Fighting Impostor Syndrome
I thought I was very honest with myself about all of the anxiety I felt after I was let go from my previous job earlier this year. I confronted my feelings about it, wrote about it for this newsletter and picked myself up after feeling so low.
But even while I was picking myself up and applying for jobs, there were still feelings of anxiety that I wasn’t confronting. I found it incredibly difficult to apply for jobs despite having a lot of free time and procrastinated to distract myself. There were moments of doubt seconds before I sent my resume out to potential employers, and there were moments where that doubt stopped me from applying altogether.
This feeling of anxiety made me question my qualifications as a journalist, which is something I’d never felt for such a prolonged period of time. It took me a while to figure out what I was feeling was classic impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is “loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud,” according to the Harvard Business Review. Whether I was trying to find the confidence to apply for a job or in the middle of an interview, thoughts of not feeling qualified enough followed me.
Based on several studies, it seems like I’m not alone. More than half of women (54 percent) said they have felt like impostors, compared to 24 percent of men, according to a report by Heriot-Watt University and the School for CEOs. Another study from the University of Texas at Austin found that Latinx and Black people’s impostor syndrome feelings are often racialized and connected to feelings of anxiety due to stereotypes that can be associated with their race.
Reading that study reminded me of when I first started working at a national news publication as a breaking news reporter. I was the only Latina on the breaking news desk and it was intimidating working with other reporters who had worked at other national news outlets. My impostor syndrome became even worse after I learned I was making less money than most of the reporters on the breaking news desk, despite having a master’s degree and reporting for New York City news publications for two years.
After being unemployed for half of the year, I am fully employed again at a new media company that I like. I’m learning a lot in my new role and all of my co-workers have been kind and welcoming. But as I’m getting used to my new job, I still find myself fighting off thoughts that I don’t belong there or that I am unqualified.
I have to be honest, I don’t know the right answer to defeat impostor syndrome. When these thoughts creep up on me, I try to distract myself with something that isn’t work-related. I take a break, walk the dog or play a game on my phone. When the thoughts linger a bit longer, I sit down and try to remind myself how I got to where I am or I reach out to my friends or my partner to help me process what I’m going through. Once my medical benefits from work kick in, I plan on finding a new therapist to help me sort this out and any other anxieties I’m experiencing.
In an interview with CNBC, Talisa “Tali” Lavarry, the owner of Yum Yum Morale, a workplace diversity, equity and inclusion firm, said something that really resonated with me.
“Just remember that we are all human…There’s no sense in you feeling like you are undeserving; you are in the room. Somehow, you got in there. I don’t care how it happened [or] if it was by chance. You are in the room. Work it. You belong there,” Lavarry said.
The feelings of impostor syndrome will come and go but reminding yourself that you got to where you are because of all of your hard work is super important. These feelings of not belonging will go away and all you can do is strive to do your best work.