Me, myself and I: The debilitating self-doubt of imposter syndrome

Just last month Squibble, my web design agency, won the prestigious AI Business Excellence Award, and last year I was personally recognised with the Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards. I employ 2 amazing staff, and have a nice little spot in the centre of the vibrant Jewellery Quarter in a buzzing area for businesses.

Yet despite the awards, and the fact that I earn a good living from doing what I love, I sometimes feel like an out and out imposter – a fake, a fraud.

Sound familiar? Well you and I are not alone. Two years ago, I stumbled across this piece from the telegraph. And I instantly got it.

“This is imposter syndrome: the fear of being exposed, that you don’t deserve your success, aren’t as good as others – and could be “found out” at any moment.”

This. This sums it up to a tee. At the heart of this drastically unspoken of issue is self-doubt. Plain and simple. And imposter syndrome isn’t exclusively reserved for people like me. It can hit anyone. And it can hit hard – debilitating them in their professional roles, strangling their potential.

In some ways, a little comfort can be gained by reading of some of the most well-known, accomplished, and talented females in business and showbiz being in the same boat.

“There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am”.

–    Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer

“Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am”.

–    Emma Watson, Global acting superstar

“I feel every time I’m making a movie, I feel like [it’s] my first movie. Every time I have the same fear that I’m gonna be fired. And I’m not joking. Every movie, the first week, I always feel that they could fire me!”

–    Penélope Cruz, actress and Oscar winner

I didn’t study web design or graphic design at university. I planned to but got distracted by the textiles department and ended up with a Bachelors Degree in Printed Textiles. Following graduation, I would enviously eye-up designer roles, wishing I could apply (but without the relevant degree, there was no chance).

I’ve gotten to where I am now through self-teaching – through endless online tutorials, making many mistakes and practising, developing, practising, learning.

When I finally started freelancing, as a designer, I had an overwhelming fear that somebody would see a big blue finger pointing down at me with its flashing neon light… she doesn’t know what she’s doing…”. And I’ll admit, at the beginning, for the most part, I didn’t.

It’s taken, and still takes, a concerted effort by myself to bat that blue hand away – to embrace what I feel could be risks and ‘put myself out there’ to prove myself and my imposter syndrome wrong. As it turns out, this tactic is the right one to adopt, as imposter syndrome is at its most harmful when allowed to germinate – to grow and to develop into something uglier, more powerful and ever more debilitating. There’s actual science to back this up, too – with research finding that there’s a proven cycle of imposter syndrome.

Focussing on securing confidence is something that undoubtedly warrants a dedicated effort, especially by us females in business, as we’re consistently discovered to suffer the most from feeling fraudulent, testament to which is the fact that we are still subjected to a pay gap (amongst many other unique challenges we face in the workplace).

Today, I’m seven years down the road. I’ve built a successful agency. I, and my team, have won numerous awards and continue to love our growing business. But that big blue hand still pops up every now and then. Only now, now, the clients are bigger, the stakes are higher. I obviously know what I’m doing and Squibble has continued to grow but I know that the big blue hand can only be wrestled away with a continued focus on pushing myself, proving myself and developing as a professional.

What are your experiences with self-doubt? Do you ever feel like an imposter in your own professional life? If everything that I’ve said and shared with you resonates – let me know by emailing me kj@squibble.design. I’d love to hear about your experiences and how you take imposter syndrome on in the day to day. 

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