My name is Meghan, and I struggle with ‘Impostor Syndrome’. I have been wanting to write this post for a while but recently (the past week in fact) this particular struggle has reared its ugly head.
For those of you who aren’t sure what I am talking about – it is essentially anxiety and belief that you are incompetent, unintelligent and lazy in a nutshell. How I describe it is like Sunday night before going back to school dread but it can happen at any moment. It is when you are asked to do a big project or starting a new job and you wonder why on earth you’ve been selected because you don’t really know what you’re doing / talking about!
Now I am going to caveat this by saying that nobody in my life has made me feel this way! In fact, it’s quite the opposite, I am lucky enough to work with people who are great cheerleaders who give recognition when it’s deserved, but that doesn’t seem to stop me feeling this way. I am often told ‘you need Meghan on this she will sort it out’ – which is great.
This recent bout was triggered by an email. I have been asked to speak on stage at a conference in front of a lot of people who work in the same area as me. When it popped into my inbox and the subject header said ‘hear from the experts’ I felt a cloud of cold dread sweep over me.
Now I have worked in my particular area / job role for around 6 years and on a day to day basis I feel I do pretty well at it, it’s become a real area of knowledge for me, but when I was suddenly was being billed as an ‘expert’ I suddenly panicked and the first thing that came to me was ‘I’m not an expert, I’m going to make an idiot of myself’. This played on my mind all afternoon and I even dreamed of standing on the stage and being laughed at that evening.
Fast forward to the next day and I was writing my speech. Now I wasn’t having to invent anything I was simply writing about what I do, but it caused me so much anxiety I ended up in tears. I wrote it again and again and I worried it was boring and childish and I am going to be sitting in a room of ‘experts’ who will realise that I actually have zero idea what I am doing.
So, that was the zone I was in – so what did I do to pull myself out of it? I first stepped away and I also went back to my CBT practices to give myself some practical tips for making myself feel better – I created a worry tree and getting it all down really helped. I have done a huge post on CBT around a year ago which you can read here.
The result – I realised I had been chosen out of many because THEY think I am an expert, and I had told them my talking points and got great feedback – they wouldn’t have asked me if they didn’t think I was up to it. They don’t want to look like idiots as much as I don’t want to!
And the other thing is – TALK ABOUT IT! I honestly felt so alone when I was having this minor breakdown, and I think not enough people talk about it. When I researched a little, it seems that this is something that more women suffer with but I don’t see many people talk about it. It is nothing to be ashamed of, I am sure it happens to all of us at one point and this post is my own little way of starting or adding to the conversation.
Please share below if you’ve ever struggled with this – I would love to know.
Until next time x