This is the true story of my imposter syndrome, more honest than ever before. It was December 2013 and I was aged 28. I had been working as a PR Manager for an international and highly-regarded organisation for almost three years and had a lovely content marketing team of three. I knew what I was doing and though there were the usual corporate challenges I was generally a happy worker bee. But then an opportunity came up in the organisation to interview for my manager’s role and become the head of the marketing department (a team of about 14 in total looking after everything from the TV ad campaigns to the call centre).
I had been brought up to apply myself and be grateful for good opportunities, so it didn’t even occur to me not to apply. I interviewed, got the job, and then it was Christmas so I had an unhelpful amount of time to think… and stew… and listen to the increasingly loud voice inside my head telling me I wasn’t good enough to do it. I went to Next and bought a suit, because I thought that would make me feel the part. It didn’t. I spent the week between Christmas and New Year trying to work out what computational error must have been made for me to be given the role. Despite getting very positive feedback about my interview I settled on the conclusion that they must have been desperate.
Even though I had been told that they were confident in my abilities based on what I’d demonstrated on the job, and that they were happy to train me up on anything else, I decided I had to be perfect from day one or they’d realise they’d made a mistake.
Inevitably that meant I entered the office the first day back in January (wearing my new ill-fitted suit) filled from head to toe with anxiety. I called the first team meeting and sat there assuming everyone was thinking to themselves “Why on earth have they made her manager? I can’t wait to see her mess this up.” I projected doubt on their faces and cynicism in their voices (I know now that neither was true). I worked every hour there was to prove to myself and others that I was worthy of my title. I lost who I was as Gemma outside of work and became obsessed with over delivering on what was expected of me, to create a little good will for when they eventually worked out I was a total fraud. My imposter syndrome was absolutely wild – every day I told myself I wasn’t good enough and too many nights I cried from the pressure I’d put on myself.
Despite great appraisals, positive feedback from regional offices around the world and stacks of evidence that I was doing a good job, I just couldn’t get past the voice in my head that said I was going to get caught out.
11 months later I left the role and the organisation, as the internal battle with myself had worn me out. My imposter syndrome had won. It was nothing to do with the company, it was all me.
Over the six years since, the thoughts inside my head have made quite the transformation. Thanks to cognitive hypnotherapy I now understand the positive intention behind my unconscious thoughts. I now know that just because I have a thought that I’m not good enough that doesn’t make it true. I understand that I was strengthening the power of my inner critic by letting the same negative thought-signals run back and forth in my mind. I learned some amazing NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) techniques to transform those thoughts and feelings and I learned about the power of embodiment and how being hunched over my desk in an ill-fitting suit was doing me no good whatsoever!
Not only do I now feel confident in my Head of Marketing role, but I also enjoy the person I am outside of work far more too. I feel free of the fear that I’m going to be caught out and know I have earned the position I now find myself in. I believe in myself and know that uncertainty and mistakes are learning opportunities and not directly connected to my self worth. And, best of all, I get to be a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Mindset Coach that helps my peers to make similar transformations.
If you can relate to my story, is it time to take action now so you can feel free too? Check out my Authentic Confidence programme and book in a virtual coffee to discuss how it can help to free you.