I have a really vivid memory from last May. I was meeting with a brand spokesperson for a coffee to talk about collaborating, and while queuing she asked me what I was doing that summer. In this conversation, I mentioned my Guardian work experience, and the trip I was taking to Chicago with my Uni, as well as some blog related stuff that I had coming up. While having this conversation in the line, a boy behind patted me on the shoulder.
“Sorry to interrupt, but omg you’re life sounds so cool!”
I laughed it off and thanked him, and then we carried on with our meeting. However, as I was sat in the meeting, I thought about what he said. My summer was looking to be pretty cool – in fact I had worked so hard and it was paying off and I was doing some incredible things. But I felt like I was living a fake life. In fact I didn’t believe that any of the things I was doing were warranted – that any of my experiences belonged to me. As a result, I couldn’t see how cool any of it was. I had some seriously bad imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
I’ve wanted to write a piece on imposter syndrome for a while now. However, recently, I feel like I’ve suffered from it more than ever. I’ve been doing some pretty cool things and accomplishing more than I thought I was capable of and it still feels so unreal. I don’t believe any of it is a result of me and my hard work, and it’s really starting to become an issue. It’s been a terrible issue for the last year or so, since my blog started “taking off”.
(Symptoms include) A lack of self-confidence, anxiety, doubts about your thoughts, abilities, achievements and accomplishments, negative self-talk, feelings of inadequacy, dwelling on past mistakes and not feeling good enoughhttps://fairygodboss.com/articles/imposter-syndrome
I tend to strike my biggest accomplishments as me “getting lucky”, and I struggle to talk about cool things I’ve done because they seem undeserved. It doesn’t matter how hard I’ve worked or the reasons behind my achievement, it just all seems false to me.
When did it start?
Honestly, I have absolutely no idea. But there were definitely points that I really noticed that I was thinking this way…
My year 13 school show
When I was in year 13, our drama department decided that instead of putting on a big show, they’d put on a smaller showcase-style show, which involved an audition process and a cast of around 20 (Which, with a sixth form of 300+ people, really isn’t a lot). I ended up being one of the chosen few.
Through the whole process – from rehearsals to show, I believed that I’d only gotten it because no other girls had auditioned. I attended a boys school that admitted girls into their sixth form, and there were only 6 girls in the production, so I assumed we must have been the only girls to try out. Don’t get me wrong – the other 5 girls were insanely talented, and the kind of girls that you’d expect to see in a show. However, I felt like I didn’t really compare, and I must have simply been the only other one.
Whilst talking to one of the other girls backstage one night, she mentioned how many people had auditioned. I was shocked to find out that others had tried and I had been chosen, because to me it made absolutely no sense. Despite her trying to convince me otherwise, I still left that conversation thinking that there must have been some random reason – maybe pity or something – as to why they picked me.
The BME powerlist
Last year Bristol (the city, not the Uni) put together a list of the 100 most influential Black/minority/ethnic people in the city. I wasn’t on it (Obviously) but I then got an email in January saying that I had been one of the initial nominees, and that my name was being added (You can find it here if you want to lol).
On reading the email all I could think was “Why?” There’s literally nothing special or powerful about me, and I knew of some of the people on the list… I was absolutely nothing compared to them. After January, I sort of forgot about it because the list wasn’t being put online until early February. However, the day that the list was supposed to be published came, and the list wasn’t online. I didn’t think much about it; I just assumed that I wasn’t supposed to be included after all, which made perfect sense to me. Then, next thing I knew it was online and my name was there. I still don’t quite believe it should be, but I’m accepting it.
When I handed in my application for work experience at the Guardian, I assumed I’d never hear from them again. Then, I got invited for an interview, and tried (and failed) hard not to fall in love with the offices because I was convinced I wouldn’t make it past that stage. Then, next thing I knew, I was invited for 2 weeks of work experience there.
The whole time I was there I felt like some little girl who was in over her head. I felt really undeserving and like I’d been given a chance that I didn’t deserve. However, stepping back from the situation, I can see how stupid that is: I knew nobody there and I went through the same application process as everyone else. They had no obligations or bias towards me, and I was chosen because I deserved to be there. But I still felt like I had been given some lucky shot.
Why not just… believe?
I’ve become very good at recognising my unhealthy thought patterns as unhealthy. Therefore, when I am shutting myself down and ignoring my accomplishments, I am fully aware of what I’m doing and why it’s wrong. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to believe in myself.
It’s an odd paradox. Of course I believe in myself a little: if I didn’t I wouldn’t have auditioned for that show, or applied to the Guardian or started this blog. But then, when things actually work out for me: when I put in the effort and get what I deserve, I convince myself that I didn’t deserve it. The same thing happens with this blog: I’ve had some amazing opportunities and worked with brands and done super cool things. Of course I have moments of being like “Wow! I did this.” But more often than not, I just feel like the blog parts aren’t “real life”, or that companies have chosen to work with my by mistake.
Don’t get me started on my blog accomplishments
I’d say that my blog really started becoming a “businessy” thing in November 2017. Suddenly, I was getting semi-regular event invitations and sent things by companies monthly, and travelling from Bristol to London to attend various events became the norm. By February of 2018 I had started disassociating on a regular basis. I went through months (still do at times) where I didn’t feel like I was living my life, but rather floating through while it happens. None of it really belonged to me, or was the product of my work and energy.
It’s a really odd place to be. It’s also incredibly hard to describe, so if none of this makes sense then that’s why. I sort of feel like I’ve been cheated some time because I wasn’t actually there in the moment. I have photos and proof of so many amazing things that I’ve done and been to, but I feel so undeserving.
In hindsight, I know I’ve worked hard. Also, I know that none of the things I’ve listed were handed to me: I was a complete unknown in each of those situations. However, my brain just won’t believe it’s correct.
So, what now?
Honestly, I just think it’s a time thing. I now notice when I’m doing it, and I can recognise these thoughts as negative. So, I just need to work on training myself to believe that I deserve the things that I make happen. A lot of mental things aren’t easy, and take time and effort, but I (ironically) know that I deserve to think better than I do. And so, I will keep working on it until I fully believe in myself.
How are you doing? Let me know down below!
Lots of love,