By Sarah Elise Vasquez
Every few weeks I will take a look at my resume, and skim down each row of experience, qualifications, and awards.
On paper, I am more-than qualified for any entry-level position in communication.
On paper, I have a track-record of success and am a proven leader.
If I am all of these things “on-paper” then why don’t I always believe it in the work place?
An estimated 70% of people will experience intense feelings of unwarranted inadequacy at school or in their careers—this is called Imposter Syndrome. These people may feel like they are underserving of the position they are in or have the anxiety that they will be discovered to be frauds, despite having been moderately to highly successful in their pasts.
It seems that Imposter Syndrome has loomed over me throughout my entire academic career and even now is seeping into my professional career. The thing is, I know where these feelings stem from. I grew up in a very under-privileged region in Southwest Texas. In high school I would compete in academic competitions and would perform very well but would never be able to take home the gold medal. Finally, after years of frustration I decided to speak to the judges of these competitions and ask them how I could become more competitive. I will never forget what they said to me. “What region are you from? …. Oh! Well that’s why you’re not winning.” It turned out my region was the poorest in the competition and couldn’t afford the materials that the other schools used. The following year, I purchased my own materials and went on to take the gold.
While we should always look to our past to inspire and motivate our futures, I have taught myself that sometimes it’s okay to remove yourself from those negative feelings — The fear that maybe you wouldn’t be able to afford school this semester, the feeling of being categorized, or in my case the way I felt when I was told I wouldn’t be able to ‘win’ because of the school I went to.
Here are some ways I am able to regain lost confidence when I experience my own feelings of Imposter Syndrome:
- Don’t forget where you come from but remember that you decide where you go!
As I mentioned, it’s easy to get stuck in negative feelings or memories but you can draw on those hard times for positive inspiration. For example, even though I was not in a position to take a gold medal I still did so, and I did it on my own terms. How did you ever accomplish something on your own terms? Were you scrappy? Were you resourceful? Yes, you were — and you must remember that you are all those things now.
- Luck favors the prepared!
An old supervisor used to tell me that luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity. Think about this, which is the better position to be in? Being the most confident person in the office or being the one with the most information? At my new job I always try to arm myself with the latest news surrounding our clients and work, that way I can always offer up helpful information if it is needed.
- Own your success
When you feel that uncomfortable anxiety creeping up, take a few minutes to think about your latest achievement and the skills it took to get you there. We often get caught up in our mistakes and forget to acknowledge all of our big (and small) wins. By taking a few minutes every day to internalize your success you will quickly see that your wins outnumber your losses.
- What works for others may not work for you
Many times I find myself looking around the office or around the classroom and negatively comparing myself and my work to others. Comparing yourself to your peers can be helpful and help you to stay competitive, but it’s important to remember that what works for others may not work for you. You are a unique individual with talents and a perspective that no one else may have. Learn from others but don’t strive to become them.
- Everyone feels the same…
As mentioned, 70% of people experience imposter syndrome in their lifetime. You are not the only one and nobody, (NOBODY) has all the answers.
So take a breather and pat yourself on the back. You’re doing fine, in fact you’re doing great.