Why It’s Time to Get Real About Impostor Syndrome
Updated: Mar 17, 2020
Author: Erica Marois
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you didn’t feel like you belonged?
Perhaps you’ve felt this way in a work setting. Maybe you’ve been sitting at a boardroom table feeling unprepared, overwhelmed, and out of your league. Or perhaps you’ve just started a new job, and you’re second-guessing that you can do the work.
We’ve probably all found ourselves in one position or another in which we don’t feel comfortable, confident, or sure of what’s next. And in those cases, it’s easy for the doubt to creep in — the self-limiting thoughts.
The problem is that quite often, we hold ourselves back with those limiting ideas. And most of the time, those around us have no idea that we’re feeling so insecure.
There’s a formal term for those feelings, and it’s been coined “impostor syndrome.”
Wikipedia defines impostor syndrome this way:
“a psychological pattern in which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud."Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all they have achieved.”
Who can relate? 👋
Seven years ago, I was beginning a new job in a new industry. I was working remotely for the first time, and things were off to a rocky start. I found myself battling pretty severe anxiety.
Having spent the first six years of my professional career working with some of my closest friends in a tight-knit office where my work was well-respected, I got comfortable. But as the economy was going through a downturn, advertising agencies began to struggle. I could see the writing on the wall and feared that my role in managing social media and PR for a local boutique agency might soon be in jeopardy.
So I started to look for other opportunities, and I eventually decided to take on a new role as a content and community specialist for an organization that provides resources and training for contact center leaders.
I didn’t know much about contact centers at the time, but I loved the idea of working from home, and the hiring manager impressed me. I was hopeful and excited as my first day on the job approached.
But as I settled into a new routine in my tiny home office, I soon became overwhelmed by a sense of loneliness and crushing doubt that I wasn’t cut out for the job.
I missed the coworkers I’d spent every day with for the past six years. I missed the comforting normalcy of the routines I’d developed, the familiarity with my role, and the friendly small business environment.
Working in a large corporate setting for the first time, entirely on my own, at home, and in a brand new industry, was more overwhelming than I expected. And because I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to perform at a high level, I quickly found myself cracking under that self-imposed pressure.
I was convinced I wasn’t working hard enough or catching on quickly enough.
I’d log on to my computer at 7:00 in the morning, and I’d still be obsessively refreshing my inbox at 9:30 at night.
I was moody, I was losing weight, and I didn’t feel like myself. For the first time in my life, I was ready to quit. So I started a journal as a way of working through some of the feelings.
And just this morning, I got an email from Penzu (the journaling service I used), reminding me of an entry I wrote all those years ago. Here are three quotes from that entry:
“I'm an idiot.”
“I'm not good at this job.”
“I don't think this job is going to work out.”
Reading those words makes me cringe. I hate seeing the unkind (and now as I know, untrue) way I wrote about myself, but I also feel empowered by how much I’ve grown since then.
In hindsight, I wish I’d had the support of a community like CX Accelerator to lean on back then, but here are three things I now know.
1) I wasn’t an idiot.
2) I was, in fact, good at that job. And I even came to love it.
3) The job did work out quite well, actually. I spent more than six years there, earned several promotions, learned more than I ever have, and grew my professional network exponentially. I also found this community as a result.
I don’t share this story to elicit pity or to toot my own horn. I share this story because I believe it’s one we all have a similar version of.
And if you’re reading this and you can relate, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
As customer experience professionals, I think we’re especially prone to battling impostor syndrome. The work we do is often thankless and misunderstood. The work is also complicated. It's part math, part science, part art, and plenty of politics.
And when the headlines predict that one in four of us will lose our jobs this year, it’s unsettling.
But there’s value in acknowledging our challenges, facing our insecurities, and sharing our fears.
It’s worth being bold enough to have tough conversations.
The CX Accelerator community exists to be a space for those bold, human, vulnerable conversations. A place to work through doubts and insecurities, build one another up, and grow and learn as CX Professionals.
We invite you to share your thoughts here or in the #wellbeing channel of our Slack community. Let us know if you’ve ever battled impostor syndrome and what you did to overcome it.
Are there other real, bold conversations you’d like us to address We’d love to hear about those ideas, too! Drop us a note: CXAccelerator@gmail.com
A passionate connector of people, Erica Marois is a customer and employee experience enthusiast who loves helping others find unique solutions to their biggest challenges. She has 12+ years of experience in content creation and community building and volunteers as a facilitator for CX Accelerator. Erica works from home in Richmond, VA, where she lives with her husband and their lab-mix, Quinn. Outside of work, she loves cooking, traveling, and reading. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter!