This week I started a brand new job.
To be honest, this is a milestone that I have lived through probably more times than necessary in the course of a single lifetime. I have many times said, “It’s my first day of work” or, “I’m new here” after the hodgepodge of part-time jobs, side hustles and contract work I’ve collected since my teenage years. So, what makes this brand new job so monumental is not the fact that it’s new, but the fact that it is substantial and on the surface, has seemingly nothing to do with the arts. This job is not up for renewal at the end of a contract because this job is mine for as long as I want it (and obviously, as long as I’m good at it) and I actually have room to grow in this position– there are actual other higher levels of status that can be achieved. This is thrillingly and wonderfully unlike anything I’ve ever done, which is exactly what I was wanted. On the other hand, it is so absolutely what I wanted that I’m terrified that I don’t actually deserve to have it…
Let me ask you this: do you ever feel like an imposter at your job?
I get to wear these grown-up office clothes now and I’m actually kind of mastering the art of walking in heels, and yet, I still feel like a child playing dress up. I chat away to my boss about some kooky social media marketing idea or event theme and she actually welcomes it, and my knee-jerk reaction is to think, “Really? My idea?” My trainer has said repeatedly, “This seems intuitive for you” and I actually need her to repeat herself just to make sure I hear her correctly… At just the right moment, my sweet friend from Philly texts me on my first day of work to ask how it was going. Novel-Texter that I am, I sent him this:
It’s good! Did you feel super like, “am I qualified for this?” on your first day of your new job? I feel like they’re gonna find out that I’m like a half-adult who used to crawl around on the floor like a cat in movement class to earn a degree, has literally been paid to wear tiaras and who still currently has a bunch of random knowledge on things like “how to get free things when it’s not even your birthday” because I once lived on a couch and couldn’t afford lunch.
YES. Such imposter syndrome.
It turns out, this “Imposter Syndrome” is a real thing. According to Psychology Today, the Imposter Syndrome isn’t just an experience shared amongst millennials with “hobby degrees”, it’s such a universal sensation that it’s developed into a psychological term referring to the specific pattern of behavior where individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Not to be mistaken as an actual disorder, the term for this phenomenon was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with Imposter Syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have. I deeply resonate with these findings because I can’t even count how many times a day I’ve either thought to myself or actually verbalized the statement, “I don’t know how I got this– I’m just so lucky”. Never do I say something to the effect of, “Well, you know, I have more than the qualifying skills, my references were sparkling and my interview persona is nothing short of dazzling… so, in short, that’s how I trumped the competition and landed the job”. Never! Not only would saying that make me sound like a total jerk whose Instagram account is undoubtedly littered with obnoxious selfies, but a small voice inside of me truly believes the lie that I just simply “lucked out” despite my apparent qualifications. This was especially true in my formal life as an actor. I would never say that I walked into the audition room radiating confidence and therefore got the role I deserved. Instead of justifying a casting that worked out in my favor, I would continuously reiterate how floored I was by the mere dumb luck of someone in charge deciding to take a chance on me.
I’m not the only one who is intimidated by and doubts their deserved position in the workforce. Lou Solomon explains in her Ted Talk, “The Surprising Solution to the Imposter Syndrome” that an astonishing 70% of successful people have experienced the feelings associated with the Impostor Syndrome, such as fear of failure and perfectionism. You might be wondering why Imposter Syndrome is so widely spread. Well, I have a couple of theories that seem to make sense with my personal situation and perspective as a Christian female…
First of all, the sheer fact of being female–I believe–makes the Imposter Syndrome easier to catch. I say this because, as a female in relationship with other females who play multiple roles including but not limited to friend, mother, significant other, and daughter, it seems that we are programmed to regard pride as the deadliest of all deadly sins. It is just not feminine or becoming to boast, brag or take credit. Women are so notorious for working hard behind the scenes and neglecting to receive (or in some cases, flat out refusing to accept…) acknowledgement. As a woman, we feel we must always remain humble and blush when complimented. From my vantage point, being assertive and forthcoming about my abilities has required boldness when in my heart of hearts I know that it shouldn’t. Being capable isn’t something to be shy about.
Secondly, I want to say something radical… I believe in some Christian circles, we are not exactly encouraged to take credit for our successes. I’ll be the first to tell you that all glory goes to God. No question about it, my artistic sensibilities, my stick-to-itiveness, my moments of fearlessness are all instilled in me as a child of God created in His image. I believe that. But I also think it’s necessary to acknowledge that God chose to equip you. That’s the key. He chose this story, this success, this job, this relationship, this outcome for you. Everyone else has their own lane, but I don’t see any reason not to be proud of yours. The trials and the rewards God put in front of you are because you are a fearfully glorious force to be reckoned with. That godly confidence isn’t something to be shy about.
So now that we know what the Imposter Syndrome is and maybe we can even pinpoint a story or lived experience in our lives that may have contributed to our feelings, what are we supposed to do to fix it? I’m glad you asked because I’ve come up with a few solutions for myself that might help you as well…
How to Break-Up With the Imposter Syndrome:
- Fact Check: Did you secure this job? (Yes.) Do you have the qualifications detailed in the posting? (Yes.) Are you capable of learning what you don’t know? (Yes.)
- Post-It Note Affirmations: Write a few love notes for yourself on Post-Its and stick them in places you’re going to encounter as you get ready for work (your bathroom mirror, your steering wheel, the pantry door, etc.). Need some inspiration? My favorites are: You are loved. Your gifts matter. You can handle today and much more.
- Create a Positive Morning Routine: You’ll feel more competent at work if you feel like a more competent human. Create a routine for yourself before you even walk through those doors of the job where you feel you need to prove yourself. Drink water as soon as you wake up, start a journal and write a few pages every morning before you grab your phone and start scrolling, meditate, eat a healthy breakfast, pack your lunch, do some light exercise– the list can go on and on! Lately I’ve been using the Fabulous app and it has been essential to helping me stay grounded in my first week at this new job.
If you’re experiencing any of these thoughts and fears right now, let me encourage you. You are not alone. You are both your get-the-job-done “work self” and your quirky, weirdo “home self”. They are equal parts of the real, totally competent, exceedingly deserving and wonderful human that you are. You are not an imposter, my friend. Own your space and strut into work tomorrow like you got the job because guess what? You did.