When I was 21 years old, I was sitting in my apartment complex covered in a rash from poison oak itching like crazy and feeling totally lost.
It was just 3 months before I would graduate from college and my hike through the woods (and taking a stupid shortcut) was only adding to my anxiety. As a Kinesiology Major, about to graduate I was pretty lost as to where my career should go. Personal training? Physical therapy?
I was in my high-backed executive chair talking to my parents on the phone feeling lost and confused. But they said I could figure it out.
Have you ever been in a place like this? Feeling stressed, outside influences making life harder than it needs to be, and confused as to what’s next. The beginning of my professional journey with Impostor Syndrome started in that room. I’d dealt with it in sports and school already and was gaining some genuine confidence but the professional challenge was just starting.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
If you haven’t heard the term impostor syndrome here’s an internet definition. Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Sound familiar in any way?
If it does, I want to share my story and some things I’ve learned along the way.
Live-In Mentor Impostor
Let’s go back to that rashy day sitting in my apartment on the phone. After I got off the phone, life went on as usual but something happened a few weeks later. I got a job offer. An offer to be a mentor at a men’s program called Alpha Academy where we helped guys get their lives on track.
The problem was I didn’t have experience with addiction like these guys did, I didn’t have the unfortunate family histories that some of these guys had. Yet, I was supposed to lead them. This screamed fraud to me and to some of them!
Ultimately, it didn’t matter. I know this because the guys truly respected me, listened to me, and grew in their time that I led them. It wasn’t all sh!ts and giggles, don’t get me wrong but they grew, I grew. Our lives were fundamentally changed in positive ways.
The lesson about feeling like a fraud or unqualified here? For me, I realized I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t walk away. I had to learn what I needed to learn to grow into this role and to ask for grace from people when I struggled. The main lesson from that learning was becoming a better communicator.
Pet Resort Impostor
After the mentoring program, I ran a pet resort for 3+ years. Up to this point, I’d never managed a business, a team, or anything. But here I was overseeing a business with 100s of thousands in revenue and 20 employees. This became and still is one of my all-time favorite jobs and I plan to one day open my own pet resort.
When you feel like you’re in over your head it’s easy to make mistakes. Fortunately, there were a few things that I did that allowed me to overcome this stage of my journey.
1) I had a great mentor that coached and helped me through managing my first business.
2) I believed I had a great team and expected them to work as a great team (so they did).
3) I stopped worrying about it and enjoyed my job (I mean, my goodness I got to work with dogs all day!).
The lesson here is to get support, trust your team, and stop worrying about what you think you are limited in and keep going.
Human Resource Impostor
My family and I would eventually move to Washington state where I became an HR director of a megachurch. There were 100 employees and we served 3000 people. Along with this there were 4 satellite campuses.
Oh, man, did the Impostor monster start talking to me. “You’ve never done HR before. You don’t have a degree in this. What do you know about hiring? What do you know about ministry?” By now, I’d been in new challenges and circumstances enough to know that instead of feeling like an impostor, I could leverage this opportunity to be stretched.
So I did. Because of that stretching, I now do what I absolutely love which is helping business leaders build better teams and a better business.
The 5 Things You Can Do To Overcome Impostor Syndrome
- See your situation as an opportunity to learn.
- Improve the way you communicate
- Get support from your team, a coach, etc.
- Stop worrying about whether you’re qualified or not and lean in.
- Let this feeling of being an impostor be an opportunity for you to stretch and grow professionally.
Remember this: When you feel like an impostor, this is a good sign of you stretching, being ambitious, and becoming a better leader and business person. Embrace it!
When have you felt like an impostor in the past? If you’d like to learn how I help my clients overcome this struggle and others, let’s set up a call.