Running an event on imposter syndrome forced me to reflect on my own feelings of inadequacy.
On March 8, I hosted a free virtual event honoring International Women’s Day (IWD). I invited six female colleagues to join me in presenting Imposter Syndrome: 3 Simple Steps to Overcome It. We had run an IWD event the year before, so we operated like a well-oiled machine. Our topic was a perfect match for the global theme of #ChoosetoChallange. All the stars were aligned. So why wasn’t I feeling fully in sync for this event?
Ironically, in the months coming up to the event, I had to work through my own feelings of imposter syndrome. I took myself through the three steps we shared during the event to work through these thoughts of not being enough (Recognize, Reflect, and Reframe).
Step 1: Recognize it. Why was something feeling off? Was I feeling imposter syndrome because of the pressure of leading the event? Was it because I had never run a live event using the Zoom polling and break out group features for 100+ attendees? Was it just a cruel irony that anyone planning an event on imposter syndrome is bound to feel a little bit worried about credibility?
Step 2: Reflect on it. I challenged my thoughts. I reviewed facts that countered these feelings.
First, I had recently taken a great Virtual Trainer Course by Elisabeth Sanders Park to learn how to use innovative techniques to make virtual training more engaging. This event would be a great way to practice those skills.
Second, I thought about the fact that I had been a leader most of my life in some way. In high school, I was an elected officer. In college, I volunteered as an officer of the Campus Activities Board. Early in my career, I helped to establish the Annapolis Society for Human Resource Management, ASHRM (now called Anne Arundel SHRM), and later became a President of that group. After I changed careers and entered the field of workforce development, I held multiple leadership roles in the Maryland Career Development Association (MCDA), including that of President. Most recently, for two years, I was the President of my neighborhood garden club. You would think with all of that leadership experience, I wouldn’t question my ability to lead or my enjoyment of it. Suddenly I was asking myself, “Do I want to be in the lead?”
Over the past year, I’ve found myself pulling away from leading things. I let go of the Lean In ASTER Circle I was running. I asked to go back to being a regular Board Member rather than for President of the garden club. Giving up these activities felt right at the time, but I didn’t truly see the signals until it all culminated in the IWD event.
Here I was, leading this team of amazing women colleagues inspired to empower other women, and yet I was feeling a bit out of sorts. What was going on? After more reflection, I realized that while I can lead, it’s not my favorite skill to use. I do possess many of the same qualities as a good leader. I can coordinate people, resources, and processes well. I can manage a team, build consensus, and facilitate anything. I enjoy sharing knowledge through public speaking. I am very organized and like to pull my weight. I’m a truth teller, and people tend to trust me. Having these leadership qualities had propelled me into leadership roles multiple times, but was I still enjoying being a leader?
I also realized that I don’t love being in charge. I uncovered that it is actually a burnout skill for me (a skill you can do but you don’t enjoy). I don’t want to be the final decision maker or have to be the heavy. Though I can handle conflict and touchy situations, I prefer harmony. Maybe this isn’t such a surprise? When I think back to my college years when I was a Political Science major, I often thought, “I don’t want to be a politician, but I could be a great backbone for one.”
Step 3: Reframe it. To invoke the third step, I reframed my thoughts. I’m not feeling imposter syndrome because I’m not a good leader; it’s because, at this time, I no longer want to be in leadership roles. To reframe my technology concerns, if I’m feeling uneasy about using these new Zoom features, I could practice beforehand with the help of colleagues and family.
With the support of many others, I can proudly say that IWD was awesome, and the technology, timing, and entire event went as smoothly as possible. I want to thank my team members for making it such a huge success. If you want to experience it for yourself, click here.
I’m thankful for having gone through this three-step process to uncover new truths about myself. I was able to overcome imposter syndrome in this situation by walking myself through the steps over time. In doing so, I recognized that my preferences have changed in how I want to use my skill set and that I can meet new challenges with practice and support.
P.S. Elisabeth Sanders Park, who delivered the aforementioned Virtual Trainer Course, is a friend and trusted colleague. She attended our IWD event mostly to support our team, but she discovered her own insights during this event. She wrote about it here. By the way, the class is excellent if you’re interested in attending in the future.