A wonderful thing happened recently. I was asked to be a mentor to journalism students in their final year at Birmingham City University. As someone who has had endless help throughout my career from people more experienced than me, being able to do something similar feels like a real joy, and a privilege.
When I was first asked, I felt a huge surge excitement at being considered experienced enough to have something to offer, and pride of the 17 years I’ve been doing this job. Then suddenly, the other feelings crept in. Wondering whether I actually am experienced enough to have anything useful to offer, questioning why on earth anyone would benefit from me being their mentor, and thinking that perhaps the whole thing was one big, embarrassing mistake.
Imposter Syndrome strikes again.
I have no qualms in revealing that I struggle a bit with this phenomenon, mainly because I know I’m not alone. According to one bit of research, nearly 70% of individuals experience signs and symptoms of Imposter Syndrome at least once in their life.
Heck, even Michelle Obama says she still feels it and it “never goes away”.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
For those of you who are lucky enough not to be dogged by this rather frustrating obstacle, Imposter Syndrome is defined basically as a psychological pattern in which you doubt you skill or talent and are constantly worried of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.
Put into practice, for me anyway, it can be anything from not feeling like you merit praise you’re receiving, to feeling like you aren’t quite qualified enough to have a view (despite being incredibly experienced in the subject at hand), to wondering why on earth you’re standing up in a room addressing people when you can’t possible have anything useful to say.
The problem with Imposter Syndrome is it’s in your own head. People can tell you until they’re blue in the face that you’re good at what you do. You can have countless accolades, certificates, qualifications and testimonials. But there’s still that nagging little voice inside you questioning everything and that creeping fear that somehow everyone will wake up and realise that really you don’t know anything and you don’t deserve to be here.
How to deal with Imposter Syndrome
It’s difficult to deal with. It may not necessarily be debilitating for many of us, the constant internal wrangle is tiring and takes attention away from the more important stuff at hand.
I wouldn’t say I have it cracked. In fact I’d say I most definitely don’t, but it’s a work in progress and while I wouldn’t even begin to compare myself to Michelle Obama, like her I’m aware it will probably never go away but I will do my level best to make sure it doesn’t prevent me from doing what I am (and am capable of) doing.
I have a few tactics that I’ve developed that help me deal with the moments when that question mark starts looming front and centre, and while they may not work for everyone, they may be useful. And even if they’re not, I think the more we talk about this stuff the more we realise that actually it affects the vast majority of it, and it’s not a weakness, or a flaw. It’s just being human.
Freelance Heroes Day
That’s why I’ll be talking all about it at Freelance Heroes Day on November 6. Originally set to take place earlier this year, Freelance Heroes Day is now taking plan online with all sorts of resources to help our great freelance community.
As part of the event, I’m taking part in a forum themed, ‘It’s all about you’ alongside some fantastic speakers looking at various issues that affect all of us freelancers. Of course, my Imposter Syndrome is telling me that really I shouldn’t be part of that panel, but it seems someone somewhere thought I might have something useful to say.
Don’t worry, if you’re not interested in: ‘Believing your own hype – is Imposter Syndrome ever really conquerable?’ then there are all sorts of other brilliant events from people like Lynda Pepper from Pepper Social and Alexis Charkiw of The Lex Approach.
To find out more about Freelance Heroes Day, the brilliant programme on offer, and how to get involved, visit the website here.