“I am a fraud”
“I’m not good enough”
“What if they laugh at me?”
“What if my ideas aren’t good enough?”
This is literally the conversation I had before I decided to submit my UCAS personal statement, many moons ago. It’s crazy that I can read people’s work and automatically know how to edit and improve it, but at one point I felt as though I simply wasn’t good enough. I was, for my friends and my family, but could I turn this into a business?
Well I have and I am amazing at what I do (proof is in the pudding!)
Imposter Syndrome can be a debilitating condition that causes consistent self-doubt (sometimes it still rears its ugly head) and a feeling of intellectual inadequacy. For every success, there seems to be a stroke of ‘luck’ or an internal belief that you have somehow managed to fool people into thinking you are capable when you are clearly not?!
Victims of this state of mind fail to see that they do indeed possess the ability and the competence to be successful and thrive!
Now enters the time where I sound like I am blasting through a questionnaire, so here goes!
· Do you feel as though you don’t measure up?
· Do you think you need to put in the extra effort to earn your title and constantly prove your worth?
· Do you fear asking for help because you believe you need to complete every task alone?
· Do you feel as though you are inexperienced or lacking in knowledge?
· Do you think other people believe you are capable of more than you think you are?
Well, I hate to break it to you, you are an IMPOSTER!
Were you expecting me to write that? No. In the same respect, you must know deep down that you have earned your right to be in the circle/field/specialism that you are in!
Let’s delve a little deeper…
You need to be able to take constructive criticism, no matter how superior your position is. Do you think CEOs would remain in charge of their businesses, if sometimes they didn’t think outside of the box? Or, refused to accept that maybe their multi-million-pound idea could turn into a multi-billion-pound idea with just a little tweak?
If you stop seeing this as an attack on your abilities, and changed this into an optimistic outlook, then your ability to self-critique would become enhanced! We all need to take a step back and improve, or life would remain stagnant and stagnation is not something anyone should settle for. This perceived fear of inadequacy can lead to halting any progression that you have in your career.
Have you ever been guilty of the following?
· Failing to seek support
· Procrastination resulting in delayed drafts/cancelled meetings
· Fear of shame, unworthiness and embarrassment
· Superstition and failing to take risks
For a while, I thought that if I waited until 11:11 to submit, I would somehow tap into the universe’s special code for success. Even writing that down now makes me cringe, but hey ho, confession is good for the soul!
I didn’t know how to simply enjoy the submission of an academic piece of work, or later in my teaching career, a successful observation. I was constantly comparing my successes and failures to other people, as if somehow that would provide me with validation. I thought that by asking for help, I was somehow making myself subordinate, and had to consistently ‘talk to myself’ to convince myself that progression was more important.
This led to other symptoms:
· Low mood
· Reduced self-care
“What if I fail? I’m not as good as ‘they’ are.”
I sound like a paranoid person, or I did. Other parts of my life were being impacted and I was subjecting myself to continuous internal questioning, losing one of my better traits: self-confidence. You wouldn’t believe this today, but I found myself spending hours agonising over sentences in the library, pouring over books and surviving on minimal sleep. Keeping in line with an optimistic outlook, this has endowed me with the skills needed to be successful in my current profession, but I could have acquired these and a little peace too!
Procrastination became my best friend. My house had never been cleaner, my underwear drawer was even organised, and I had placed my lipstick into a perfect shaded order. Whereas this was great, I still hadn’t completed my work. My to-do lists were never-ending and even if I had completed ten tasks in one day, I still felt as though everybody else had done more.
This can have the potential to spiral into a series of self-sabotaging behaviours:
· Poor time management
· Over stressing
· Avoidance behaviours
All things you cannot put on your CV skill list! So, now here’s the important part. How did I beat this and start my own business?
By learning to celebrate myself and my achievements. This might not sound like revolutionary advice, but you only need to start small!
Here is some key snippets of advice:
Keeping a to-do list
Now, I am not talking about the never-ending list, but a series of manageable tasks. It’s physically impossible to write a ten-thousand-word article in a few hours, but writing the introduction? Manageable. You need to take joy in the little things.
Learning to switch off
If you have a brain like me, sometimes it is impossible to switch off! Whereas, this is great because it means you are bursting with ideas, those ideas sometimes need to be in bed by 10pm like you do! Set yourself a target, like Sunday is my day of rest and I don’t work after 10pm (unless I have a deadline) but then I make sure that I have that time for myself. I am also a firm believer in timetables, and I make sure that I pencil in ‘relaxation’ without fail.
Losing is a part of life
This is a hard one, especially if you have a competitive nature. You are not going to be accepted for every scholarship, promotion or job interview. You must believe that this is because something better is promised for you. Whether that is from a spiritual point of view or just a positive thought process, but if you work hard enough, you will achieve the best of your potential.
Taking comfort in your own path
When I was younger, I had a plan. I was going to do my GCSEs, A-Levels, BA, then MA, and finally, my PhD. Life got in the way, and I now have a beautiful nine-year-old, who has changed my entire perspective. I went back to university later, and found that I appreciated learning so much more! I had a bucket load of life experiences to bring to my degree, and when I made the decision to apply for my Masters, I knew that it was because I wanted to. I’ve started my own business and I am finally taking comfort in the idea that my path is solely mine! It is never too late to make the change for you and to be the master of your own destiny.
Keeping a book of accomplishments
Learn how to say thank you and mean it! Whether this is to other people who are paying you a compliment (you do deserve it) or simply to yourself, take the time to be thankful. Write down at least three things that you are thankful for each day and when Imposter Syndrome strikes, you have a toolkit ready to take that mother down!
Seeking professional help
There are a variety of self-help books, workshops, counselling and CBT sessions available for you. If you feel as though you need the extra help, don’t be ashamed in approaching your local health care practitioners. You’ve got this!
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