Do you feel like an imposter

Imposter syndrome: the mysterious curse of successful people

I have a friend who is highly successful in his field. He doesn’t seem aware that he has done well for himself. High grades through school, scholarships, placements, and he’s now in a very prestigious job. None of it seems to matter to him. It’s not that he doesn’t value what he has, it just that he still doesn’t think it’s as much of an achievement that everyone else thinks it is.

The other day I realised why this could be. None of his achievements are his own.

Have you ever found yourself in that situation? You’re being told you’re good at your work, but you’re not sure? Perhaps you wonder if you really belong there.

Imposter syndrome

It’s common for successful people to feel as though they don’t deserve to be where they are. Part of it comes from a competitive environment, but it also comes from the feeling of control. Sometimes we feel as though we aren’t in control of our our lives and it’s a negative feeling about negative situations. The car broke down, your colleague got the day off you both asked for, the dog puked on your bed. You have no control and it’s all just rotten. But it is possible to have the same uncomfortable feeling when things are going well, such as promotions, networking opportunities or free gifts. It not the actual outcome that’s making you feel uncomfortable. It’s the obligation that you never asked for. It’s still a feeling of not being in control.

In the case of my friend, he was naturally good at schoolwork. All his school-related decisions were made by his teachers. When school was finishing he didn’t choose something he was passionate about. He let the course choose him by offering a scholarship. His excellent grades got him a good job placement, which lead to good jobs but these jobs were orchestrated by his network and colleagues rather than by himself. By 30 years old he managed to get to the top of his field without the feeling personally achieving anything. He was missing the sense of accomplishment.

Resetting your confidence

You can fix this feeling without giving up everything you’ve earned (even if you don’t feel as though you’ve earned it). All you need to do is change one thing. It could be your job, if you want. But it could also be a change of hobby, a new routine or even a new wardrobe. Find one simple thing that is your decision and own it. It will build your confidence and calm your nerves to know that there is at least one thing in your life that is entirely your own doing.

But guess what? He’s just gotten a new job. Same industry, different role. It includes travel. Everything will be new and he’s experiencing a new feeling – control of one’s own destiny.

It’s never too late to experience something new. Is something stopping you from taking a chance and making a change?

The 3 Words That Got Me Happy – and Keep Me There

Do you ever feel afraid that depression is hunting you down?

I used to hate myself. Although I would occasionally feel as though there was something in me of value, it was so deep inside an internal vat of muck and self-loathing, it was never reachable. I am a fortunate one who came out the other side and now I’m living a wonderful life. But there are moments when I feel the darkness is lurking, ready to dissolve all my hard work and return me to the barely functional state I in which I previously existed.

If you’re clinically depressed, there is help out there in many forms. But what if you’re not? What if you feel yourself teetering on that edge, afraid of falling into a pit of despair, but also afraid or reaching out because you don’t want to be dependent on drugs or therapist, and think you should be able to manage it yourself?
Let me tell you what three words got me on the right path – and keep me there: Logic, Influence and Oops.

 

“Logic”

When debilitated with depression, logic serves no purpose. You can’t reason with a depressed person, because the logical component of the brain is no longer functioning normally. But if you’re on the edge you should still be able to do some basic mathematics.

Quantify your life. How many pieces make up your life? Does that number sound right to you? And how does each piece fit?

A few years ago, I logically examined my life in this mathematical way, because I figured that “numbers don’t lie”, so I should be able to see if things didn’t add up. I divided my life into 4 pieces: Career, Family, Social and Soul. Under “Soul” was my work with the community, and it was 10 out of 10. It made me very happy. But the other three pieces didn’t fit right. I felt that each piece was pulling me in different directions and that I was slowly losing control. Scores for Family and Social had been slowly creeping down over time and the end of a fulfilling secondment had seen my Career score take a major nosedive. A massive 75% of my life was not up to my own standards. No wonder I was feeling so uncomfortable!

 

“Influence

I realised that the reason why I was so happy in my Soul activities, and why I usually had a high Career score, was these were the environments where I felt safe to be my authentic self. Over time, I had allowed myself to be negatively influenced in the other environments. I had tried to adapt to every single comment, critique, request and demand in order to feel comfortable in that environment, and instead I was feeling crushed by expectations. Worst of all, they were expectations I didn’t want for myself in the first place!

This meant I had a choice: I could be myself and be happy, or be designed by others and be unhappy.

To achieve this meant that I had to not be influenced by the opinion of others, and that meant accepting that my choices may negatively impact others – if they chose to respond that way. This wasn’t me being uncaring – I still cared about my family and friends – I was simply choosing to care about myself as well.

Since my life was 75% out-of-whack, my decision was to restart my life. I would live overseas for a while, away from the people I’d inadvertently given too much power, so that I could rebuild myself as someone who was strong and authentic across all elements of my life.

Immediately, my strength was tested as I faced the response to my decision. I embraced the positive responses and refused to be influenced by the negative responses. I explained my actions to those I wanted to share with, and simply stood my ground with others. My honesty, strength and authenticity surprised some people, and to be fair, it surprised me too!

Some were shocked (“How can you quit a permanent job?!?”) and labelled me as irresponsible. But I stood up for my own opinion: I valued the comfort of inner contentment over the comfort of security, and now someone else would be lucky enough to have the job I once loved and had now outgrown.

Many shared their concerns. Yes, it’s a sudden decision, and I might get homesick, and I might struggle to find a good job, and it’s going to be hard. I could have let these thoughts stop me, like such thoughts had done to me hundreds of times before. But I distanced myself from the emotion. These were fears that they had, not me. I was feeling extremely positive about my decision, I had researched and planned for the potential hazards and saw no need to let others’ fears intervene. I finally owned my own life.

 

“Oops

Having freed myself from being negatively influenced by others, there was a greater challenge to face – the negative influence of myself. I had to make sure I didn’t derail my own success. I knew such a big change wasn’t going to be with hiccups. My suitcase broke. I locked myself out. I got trapped inside a men’s toilet cubicle (yeah, that was particularly embarrassing!). The old me would have felt crippling disappointment and shame after any of these events. The new me adopted a different approach.

I don’t even know how it came about, but I started saying “oops” when something didn’t go to plan. It was remarkably liberating! Instead of self-deprecating statements such as “God, I’m stupid”, “How could I do that?”, or a defeatist sigh, I just said “Oops” instead. Mentally, it was like scrunching up a piece of paper and throwing it in the bin. I acknowledged the mistake, dismissed it and moved on.

I say “Oops” to forgive myself – instantly.

 

3 words = 3-Step action plan

It can be damn hard work to maintain happiness. You’ve got to break old habits, retrain your brain, eat well, exercise, think positively, live in the moment, plan ahead and think about yourself while caring for others. Some days it just feels like too much effort! Why do all that unpaid work when you can just cruise meaninglessly through life, like so many people appear to do?

Because life can be more enjoyable than that.

Logic, Influence and Oops: Analysing your life, choosing who influences you and accepting yourself for who you are. These three words led me to the best decision of my life, and when I stray too close to the canyon of depression, these words work act as a three-step action plan to steer me in a better direction. Or, more accurately, they are motivation to give myself a kick up the butt and fix my concerns by myself.

How do you take control of your life?

 

Image copyright AJ Jain.

Identifying my purpose from the floor

As per my lazy exercise regime, I was doing a little yoga after work and was looking for a YouTube video to play.  I came across “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes“, a short video with a softly spoken gent who went rather briskly through his hypothesis. Spoiler alert: 5 minutes is irrelevant, it’s the 5 questions that will give you an answer. Apparently.

These are the questions to ask yourself:

1. Who are you?
2. What do you love to do?
3. Who do you do it for?
4. What do those people want or need?
5. How do they change as a result of what you give them?

Then, when someone asks you “What do you do”, you answer with your response to question 5.  Intriguing for me, as I don’t like telling people “I’m a PA”, because that’s nothing to do with who I am, that’s really just how I feed and clothe who I am.  I would like a better answer. Starting at the beginning, I’m Ellie. I love making people feel good about themselves. I do this for people who are feeling bummed or stuck in like. Those people want to feel that they are in charge of their lives. As a result of what I give them, they feel motivated and empowered.

“Nice to meet you, Ellie. So what do you do?”
“I motivate and empower people”.

Bleh.  Sounds too fluffy and still doesn’t sound like me. Let’s try again.

I love inspiring people. I do it for people who feel trapped or stagnant. Those people need to be encouraged to believe in themselves. As a result of what I give them, they are empowered to make positive changes to their lives.

“So what do you do, Ellie?”
“I help people make life-changing decisions”.

Oooh, I love that.  But I feel it’s a little focused toward life coaching, which is something I am definitely very interested in, but it’s not all of me.  What about my writing? My love of radio and online media? What about travel? Let’s try one more time.

I love expressing myself creatively. I do it for people who are looking for inspiration. Those people want to take ownership of their own lives. As a result of what I give them, they feel motivated to make changes towards living with positivity and autonomy.

“Yo, Ellie. What do you do?”
“I inspire self-ownership in others so they can make positive life changes.”

Bingo.

How about you? Can you boil down what you do into one marvellous sentence? Give it a try and add it to the comments!

The revenge relationship that will haunt you (and your CV)

Even adults can be wooed by the stranger with candy…

Amidst the festivities of Rakhi, my husband and I helped a friend realise that going all the way with a new going employer was going to result in a morning-after that would last for years.

This dear friend of ours recently contacted us to review his CV, because “it should look good, just in case I need it, and I want to update my LinkedIn profile”. This seemed fair enough. A little while later, he told us that he had been headhunted by a very large international company and he was in discussions with their HR contact about potential roles. Very flattering and exciting! He sent me the job descriptions, which only covered the essentials, but appeared to be standard roles in the industry. More money, bigger company, new experiences. He accepted an interview and was keen to meet hubby and I to prepare and practise.

We prepped him, all right. We prepared him to grill the company reps, to be the interviewer (not the interviewee) and to be strong enough to say “No”.

As much as I like to boss people around, I promise there was no malice here. I don’t like to crush dreams, demotivate others or put people down to make myself feel better. But I also don’t like seeing my friends make bad decisions and, as enticing as such as offer may sound, you should always look at opportunities in context.

Our friend is very good at what he does and already works for a massive international company.  He likes this company.  He likes most of the people he works with.  He loves the location, the salary is good, he’s become great friends with some of his colleagues and the company provides lots of support for employees.

There was really only one reason he was looking to move – fear of being trapped.

To get a promotion in his current work area, he would need to stay there for another two years. If he took a secondment, he would probably have to wait three years. Three years isn’t that long if you enjoy what you’re doing. The added problem was that although he knew his current area wasn’t for him, he wasn’t sure which area would be better. So when a charming stranger came up to him and offered him more money with a bigger brand name, he was very tempted.

I totally understood this feeling. I’ve been there many times – comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. You might not be able to articulate exactly why you are unhappy, but you know you don’t want to be where you are.

In the end, he came to the best decision not by looking at what the new opportunity offered, but what it didn’t. The job security wasn’t clear, there was no mention of the contract details. The employer, although a huge name in the industry, had a reputation for pushing workers to their limits with extremely long work hours. Finally, the role he wanted was not the one they were offering first. Instead, they were first suggesting he apply for a role that was higher paid, but completely lacking all the things he liked the most about his current role. He quickly realised that the offer in front of him wasn’t that tempting at all.

Instead, he needed to go candy shopping within his current company and he had to do it leisurely. Sure, he was feeling irritated with his work life right now, but if he made a drastic change he could regret it. In fact, he would probably regret it within an hour of working in an environment that didn’t match his strengths – long before the next big juicy payday.

We gave him two action plans:

  1. By the end of the year, meet with a manager from every work area that he thought could be interesting – openly. Tell these managers, and his own, about the outside offer. Tell them that he didn’t see himself in the same area in two years’ time but that he loved the company and wanted to find an area that was more suited to his strengths. Instantly, the fear and irritation became a networking opportunity – and an excuse to go out and have fancy coffee.
  2. Go to the interview anyway, and interview them. Ask why they headhunted him, why they thought he’d be suitable to this role, what are the working conditions like, what length is the contract, how quickly can he access professional development, etc. etc. We’re talking about really drilling them for information! If they truly wanted him with the company, they would have to put much more on the table. If they just wanted (experienced) bums on seats, they would have to look elsewhere.

The new job was a good opportunity. It was a good opportunity to have a chat with friends and get motivated to take some useful steps forward, instead of blind steps sideways.

**Update**

Our friend went for the interview, and was just as bored by the interviewers as he would have been by the job!  No deal 🙂

Do you need help making with a possible career move? Email us, or comment below.

Cover image from Pixabay. It has awesome cat pics.