in a way I’ve never done before. I am writing goals and breaking down the steps so that I can achieve them; I’m being brave and taking that leap of faith.

Who knows if imposter syndrome will strike again. I now know that it exists and that I have often felt its grip. I also know that that I have strategies in which to help me work through it and I know I am not alone and that many people, neurodivergent or not, suffer from it too. Being honest helps me; working collaboratively helps too and understanding that this is me and will probably always be a part of me is enormous and something I wished I’d known earlier.

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