With our inaugural ONYL Connect having just taken place and the topic being an imposter syndrome Ted Talk (found here if you are interested in watching), I thought it would be fitting to go over my journey with imposter syndrome. 

Having joined the credit union system right out of post-secondary I had never really experienced any other professional workplaces. With the help of a great mentor and excellent colleagues, I was able to transition pretty well into this new world. Even though my journey has been great so far, I often found or still do find myself thinking about if I deserve to be where I am and if I have enough or the right skills for the position I am in. Not to mention when my mind starts to wonder further about future positions that I would like to see myself in, am I or will I be skilled enough for them? As a young leader, these thoughts can be further amplified when you are in the presence of a traditionally more mature workforce like we often see in the Credit Union system, especially in a smaller CU like mine. How can a young individual like me be hanging with all these well-established and mature leaders? This always ended with me thinking about what could be causing these thoughts to run through my mind?

A LinkedIn Discovery

A couple of years back, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and came across an article that discussed a term that I had never heard formally before: Imposter Syndrome. According to the HBR, imposter syndrome can be defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success” (HBR, 2008). People who have experienced this often feel like success was due to luck, that they don’t deserve success or that they do not want to fail, and even feel like success is not a big deal and downplay it. 

Finally, I was able to put a name to something I have been feeling for these past few years, it felt somewhat like a relief. I was able to find stories and articles of others who have gone or are going through the same thing. Although I assumed throughout the years that this was not something unique to me and others feel this way too, it was relieving to see it out in the open and being talked about with an actual name to it, not to mention there have been books written about it, research, and much more. 

How Can We Fight It?

These days there is no shortage of ideas and recommendations on ways to combat it.  As mentioned, my imposter syndrome mainly stems from the “am I experienced enough” type of feelings, even when I do see success in what I do. 

It was reaffirming to know that some of the personal methods I developed before stumbling across imposter syndrome are some of the ideas recommended to combat it. Here are few ways that HBR suggest to combat it:

  • Recognize imposter feelings when they emerge
  • Rewrite the way you think and tell yourself it is ok to not have the answer to everything and that you will learn more as you grow.
  • Talk about your feelings with others
  • Consider the context when you don’t feel successful
  • Think of failures as learning opportunities
  • Be kind to yourself and realize no one is perfect
  • Seek out support if you need it
  • List things you have accomplished or done to reaffirm your success and capabilities
  • Visualize your success

In our recent ONLY Connect Ted Talk discussion, Dona Sarkar discusses her journey with imposter syndrome also gave some great ideas on how to combat it:

  • You don’t need to know everything and your career is a work in progress, you need to gain experience and then you will feel better about the things you are working on, and even then you still may feel like an imposter
  • Take your own advice, we often give people great advice on issues or worries they have, so why can we listen to our own advice or give ourselves that advice too?
  • Identify what you know best and don’t know, get help on the items you don’t know much about, try to learn about it

Here are also a few personal methods I had developed over the years before coming across articles and research to help get me out of these thoughts (some of which are very similar to what was mentioned above):

  • Taking a step back and looking at what I have accomplished to re-affirm that I am here for a reason and I can do big things
  • Opening up and talking to others to work out if my thoughts are legitimate or if they have similar experiences (oftentimes mentors and colleagues have shared stories of the same nature)

After reflecting further and looking into it, it seems like these are feelings that would come naturally to young leaders as we are often in situations where we have many reasons why we think we may not be experienced enough, such as managing a team with people that are older than you or taking on tasks/projects that are out of your area of comfort or experience. I always try to remind myself that no one is perfect and expected to know everything, so these new experiences or situations will require a learning curve, and that is ok!

ONYL is Another Great Solution

The ONYL network is another great resource that has helped me further step away from thoughts of imposter syndrome. Being able to connect to link-minded young leaders and hear their stories and ideas really has opened my eyes to the fact that there are other individuals in other CUs and system partners that have similar stories. And events like ONYL Connect that discuss topics like imposter syndrome are another great benefit to the group. As mentioned, coming from a smaller-sized credit union I am one of the younger members of our management team so it is re-affirming to know there are many others out there like myself who are in similar roles and doing great things. The sense of community can really be felt in ONLY.

So if you need another reason to get engaged or involved with ONYL I hope this is another item to get you motivated and excited about our network!