Archive for category: Life and Work

Impostor Syndrome, Part II

If you haven’t read the previous post, please do so first.

So the downfall of believing you’re an impostor, other than being a Negative Nancy, is that you get in the way of your own success. Can we say self-fulfilling prophecy? We cope by procrastinating, not asking questions or challenging others, not finishing projects or even actively sabotaging ourselves. We miss out on opportunities to grow, learn and to share our knowledge and ideas (often to the detriment of others).

According to Dr. Young, addressing our impostor tendancies is all about understanding how we define success and then redefining it. Here’s how she breaks down impostor tendancies:

The Perfectionist believes that success means that everything they do must be flawless, every time. But ultimately it just becomes a reason to be stuck, to not complete things because they’re never perfect.

Battling the Pefectionist: don’t agonize, it just slows you down. Finishing something, even if it’s not perfect, is better than doing nothing. Dr. Brene Brown, an expert on authenticity and fear, wrote a book called The Gifts of Imperfection. I love the idea of imperfection as a gift.

The Rugged Individualist doesn’t believe in asking for help because ‘if I was really smart then I could do it all on my own’.

Battling the Rugged Individualist: acquiring the right information and resources to continue to learn means you must ask other smart people for help. If you let them, their different perspectives can help drive your curiosity and provide direction for seeking out new knowledge.

The Expert thinks that they need to know 150% of any subject to be considered remotely qualified to comment. One day they will wake up and be an expert – after one more graduate degree, reading one more book – not before.

Battling the Expert: Will Rogers said it best, recognize that “everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects”.

The Natural Genius believes that true intelligence is innate, easy. They swing between frustration over not having a natural mastery and dismissing those things that do come naturally to them – ‘if I can do it then anyone can’.

Battling the Natural Genius: understand that mastery is not easy or innate for anyone. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and pay special attention to those 10,000 hours.

The Extremist is tricked by their moments of brilliance, since we all have those days where we shine. But they believe that if they’re not brilliant ALL the time then they must be stupid.

Battling the Extremist: most of us, even the really brilliant ones, spend our days in the middle of the brilliant-stupid scale. Learn to savor your shining moments and forgive the inevitable foggy-headed days.

The Superwoman/man/student believes that in order to be successful they must be amazing at EVERYTHING: businesswoman, mom, artist, board chair, co-op member, exercise nut…what am I missing?

Battling the Superperson: trying to do too much means spreading your attention and resources very thin. Prioritize the few things that are most important to you and focus your energy on doing them with gusto.

Personally, I’m a recovering Perfectionist and a Rugged Individualist with a little Expert thrown in for good measure. As I shift from academic life to building a new professional persona, I battle my impostor voice almost daily. Mostly, I’m just trying to take life a little less seriously and reframe my point-of-view: failure as opportunity, fear as excitement, lost as exploring. And if all else fails, fake it ’til you make it. Right?

What do your battles with Impostor Syndrome look like? Are there ways you can shift your internal dialog to be a more successful and full you?


Impostor Syndrome

Earlier this year I saw Dr. Valerie Young speak about ‘Impostor Syndrome‘, her talk was called How to Feel As Bright and Capable As Everyone Thinks You Are. Interestingly enough, one of the groups more inclined to have Impostor Syndrome is people who are creative for a living, in part because the work is so subjective and is constantly up for critique.

What is Impostor Syndrom?
Despite evidence to the contrary, there are those of us who are bright, capable people but do not trust in our competence or success, believing instead that we’ve fooled everybody around us. We manage to ignore hard facts like fancy degrees, test scores, GPAs and kudos from people we respect; writing it all off as an accident, working harder than everyone else or that people just really like you. Sound familiar, anyone?

*Anna raises her hand*

So you’re  fooling people.
You should probably do them a favor and set them straight: Imagine all of the smart, amazing people you have in your life that (mistakenly) think that you’re smart and amazing. Then imagine telling one of them how daft they are in thinking such things about you, how you’ve so adeptly pulled the wool over their eyes.

Got it? How did that convo go for you? Mine wasn’t great, in fact I’m pretty sure I got laughed at, a lot.

So…maybe you’re not an impostor after all? Mull that over and I’ll throw some more thoughts on the subject your way in a couple of days.

What’s Next?

Whew! What a whirlwind couple of weeks…uh, or month actually. First, my apologies for disappearing, the last month has been filled with finals, graduation, goodbyes and ‘oh my gosh, what comes next’. I came out the other side with:

  • a 4′ x 3′ mind map of my independent study research and corresponding article that I hope to publish in the coming months,
  • an abnormally large diploma (that does not fit neatly in a file drawer like my other does) that dubs me a Master,
  • lots of hugs and congratulations from parents, family and friends,
  • friends scattering across the globe who I look forward to visiting in the coming years

I am now in the process of determining what comes next, weighing consulting vs finding a ‘real job’. Regardless of where I end up, my passion for the crossroads of creativity and management will continue, and so too will this blog. I’ve got a number of half written entries on generations, creativity and management that I will finish and post in the coming weeks.

Second, I would like to say thank you to everyone who played a part in my independent study – interviewees, my advisor (Denise Rousseau), colleagues, friends and family. It was hugely inspiring for me and I learned so much about people and what they need to better manage the creative process. I look forward to continuing to grow that knowledge and working to help design firms evolve.

Lastly, I would like to welcome you all to continue on this journey with me. I would love to talk with you, hear your ideas, frustrations, hopes and dreams for design and management. Help me affect the evolution of an industry…


Penelope Trunk on Rules for Rule Beakers

This is a great post about why it’s important to know the rules before you start trying to break them. Officially taken to heart in my personal quest to buck the status quo…

Jeff Gordinier | X Saves the World

Today I came across the book Gen X Saves the World: How Gen X Got the Shaft But Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking by Jeff Gordinier. I haven’t read it yet (just added it to my cart) but liked this video of Jeff talking about the book and his inspiration for it.


Granted, he comes off as a bit jaded. But his passion for our generation and how little credit we’ve gotten (or wanted) for our collective accomplishments struck a chord. We are quietly changing the world, it has already happened and will continue.