Imposter Syndrome and Me
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
I find it difficult to accept success. Or praise. Or compliments. Or any positive affirmations really.
I’m not alone.
Scottish people are notorious for being unable to accept compliments, or downplaying due to sheer awkwardness. I had it highlighted that whenever someone tells me that they like what I’m wearing my knee-jerk reaction is to tell them where I bought it and what it cost – rather than a simple, ‘thanks’.
Our culture is so based around a dry sense of humour that any compliments appear to be taking the piss, and that acknowledging it makes you seem a bit vain.
While Scottish people aren’t known to be shy and retiring, does our inclination to rebuff positive interactions deter others ability to see our successes and achievements?
It's not to say I’m not proud of what I’ve achieved in my life so far – I am. I’ve come further than I ever thought possible and I’ve overcome some incredible hurdles on the way. But being told how well I have done in something generally results in hitting a riddy and/or tears.
There’s a lot of talk of ‘Imposter Syndrome’, ironically from people who totally seem to have it together.
Does it stem from a discomfort in surroundings? Possibly, the first time I recall feeling so exposed was after I was made redundant from a job I’d spent 5 years in.
I was made redundant at the same time I graduated from Uni, I had been given a fresh start to begin again and not worry about notice periods – but I quickly realised that I couldn’t value my achievements highly enough to upsell them to someone else.
I knew I had a degree to back me up and almost five years of operational experience but I couldn’t justify applying for roles that would really challenge me and test my worth. Imagine trying to explain this to the woman signing you on at the job centre.
But somehow, I ended up in a role which has been moulded to fit me and where there is freedom to be as creative as I can. But that isn’t to say I haven’t had setbacks.
There have been times where I’ve been passed over for opportunities or been slightly sidelined. But you need these to grow and to understand where you can develop.
I’ve had more spells of great opportunities, including taking part in the Lens programme, an intrapreneurship programme. That isn’t a misspelling – intrapreneurs develop from within a business or organisation as opposed to entrepreneurs who set up their own.
Initially I had dismissed the idea, with the ‘someone else will have a better idea and do it better’ mantra, however following conversations with colleagues I was reassured that my idea wasn’t a terrible idea after all and that actually it had legs.
There was more to the process than I want to outline here as it isn’t really the best platform (you can read a full blog on the Lens Programme here), but what I realised was that actually, I can do whatever I want to!
I had spent weeks developing a pitch and memorising key figures and punchy phrases and on the day I was confronted with the realisation that I’d stand and pitch my idea and either be given funding to develop this, or I wouldn’t. End of.
It was a big deal to me, but me only.
No-one else would laugh that I hadn’t received funding, we weren’t all going to be able to receive it. But I would live.
Standing at the front of a room full of people, some familiar faces and other complete strangers suddenly wasn’t the most important thing.
It was convincing the judges in front of me that investing in me was investing in disadvantaged young women in the west of Scotland. And I got my funding.
It wasn’t because I suddenly decided that actually I was shit hot and could smash it, it was because I decided that for once in my life I’d accept the encouragement and the praise given.
And in a safe environment such as The Lens, encouragement was everywhere – I was dishing it out – but just unable to take it.
Opening myself up to the praise gave me a new perspective, I knew that the only person standing in the way of my achievements and success was me.
It hasn’t cured me, I haven’t become a public speaking pro overnight – but it’s shown me that there is a bit of fight inside me that just needs some coaching to come into her own.
You can see my Lens pitch here, and find out our plans for a brand new Digital Pathways programme.