Imposter Syndrome

This week is a big week for me. I’m getting promoted into a pretty big role. I can’t say what yet as they’re announcing it later this week, so I must still be a little cagey but if you follow me on Insta or Facebook or LinkedIn, you’ll find out soon enough. But knowing my new title doesn’t help or hurt our ability to chat about the bitch I call Imposter Syndrome today.

I’ve mentioned in a previous episode that Millennials are more likely to experience Imposter Syndrome than prior generations. And looking at the audacity of some of these GenZers, I’m assuming we definitely are more likely to experience it than our younger counterparts as well. I mean, they have no qualms about asking for promotions and raises whether they’ve earned it or not. They’re like – well I’ve been here six months and I get to work on time and don’t take more than my allotted vacation days, so I’ve earned a 30% raise and if you don’t give it to me, I’m going somewhere else.

And while that can be frustrating as a manager, at the same time I admire the tenacity. I never asked for a promotion in my life, nor a raise. I worked hard and waited for my turn. Which wasn’t necessarily the right route either. While I am successful in my career, sometimes I wonder where I would have been if I showed more confidence in myself and fought for myself like these GenZers earlier in my career. But as an elder Millennial, we grew up with the thinking of “you’re lucky you have a job”. You work hard and if you like what you do, that’s the holy grail. You don’t push back on management. You don’t challenge the company. You don’t express your discontent. You keep your head down and work hard and you’ll be rewarded for it eventually. Why? Because hard work pays off.

But it doesn’t always, does it? We’ve all seen people that don’t work hard succeed and move up the ladder. And maybe they knew something we didn’t all along – you’re more likely to get ahead if you advocate for yourself. Well, for me, it wasn’t until my current company did, I finally start to advocate for myself. It only took me over 10 years in my career to start.

From day one, well maybe not day one – but from my first review, I made it very clear I had aspirations for my career that went above and beyond even my department. I wanted more of an agency leadership position, which was one of the key reasons I moved to a mid-sized shop. I could actually see and interact with agency leadership. Unlike the massive conglomerate I was at prior where I was probably 20+ levels and a couple states removed from the top. Here I could walk down the hall and interact with the C-Suite.

The good and the bad of interacting with the C-Suite is that you get on their radar, but you are also on their radar. Expectations change once you’re on the radar and it’s up to you to live up to them. But I like the challenge. For the last five years, I’ve raised my hand for every opportunity I could within the agency. I never took the position “that’s not my job” and always went into the project with a desire to learn. Because of this, I took up a couple mentors along the way – whether they knew it or not. I learned, tried my best and continued the conversation with leadership on my goals and my progress.

I also brought ideas they didn’t ask for. Within these different conversations and projects, I was inspired and came up with ideas for the agency without being tasked to do so. I then worked in the time to bring those ideas to leadership. Maybe it was that 4-hour new biz car ride when I got to ride in the same car as our CEO and COO. I’m sure they were tired of hearing my voice by the end, but you better believe I took that rare opportunity to talk about some of my ideas and get their perspective.

I signed up for speaking roles, content creation – you name it! And for the first time in my career, I was at a place where not only did my team start seeing me as leadership, but others in the agency started to respect me and reach out to me directly for helps in projects. Unlike what my parents would say – I wasn’t “lucky to have this job”. I worked my ass off for it. I went above and beyond what my salary was paying for and because of that, it afforded me the opportunity to have conversations I may not have had.

So here we are, ready to take my next step. After all that hard work. And yet when my boss called me to tell me, I was shell shocked and found it hard to smile. Christian came home from work shortly after the conversation and asked me how my day was. My response? “Pretty good, I’m getting promoted.”. He of course was excited for me and was asking me about it, but then realized I didn’t share in his excitement. So, he stopped, and asked, “Why aren’t you excited? This is what you wanted!”. I responded in a way that clearly wasn’t convincing and he said, “Do you have that syndrome thing?”. Then it hit me, that syndrome thing he was talking about was Imposter Syndrome and yes, I was deep in the middle of it.

But why? I just talked about how I’ve been working hard, making connections across the company, going above and beyond etc. Why would I be suffering from Imposter Syndrome? I should be celebrating as my hard work was paying off!

Well, the role that is being added to my plate is coming directly from one of my mentors. And while that may seem like an honor -which it is, don’t get me wrong – this is the first time in my career that I’ve taken on responsibilities of someone that I looked up to and mentored me. Therefore, this is the first time I felt like I had some big shoes to fill. And shoes I had respected for the last five years. It’s also a very visible role in the agency and it has clear numbers behind my success or failure. Nowhere to hide.

I was feeling all the feelings. Was I ready? Was I qualified enough? What if I fail? I don’t know how else I could explain it other than the feeling of a pit inside my stomach that was a mixture of excitement and fear and right now the ratio was weighted heavier in fear. Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever worked hard for something but then when you had the opportunity, you were taken aback? Or almost nervous to accept it? It’s like – ok, here’s the start of what you’ve been asking for – don’t F it up.

Of course, when I told my parents, they were happy for me and proud of me – but of course that one question came up, “How are you going to take on a new role and try to start a family?”. Can I say that question triggers me? And to be honest, it’s not the question itself. It’s fair to ask how you are going to take on a role that has more pressure when you are trying to do something that can also be time consuming and stressful. That’s fair. But where the trigger lies is less on the question itself and more that men never get asked this question. Never. If a male was getting promoted and him and his significant other were trying to start a family, it would sound more like, “Congrats!”. Nothing else. It would never be implied that he should consider turning it down because of personal decisions. That choice of the career and home is only that of the mother and honestly, it’s bullshit.

I should put aside over fifteen years of my life because of one choice? I’m not saying having a child is not important, of course it is. But it doesn’t erase over fifteen years of hard work and determination it took to get here. It assumes that our careers are just this project to pass the time until our real job comes along – having babies. Because that is all we are meant to do, yes? And I’m not saying men should get asked this question either. I’m saying neither of us should. We are adults that have passions, goals, dreams, and those don’t go away with children. For some, maybe they evolve and change. And maybe mine will too, who knows? But I’ll be the one to make that decision, not society or family or anyone else that has an opinion on it I never asked to hear.

Imposter Syndrome, she’s a bitch. And I’m not giving this crappy feeling a female pronoun for any specific reason. I give everything a female pronoun. I’m not exactly sure why. No matter how hard you work and earn something, we are our own harshest critic. We question ourselves. We doubt ourselves. But why? I have worked my butt off. I have made very specific choices to get me where I am today so that I can get into positions just like this one. I did that. No one gave it to me. No one earned it for me. I need to remind myself of that every time this bitch shows up. And keep reminding myself when things are tough that I’ve been through tougher and made it out the other side. It’s up to me to be successful. And that doesn’t change if we are blessed to start a family. It’s just another challenge to work through to build the life that I want. So, say it with me – I can do this. I am enough. I earned this shit. Let’s do this.

Until next time!

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