Have you ever felt it: that deep rumbling of self-doubt?
Have you felt that fear of failure, of being “found out” and of everyone knowing that you aren’t really as amazing as your LinkedIn page might lead them to believe?
I’ve felt this way at different points over the years and I’ve known many others who admit to these feelings. Research once thought it was a phenomenon exclusive to women. Now, it seems many demographics share this particular kind of anxiety.
The gravest consequence of imposter syndrome isn’t the personal anxiety, it’s the paralysis that the anxiety engenders. The “logic” in your head goes something like this: “If I try and fail, everyone will know I’m a fraud, so let’s do nothing.”
How do we as fundraisers and professionals move past imposter syndrome and start giving ourselves the credit we deserve? How do we begin to own our expertise and use it in positive action?
I’ve been working on this blog post for years, though I didn’t know it.
I was doing research for this blog post when I had many breakdowns in college from running myself into the ground in the name of achievement, afraid to “let everybody down”.
I was figuring out strategies for this blog post when I was passed over for a promotion when I was 27 and I thought I had “failed my family” which at the time was just myself and my husband.
And I was testing solutions for imposter syndrome, as I clawed my way back to normalcy after battling postpartum depression. I felt that old familiar feeling, in the guise of being exposed as a “bad mother”.
For me, achievement and confidence have often come at the price of near-paralyzing self-doubt, anxiety and fear of failure. My job now is to try and keep the awesome and give up the unnecessary shitty feelings that have come with it in the past.
I conquered this fear when I applied for a job with the title Vice President for Advancement despite not having any six figure major gift experience yet. And then I got that job.
I conquer this fear whenever I take time to do some yoga and tend to my state of mind first, before tending to deadlines.
And I conquer this fear every time I post on this blog, since I am positioning myself as an expert in this field.
The older I get the less I care about what other people think. And amazingly I am also slowly losing that frantic worried feeling that comes with being an overachiever. I know I can and will get things done and carrying around the baggage of stressing about it is pointless. I have more confidence that I always come through for myself and my family when it matters. These are very good developments.
So, what strategies have I found useful as I battled imposter syndrome? The variety of specific tactics fall nicely into 3 broader categories: mindset, environment and action. The majority of my suggestions focus on mindset but it is also important to manage your environment and media. And most importantly, to truly defeat imposter syndrome you must take action. Let’s dive in.
This is a journey of self-validation. Change your mindset. Manage your environment. Then, take meaningful action. Do not give in to intellectual or professional paralysis. You have something important to give the world.
Fight through the feelings and do what only you can uniquely do.
It’s worth it.
YOU are worth it.
Have you tried any of these suggestions? Are there other strategies to counter imposter syndrome that I missed?
Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
PS – If you liked this post, you might also like these:
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.