Rising Above Imposter Syndrome

Rising Above Imposter Syndrome
Photo by Alysha Rosly / Unsplash

This February, I did something that was completely out of my comfort zone. Along with my other team members, I traveled to National Harbor, Maryland to deliver a presentation at a national conference. It required significant courage and preparation for me to put myself out there and present. Thankfully, it went well, and the audience was very receptive to our presentation. Following the conference in March, I received an invitation to speak at another conference as a panelist. I was super thrilled about the opportunity. That was something completely out of the blue for me. The first national conference presentation leading to another event with an audience from all over the country- Perfect!! I celebrated it with my family, and with my team! My fellow panelists were going to be from the National Accrediting Body and Pharmaceutical Industry, with over 20 years of experience in the field. The thought of people trusting me to be alongside the veterans of the field pumped me up. I was convinced, with all the self-help books that I have been reading that growth indeed lies outside of the comfort zone! 😊

At the beginning of April though, it was Monday, a week before the event as I was preparing for it, I got swept up with feelings of self-doubt. I started questioning myself- How did I, a young brown woman with less than 3 years of work experience end up at the same table with two white males with 20+ years of experience in the field? When did it all happen? Do I even deserve to be in there? What if people find out that I do not have what it takes to be there? Do my opinions even matter? Again, how did it all happen? All day that Monday these feelings crippled me, and I was not able to concentrate on my work. By the way, if you don’t know already, this experience of feeling inadequate and self-doubt is called Imposter Syndrome. I fall victim to it every now and then and some of you may not be immune to this experience as well.

Later that evening, while on the treadmill, I listened to one of Michelle Obama’s interviews where she discussed her own experiences of feeling like an imposter. Because I look up to her, listening to her experiences provided me with some solace and validation regarding my own feelings. Although listening to her did not make my feelings go away instantly, it offered me some perspectives. I repeated to myself- It’s all in my head, I belong to that table, my thoughts, experiences, and insights are just as valid, relevant, and valuable as my fellow panelists, and I need to occupy that seat because someone like me could be watching and thinking that they belonged there too. When I came back home. needing a hug and someone to listen to my feelings, my husband reminded me that, as a young person, I could bring a diverse perspective to the discussion and my thoughts were just as important as everyone else’s at the table. Honestly, nothing helped me 100% that day, and I did not try to fight my feelings. I allowed myself to feel them, reflected on them, and journaled every ounce of my emotions.

The next day, I set up a meeting with the panel moderator, and speaking with her made me feel much better. Following that meeting, we had another meeting that included other panelists as well. One of them mentioned that he too felt comfortable after the meeting. That meeting provided me with a further perspective that the person with over 20 years of experience, while at a different level, also experienced discomfort and nerves. Knowing that I was not alone in feeling this way and that I have a long way to go in terms of practice helped me further.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived- the event day! It was this past Wednesday, and I believe I did great at the table I was nervous about being at in the first place. I was in my element, I did deliver my thoughts and opinions as an expert and I actually enjoyed it, you know! Upon the completion of the session, I received compliments and positive feedback from my team! Initially, I was set on my idea that I would not go back and watch the recording, but I did anyway! Of course, I criticized myself for a couple of things, but at the end of the day, I chose to be my own coach than my worst critic. I have identified a few areas for improvement, and I will be mindful of them in the future.

To summarize I did learn some valuable lessons from this experience:

Learn to be comfortably afraid: As Michelle Obama said in her book, “The Light We Carry”, possibilities and growth lie on the other side of fear. Once you start putting yourself out there and start being comfortably afraid, you never know what opportunities will come your way.

I belong: Imposter syndrome is in my head. My voice matters. My experiences and insights are valuable!

Learn to be my own coach and not my worst critic: I read this in the book “Why Has Nobody Told me this before” and has stuck with me since then. I am not perfect, and that’s okay. I am trying and I will get better at things with practice.

If you made it to this point, you should have already figured out my struggles. I am a work in progress, and I try to make it through every struggle with tools and strategies that work for me and The Growth Mindset, of course! 😉

As I have mentioned before, I envision this space to be a collaborative community for our mutual growth. If you feel comfortable enough, please feel free to share your own stories and let me and other members know how you get through your struggles. If not, that’s okay too.

Signing off- see you in the next blog!