Impostor syndrome is not talked about enough.
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally. (Wikipedia)
I think I’ve struggled with it since before I even knew what it was. Now that I have words for it, I can definitely see when it rears it’s ugly head. “Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.” I, like most SEO’s did not take a traditional path to where I’m at today. I was a Women and Gender Studies major in college, I don’t have any marketing background, etc. Everything I know about SEO I’ve just learned along the way. That path has often led me to say, “holy crap, I’m so lucky to have gotten that (insert job offer, client, etc)”. Instead of, “holy crap, of course I got that (insert job offer, client, etc) because I really know what I’m talking about”.
I recently polled my Twitter followers and out of 60 people who responded, 97% percent had struggled with impostor syndrome as well. Why the heck aren’t we talking about this more? I feel like as an industry we try to be pretty supportive of each other, so I don’t have a suggestion other than just sharing our experiences.
One thing I really like about the SEO community is how much knowledge is shared and I really enjoy sharing my knowledge. It can be very easy though to let the impostor monster creep in when applying for speaking gigs or not getting speaking gigs. I recently led a 3 hour workshop at WordCamp Denver. Driving home afterwards I was reflecting on what a cool experience it was to be able share what I know about technical SEO with others that don’t have as much experience with it. The format of the workshop allowed me the freedom to stop presenting and interact with the attendees. That is something that wouldn’t be possible speaking at a conference. I realized in that moment how easy it is to get caught up in the thought that if you’re not speaking at x conference, you don’t know what you’re talking about. But that was just the impostor monster. Maybe workshops is format I prefer right now and that is 100% fine. Maybe speaking in any format is not for some people, but those people know their shit too and that’s okay.
No matter your profession, industry, job title, whatever, I think impostor syndrome is something we can all relate to. I challenge you to start to recognize when it rears it’s ugly head so that you can look it in the eye and say “nope, I am smart enough, qualified enough, everything enough to apply, get, etc,”. Apply for that job, submit that speaker app or just share your thoughts in the next company meeting. You got this!