As kids, we play pretend, imitating what we witness around us. We mimic what we see and adapt the resources we have around us for make-believe. Children’s level of mimicry is impressive. For any job/movie/scene from real life they imitate, the level of accuracy for role-playing is endearing.
Creating fake identities appears easier when our brains are in their prime. And acceptable by social norms. A little white lie, when done by a five-year-old, is cute.
How does that change when it is time to enter adulthood? We study (for some of us), then the time arrives to dip into the workforce and put in the hours. We know what working means, how to do it, but how we end up doing it; it varies from one person to another.
Some things seem innate. Like being on time, Googling stuff when we don’t know the answer, using neat keyboard shortcuts…
But what about the doubts or “what-the-hell-am-i-doing-here” moments? What happens when the “I’m not performing to the level my job entails” thought crosses our mind?
What if the impostor syndrome is us playing pretend but as grown-ups and not believing our lies?
WE ALL START SOMEWHERE
The impostor phenomenon tends to happen when in a new situation. When starting a new job, for example. Or working for the first time.
Or when we apply for a job because 80% of the requirements for the job match our skills. But as we get to work every day, the 20% missing feels like 40. We end up convincing ourselves that we lied to everybody about what we could actually do. The result: discouragement and self-blame.
But we all start somewhere. Nobody became a pro in their field from day 1. Everybody had to learn to do the simple operations before getting to the complex ones.
The impostor syndrome is when looking around the office and everybody is hard at work. On the other side, we can’t seem to be able to focus. Feeling like a fraud because we don’t get it. Not being in the right role can, I believe, cause the feeling that we are under-performing and are bad at our jobs. What if we were actually not in a role that exploits the best of our capacities?
LACK OF CONFIDENCE?
Another category of impostor victims: people too modest to accept praises. Or surprised to receive congratulations for the good work accomplished or recognition. Their thought: “Was I successful because of my skills or did I get lucky?”
Luck should be banished from the professional vocabulary. For some people, accepting acknowledgments for the work they have done is insurmountable. Failing to understand hard work has positive consequences can lead to bigger issues later on in a career. Sometimes it takes time to get behind the idea, but it should be a work in progress. Nobody wants to regret having said no to the promotion because they didn’t feel entitled to it.
FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT
So how to get rid of that nagging feeling that we are not where we belong? By faking it. Faking being the best at what we do and by practicing it over and over.
How many applications have I sent because the job had some of my skills listed but I had no idea how to do the rest? Too many to remember. Do I regret doing it? Nope. Better try and know, then not try at all.
Getting to the interview is the key. Showing motivation and willingness to improve and learn can get you places. It’s ok to pretend you’re good at something when you’re not.It’s fine as long as you are working hard at trying to get better at it. With non-stop practice, anything is achievable. Impostor tends to forget that feeling like one can change.
How? By proving anyone who might think we are, wrong.
Nowadays, transferable skills can make the difference. More women in the workplace should understand the value to what they bring to the table. Understanding the skills you own and how they can apply to another field can help change careers.
Let’s stop feeling guilty for being where we are. Let’s own it and show ourselves that we are capable of anything!