Your company just won its first major award. Whether you were nominated, voted for, or decided to put in for it yourself, you were selected as the winning organisation in that award category.
Wow what a feeling, eh? But wait a minute.
What if it was a mistake? Why didn’t people vote for the other guys who’ve been around longer? Surely you were just lucky. And let’s be brutally honest; we know there are awards out there which aren’t judged ‘equally’ shall we say. That’s what everyone will be thinking, right?
If these sorts of feelings sound familiar, you too might have experienced ‘imposter syndrome’ before. I know I have. More so since I started running my own business. But on Friday night when my company, Yorkshire Medical Marketing won ‘Communications Agency of the Year’ at the prestigious GP Awards, there wasn’t a hint of that negative, rotten voice. That awful, nauseous feeling where you can’t acknowledge your talents or skills because you somehow feel like you’re a fraud or that everything is just luck.
And boy did it feel good.
What is imposter syndrome?
First recognised in the 1970’s by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, it’s estimated up to 70% of successful people have experienced imposter syndrome (IS) including Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein and even Neil Gaiman. Neil was the guy who wrote ‘American Gods’ and he inspired my husband to write his first novel – which got picked up and published – but who had also previously suffered from the old ‘not good enough’ doubts.
Imposter syndrome really is a confidence-sapping ‘mind party’ that takes no prisoners. It holds people back from achieving their dreams, going for job promotions, realising their bright ideas and blowing their own trumpet (which is kind of a big deal when you run your own business, however uncomfortable it might feel).
If you’ve ever suffered from IS, you’ll reckon your success is down to factors such as luck, timing and who you know, not what you know. All this despite there being evidence of how good you are, such as good grades, awards and in my case, regularly winning new clients and retaining existing ones.
Overcoming imposter syndrome
Experts say there’s no definitive reason why someone suffers from it. It’s not a mental condition as such but like many others, I’ve benefitted hugely from coaching support and talking to others about it. Discovering there was a term for what I was experiencing and that I wasn’t alone was a huge relief.
And it was that which helped me feel completely deserving when Sally Phillips called out my company’s name on Friday night. My husband filmed the whole thing on his mobile and WhatsApp’d it me. That way I can easily recreate the occasion in my head when the IS fancies having a pop at me on a bad day. Not likely, sunshine! I’ve got a trophy and a certificate so jog on!
So if you’re feeling like this imposter syndrome lark has played on your mind of late, I wanted this post to reassure you it’s perfectly normal and you’re perfectly equipped to banish it or at least quieten it. Here’s my tips:
- Try to understand why you’re feeling like a fraud – experts say people with low self-esteem, high family expectations and competitive work environments (especially creative ones like marketing or writing) tend to be more at-risk from bouts of IS. Are you a bit of a perfectionist? Pressure to perform well is my culprit from being a high performer at school.
- Talk about it to someone – you don’t need to write a blog about it like I have; a trusted friend, a work colleague or even a stranger you meet at a conference (which I’ve done before) soon opens up the reality this isn’t just you. Voicing my fears out loud lessened the impact of IS significantly and made me feel way more confident.
- Reframe your thoughts – being a massive fan of the brain and how we use it for marketing, this was the light-bulb for me. When I realised that feeling like an imposter didn’t make me any less intelligent or talented, it was just about the way I reacted to stuff, it made a world of difference. Instead of “There’s no way I can get all that website copy written by Friday, I’m rubbish at writing,” I reframe the sentence in my head to. “I want to finish that website copy. I have set aside enough time and I’ve managed this before so I can totally do it.” On Friday, there was no sign of “If we win this award, it will just be good luck,” instead it was; “We work bloody hard and get plenty of recognition from our clients with or without this award. We’re shortlisted alongside the best in general practice and that ain’t no fluke!”
Finally a huge thank you to everyone that voted for us to win this award. I’m massively proud of my company’s achievements in just two years of business. We’re doing fine and we’re making a difference to staff and patients each and every day.
And that’s precisely what I set out to do in the first place.
I’d say that’s winning.
Written by Kara Skehan