At this time one year ago today, I’d just got home after a long day at my new job in the City, and I felt like a fraud. I started the day lost, wandering around Whitechapel and Aldgate in a daze, surrounded by really tall, middle class men with Saville Row suits and Prada luggage, and polished women in Louboutin shoes and Chanel sunglasses. I never really understood the term small fish in a big pond until that very second – it was terrifying. The day went quickly, I met all my new colleagues, and settled straight in. I remember sitting on a train on the way home baffled as to how I’d got where I was. How did Little Old Ciara land a Big Old Executive Job in the City!?
Have you ever felt like you landed a job you shouldn’t have? Maybe you don’t feel qualified for it, or don’t have the relevant experience. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend your entire time terrified that somebody will ‘find out’ that you’re not good enough, even though they are the people that hired you in the first place. You’ll feel like a fraud, like everything positive that’s come your way is down to luck, and not your own hard work.
I want to understand why we do this. Why do we constantly question our abilities? Self-doubt is a bastard, and it’s holding us back more than we think.
Impostor syndrome refers to a collection of internal feelings where you essentially believe you are incompetent, even if there is a tonne of evidence that would suggest otherwise. If you suffer from it, you’ll feel a constant internal lack of confidence, like your professional achievements are all based on a complete lie, and in actual fact you’re a failure and you’ve somehow got everybody fooled into thinking you’re essentially a rocket scientist. Studies show that women suffer from impostor syndrome more than men, but is that just because men aren’t encouraged to talk about their emotions, and feeling like they aren’t good enough? Impostor syndrome makes it almost impossible to celebrate and be proud of our successes. Is this because as a society we are hellbent on coming across as modest and self-deprecating, so we don’t appear to be too full of ourselves? It’s become almost embarrassing and awkward to talk about good things that happen to us, even to those who seem to be your biggest fans.
It’s really interesting to me that we feel this way about ourselves. We question our abilities when we land a new job, not considering the fact that the person who hired us trusts us to help their business thrive. We wonder how on earth we managed to graduate with a first, when the people who graded our essays are experts in their field. We wonder how the hell we won that super prestigious award, when it’s leaders in the industry that decided we deserved it. Shockingly, receiving all of this supposedly positive feedback from our endeavors makes it even harder to accept that we’re good at what we do. Instead we end up questioning how the hell we made it this far, and convince ourselves that we’ll never do anything like this again, because we are going to run out of luck someday, right?
I’ve been at my job a whole year now, and I’m only just starting to accept that actually, I worked hard to get here. I can do what I was hired to do. Isn’t it time we stopped questioning our abilities when those who give us these incredible achievements do so because they believe in us? At some point, there must have been a sliver of self-confidence in there, otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today. We’re so scared about people discovering that we’re secretly frauds, when in reality, all they’ll see is that no matter how big or small the accomplishment, we worked hard and we did it all on our own. Is that really such a bad thing?