Sometimes I feel like I’m running a huge con. I’ve fooled everyone into thinking I’ve got my stuff together. Any minute, everyone will figure it out, and I’ll be exposed as someone who has no idea what they’re doing.
Enter imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, first described in the 70s by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, is a feeling that impacts a third of millennials, and disproportionately impacts women. As a millennial woman, I can attest that imposter syndrome is alive and well. In fact, I’m sure as soon as this article is posted, someone is going to point out that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m only partly kidding.
I’ve experienced imposter syndrome since my first job out of college. I was convinced I got the job as a favor. Any win I achieved was a “team effort” and any challenge was magnified to the nth degree. And yet, I kept fooling people. I was given more responsibility, new titles, bigger opportunities. Today, I’m a principal and group account director at Firehouse, an independent advertising agency in Dallas. I manage a team of smart people and work on exciting brands. Still, there are times I feel like I’m going to be found out at any minute.
While my imposter syndrome at work is fading as I advance my career in the fast-paced advertising industry, it’s now raging on the home front. About five months ago, I became a mom through adoption. It is by far the best and most beautiful thing I’ve ever done. Period. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like an imposter, or, as Psychology Today coined it, a momposter. I doubt my abilities daily, as I’m sure millions of other moms do. Then, I convince myself I’m a special kind of momposter. I didn’t carry my daughter for nine months, experience labor, or breastfeed. In my darkest moments, I worry that I’m simply a really good babysitter.
What’s an imposter and working momposter to do? Here are a few of my (amateur) tips.
Take a breath.
Cheesy right? But it works at the office and at home. When those feelings of insecurity and self-doubt start creeping in, I focus on breathing for 60 seconds. Grant yourself 60 seconds of pause before spiraling further.
Find a safe place to brag about yourself.
I don’t enjoy talking about myself or being the center of attention. This is common for those who experience imposter syndrome. I’m fortunate to have a few spaces to talk about my accomplishments that don’t make me feel awkward or uncomfortable. I have a small community of women who celebrate my work wins with champagne (or at least champagne emojis), and I have my husband, parents and in-laws who listen enthusiastically to my mom brags. Find those safe places where you feel comfortable bragging.
Remind yourself that you were chosen.
This is the hardest one for me, but at times the most crucial. Remember, people choose you because you’re the best person for the job, at home or at the office. I force myself to remember that I’m in my position at Firehouse as one of two only female principals because my coworkers and boss believe in me and have confidence in my abilities. I’m a mom because a very brave woman chose me to be her child’s mother. She saw something in me I didn’t see in myself, and she knew I would be the best mom for our daughter.
I haven’t fooled anyone, and chances are, you haven’t either. We don’t have to. We’re not imposters or momposters. We’re smart, brave, accomplished people, some of whom are juggling work and being a mom (which studies say is equivalent to 2.5 full-time jobs!) who just need to be reminded every once in a while. So, grab your champagne or champagne emoji because this is your reminder.