Before I started my career at Ketchum, I often experienced the fear of failure and self-doubt that are associated with impostor syndrome. I had several jobs and internships where I felt inadequate. I remember constantly worrying whether I was actually qualified or just lucky. I’d find myself afraid that my managers, colleagues and even friends would one day discover I was some type of fraud who didn’t deserve credit for any of the accomplishments I’d worked so hard to achieve.
According to MindTools, impostor syndrome is “the overwhelming feeling that you don’t deserve your success. It convinces you that you’re not as intelligent, creative, or talented as you may seem.” Impostor syndrome affects all types of people, from all different parts of life. An estimated 70% of people experience these impostor symptoms at some point in their lives. This nagging anxiety is particularly prevalent among women and minority groups, but also among high achievers such as CEOs, politicians, creative directors, and entrepreneurs. The irony is the further you dive into your career, the more opportunities there are for impostor syndrome to surface. The biggest contributor? Fear. Fear can keep you from taking the risks that you need to further your career and personal growth. It can minimize your voice, leave you to become less ambitious and prevent you from reaching your full potential. You can’t let fear stop you from being the best version of yourself.
How can you stop these negative thoughts from doubting your ability to create kick-ass work?
Acknowledge and identify your thought patterns. Our minds are powerful. Sometimes the voices in our heads can misguide us. But you are not your thoughts. Mindfulness and meditation can teach you to recognize which thoughts are helpful and which are harming our self-confidence. Once you can pinpoint the recurring thoughts that are fueling your impostor syndrome, you can learn to give up on bad habits like comparing yourself to others or believing your success is purely based on luck. All these negative thoughts affect your behavior, so simply observe each thought, rather than engaging with it. Ask yourself, does this thought help or inhibit me?
It takes courage to talk about this. You are not alone in your self-doubt. Impostor syndrome is absurdly common. Unfortunately, it is extremely internalized, and when you are suffering from it, admitting it to others can seem intimidating. But the truth is, admitting it can be quite liberating. You’re sharing the true struggles of being human, which will most likely elicit empathy from those around you.
Embrace the creative stage you are in. When you are creating something, you can be very vulnerable. Show this vulnerability in the work you’re doing, and use it to develop something the world can relate to. The feelings that arise from impostor syndrome are all attributed to you being in a place that feels uncomfortable. Embrace it. Become inspired by it. Take the emotions you are feeling from this discomfort and express them however you wish.
Write yourself a new script. When you feel triggered by impostor feelings, listen to that conversation you’re having in your head, then empower the choices in your self-talk. Adopt a growth mindset by using communication that catalyzes your influence and utilizes your intuition. Replace “I suck at this” with “I’m new to this.” A practice like journaling can help give you an opportunity to change this way of thinking. You’d be surprised by how much this habit can change your behavior and boost your confidence. Be your own cheerleader. Give yourself permission to define who you are with who you want to be and bring that person to life.
Become a risk taker. One thing to realize about impostor syndrome is that it’s unique to who you are. Let that person be free. Step back from the boundaries you feel you’ve trespassed. If you believe your voice matters, make that commitment to shift your self-talk and fall in love with your own voice — inside and outside your head. Soon enough, you’ll develop the ability to let go of what people think of you. Turn on your most authentic self and communicate to the world what you truly want to say.
There is a universal fear of feeling insecure — but we are all human, and we are not alone. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that prioritizes empathy. Ketchum has pushed me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and has been an advocate for bringing my whole self to work. It is this type of culture that truly allows us to shine. We let go of fear and set out to make the world a better place.
If this encouraged you to want to break free from impostor syndrome or you think you need a bigger push, I would love to hear from you.