A Story About Imposter Syndrome… and Overcoming It
Picture the scene...
I'm 20 years old, bright-eyed, nervous as hell and attending an interview at a famous fashion magazine. I’ve spent the entire morning preparing my outfit, because WHAT do you wear to such an occasion?! “This is my time,” I think as I carefully apply my makeup. “This is the beginning of everything.” Flicking through their latest issue, I finally decide on an outfit and walk out of the door. Portfolio in hand, butterflies in stomach. In case you’re wondering, I opted for a blazer, a shift dress and point-toe flats because, let’s face it, layering is vital during an interview. Oh, and a bag. A fake designer bag.
“Nobody will notice.” I tell myself. “My friends always say it’s a good fake and, besides, every magazine editor has a designer bag. It's a faux pas not to.”
As I walk from my house, to the train station, to the office of my dreams, my stomach is ablaze. I’m only two minutes into the interview when the sour-faced editor notices my bag. And just like that, the conversation is over. At least for her. I carry on talking, hopeful and determined and trying so hard to be whatever it is they’re looking for. The job itself paid a pitiful £15,000 a year for 50+ hours a week and yet I would have sold my soul for it. But I never heard back. Every time I checked my email to see tumbleweed yet again, I felt like even more of an imposter.
My fake designer bag was more than a bad wardrobe decision. It symbolised my desire to fit in, and how I thought that simply being myself would *never* have been enough. Imposter syndrome.
After eight follow-up emails (eight!!!) I threw away the bag and, with it, any aspiration I had to work at that magazine. Time has passed and since then, I've done things I never imagined doing. Like going to 10 Downing St. Or being the only woman sat at a table full of Oxbridge-educated men at a tech company. Or managing a team of people all considerably older than me. I'd be lying if I said I no longer feel like an imposter in intimidating situations. I totally do. Being ambitious and building a career from nothing is hard. This life stuff is hard. But I'm older now and I know that 'imposter syndrome' is a consequence of trying things. I also know that I belong. Here, there and anywhere I choose to go. And the same rules apply to you.
As you read this, I want you to make a promise. Promise that you won't ever shy away from your potential. Promise that you'll show up wherever you go as if you belong to be there. Because you do.
If I could go back and speak to my 20-year-old self today, I would tell her to give less f*cks. Why? Because everyone is making everything up as they go along. I'm no exception. We're all 'imposters' of sorts. Living your best life is all about accepting that and going for it anyway. Go unapologetically in the direction of your goals. Go wherever you want, with your head high and whatever bag you like in hand. It's your right.