In the last 12 months, I have given birth (following a difficult pregnancy and labour), secured a Non Exec Director position (a role typically filled by 55+ year old, experienced, white men) and have accepted a new job (a more senior role with a broader responsibility than my previous).
Was I scared to enter into all these unknowns almost all at once? Yes! Did I do them anyway? Absolutely. Why? Because becoming a mother (again) didn’t make my ambitions any less valid or achievable, if anything it gave me more determination and drive to be the best version of myself.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. I was (and still am) overwhelmed with the infamous imposter syndrome! The constant feeling of being a fraud, of thinking I’m really not quite up to the job, of being riddled with guilt and fear. Despite having a roll call of achievements as evidence (to myself and others), the mind talk doesn’t seem to subside. I know I’m not alone in feeling this, and all my googling suggests step one is acknowledging this feeling. So here I am, doing exactly that.
I’ve been examining what it could be that’s making me feel the way I do.
I’m a perfectionist
My OCD and need for things to be ‘perfect and orderly’ certainly plays a role. I set extremely high standards for myself and need things to be just right. So when things are even slightly out of kilter, it makes me feel uneasy.
I’m an expert
Being an ‘expert in my field’ certainly makes me feel as though I should know everything in my subject area, which of course is a ridiculous concept. I couldn’t possibly know everything, especially in the field of sustainability which is so broad and constantly evolving.
I’m a superwoman
I go the extra mile to prove (again to myself) that I’m not an imposter. Constantly pushing myself harder and working to achieve in all aspects of my life. I feel stressed when doing nothing and work hard to fill my time with rewarding activities.
These have all been contributing factors for sure, but also I’ve been very competitive from a young age, perhaps because I had two older brothers (who I wanted to be just as good as) or quite possibly it was just a personality trait I was born with. What I’ve done over the years learnt to channel this competitive streak so that I’m not in competition with others, but instead in competition with a previous version myself.
This allows me to continuously grow and improve.
But as I take on these new adventures, I know I will need to adopt a different mindset. I’ll need to lower the volume of the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough. It’s bizarre, because most people I know would badge me as uber confident, and in many ways I am. But when I’m alone with my thoughts, the feelings of doubt arise.
So here’s 5 things I’m going to do differently! This is the first step.
- Acknowledging and talking about the way I feel
- Accepting that the doubts are in my head, not in those hiring me for these incredible positions.
- Reflecting on my achievements and owning that it was skill and talent that got me them, not simply luck or good timing.
- Seeking validation (when needed) from trusted friends and colleagues.
- Being comfortable in my own skin, and embracing all that makes me, me! Including my vulnerability.
I’m so excited about all the opportunities I have ahead of me and I often get asked ‘how do you find the time?’ Well, they say it takes a village and I am living in the best one. With a hands on husband, super helpful grandparents and a really slick routine, I am able to create the time to fit it all in.
Does that mean we place breakfast bowls cups and spoons on the kitchen countertop the night before? Do we reset the house at each nap time to ensure everything is in its place and therefore easier to find? Are we forever communicating with one another about logistics and plans? Totally! That is certainly the secret to our success.
For all those out there doubting their ability to do something different, to take something new on or step into the unknown, know that you are not alone. Be kind to yourself, back yourself and don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling. You’ll be surprised how many feel just like you do! You’ve got this!