Impostor syndrome at its best – my story

It hit me. I didn’t even realize how bad my impostor syndrome got until I saw “hellogigles” post an Instagram post that said…

If you PAINT, you are a PAINTER
If you SING, you are a SINGER
If you DANCE, you are a DANCER
If you BAKE, you are a BAKER
If you ______, you are a ________.

Source

Bum! I knew the answer to the last question.

I’ve written about the imposter syndrome before on UXD Girl, so naturally, I thought that I am past that s***.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

I am past the impostor syndrome as a UX Designer. I know there are still things I can learn, but I’ve also been doing it long enough that I know that I can solve any problem that is thrown at me. If nothing else, I know how to find the information I need.

But when I tried a new role to challenge myself and it hit me hard.

I consider myself quite reflective, emotional, but also down to earth. So I know what areas I still can and need to grow in and one would think I’d also see how much I’ve already achieved. But still, with the company and my position there, changing, I doubted myself on oh so many levels.

As an over-thinker and a somewhat an over-achiever, I am a master of convincing myself that I can always be and do better to a point where I start believing my own story of not being good enough.

The thoughts in my head were so loud that I knew I needed to do something. I mostly needed an outside view. When studying coaching I learned that feedback is the breakfast of champions, so I started asking for feedback. Lucky for me I have a few friends that work as PMs and they were happy to talk to me.

I vividly remember when one of them said to me:

“Wow Pia, you have so many diverse skills and experiences. You’ve done so many things and that makes you beautifully unique. Any company would be happy to have you.”

An awesome coach friend of mine

If nothing else this shut my “gremlin” up for at least a bit. The rational part of me reminded me of another friend, who said:

When you are overwhelmed, write. Make a list and then work it step by step.

Very rational friend of mine

So, I started writing and busy with writing an idea popped up – write a CV. Sell your experience and your knowledge to yourself first. The idea wasn’t to send it off, but to really create a list.

Needless to say, that made me feel a whole lot better. I’ve actually looked at the CV and realized how much knowledge I’ve gathered over the years. It didn’t help me realize that I have impostor syndrome, but it did quiet my monkey brain a bit.

The realization really came with reading the quote at the beginning of this post. The AHA moment was so strong that I decided to write about it again.

Heartbreaking truth about the impostor syndrome

… is that many many (mostly) women have it. And these are usually really successful women! How can this be?! How can Oprah and Sheryl Sandberg think that? How can Michelle Obama, Margaret Thatcher, and many other women have it!?

Impostor syndrome is not a “women’s thing”, it is human, but it does seem to be more common among women.

On UXD Girl blog I’ve laid out 9 points to defeat your impostor syndrome:

  1. Admit to yourself that you have impostor syndrome.
  2. Write down all your past successes.
  3. Write down positive feedback.
  4. Acknowledge constructive criticism with ideas on how to make your work better.
  5. Keep a diary of small victories and successes that resulted from work (not luck).
  6. Get a support system.
  7. Compare only to yourself.
  8. Share your work. You are unique.
  9. Make a step by step plan to progress.

Interestingly I did many of these steps before I even recognized that impostor syndrome has crept in my life.

I found support. Lots of it! I started writing again. I made a step by step plan. I wrote down my successes. I asked for feedback… But after painful rejection (by a person whose opinion probably shouldn’t count all that much) I didn’t believe any words of encouragement or positive feedback. I started making excuses and explanations, for why this rejection was justified, that were completely untrue.

Thankfully I have a strong support system that never gives up on me and will call on my bullshit when the situation calls for it. It took days, but I finally started to understand that the shadow around me was the impostor syndrome.

And then I saw the poem above and it hit me… it felt like the chains fell off me and I was ready for another round. Passionate, excited, determined.

I CAN DO THIS.

Have you ever experienced feeling like a fraud?

Have you ever recognized the impostor syndrome? How did you deal with it? I’d love to hear about your experience.

It got me in its full force. But now I have a different mindset, music on loud, and my steps to continue walking my path with my head held high. What about you?

Until next time, be proud, be bold, be real,

Pia

6 Comments

  • Shruti Anand

    such a nice article. As a PM I have faced it in every new meeting that I go to or even get so conscious while replying to emails or talking to customers almost to a point where we start dreading things and forget what are we really good at. I feel its very necessary to have a support system and stay away from people who tell you that you are emotional or over thinker

    • pia

      Hi Shruti! Thank you for your comment. You are so right. 🙂 We need a support system and we need to work on ourselves to gain trust in ourselves. We really do know more than we realize most of the time.

  • Sheala Vast-Binder

    Thank you for writing this! As someone moving from one industry to another, I can’t decide if I have imposter syndrome or I really don’t have a clue. I thought I had a clue, until I started job hunting. 😉

    • pia

      Thank you for your comment Sheala! Usually, with impostor syndrome, everyone will be telling you that you have it and you’ll see the proof, but still, there will be something that will tell you that you don’t have it. And if it’s not impostor syndrome, but it’s actually just recognition of “I don’t yet have it” that is great! Now you know what to learn. 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  • Aleks Finch

    Oh my how much I needed to read this post today! As I was reading it, I quickly started writing a list of small successes that I had this week, and it really helped me see that getting an interview the next day after a successful networking event wasn’t luck, it was me who attended and actually talked to people. And even though I didn’t get the job and that I still have a lot to learn, and it’s important to identify those moments when you don’t have the right skills/experience/etc. to get a job, it’s just healthy to remind yourself about those little victories.
    I can’t say anything about you as a PM, but I can say what I know, and I know that you’re an amazing mentor who encourages, helps, gives great feedback and overall motivates so your students can achieve their goals! I feel very lucky that I was your mentee 🙂

    • pia

      Oh Aleks, thank you for your kind words! And yes, you are totally right – recognizing successes is as important as it is recognizing where we still can learn. Step by step and we’ll get there. 😉 Good luck in finding the perfect job!

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