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Dear Molly, How Do I Get Past Imposter Syndrome?

11 December 2019

Lately, I’ve been feeling more and more like a fake at my job. I just got hired last month and I constantly feel like I’m am behind everyone else. There’s so much I don’t know! I feel like I spend every meeting trying to hide my confusion. What should I do? Should I go to my boss about it? Have you ever felt like this? How do I get over imposter syndrome?

 

I’m a woman in my mid-20s writing an advice column for women in their mid-20s. Trust me, I’m well versed in all things imposter syndrome. Interestingly enough it’s something I’ve discussed numerous times in an academic setting as well. Within the world of Philosophy, you are often building a thesis to defend your own argument and interpreting other’s works to support your claims (just writing that gave me flashbacks to defending my 100-page senior thesis). Philosophy is dense, and misinterpreting classic texts is something every Philosopher is guilty of at some point β€” you often can have an out of body experience of feeling like everyone in the room is watching you dig yourself into a philosophical and metaphorical hole.

The takeaway of that digression is this: we have all felt that feeling. Especially in a professional setting. Here’s the good news, if you feel a little behind or outside of your comfort zone you are exactly where you need to be. That ‘uncomfortability’ is how we grow. The Educo Community has a great graphic to illustrate this:

 

 

In their model “Complexity” is where you currently are. Trust the people who put you in this position. When I was in middle school I had this idea (after taking five years off) to join my high school’s soccer team. I went to my dad about it and asked him if he thought it was possible and he told me one of those parental drops of wisdom “Just want it more than anyone else out there. They can teach you how to play, they can’t teach you to care.” I made sure I was the most aggressive person on the field and was offered a place on Varsity (and ended up running XC instead πŸ˜‚). You were hired not only because you are capable, but because the person hiring you saw that you cared. That being said, there is a growth and adjustment period for every new position you are in.

Think about it like merging onto the highway, just because everyone else is coasting along and you are catching pace doesn’t mean that you are behind. You are finding your pace, your rhythm, and learning along the way. A good leader/boss/supervisor will anticipate a one to three month adjustment phase when they onboard someone.

Personally I would not suggest going to your boss about this, unless you are drowning. Playing on a previous metaphor, if it feels like you are merging onto the highway, stay the course. If it feels like you are merging onto an F1 race track, ask for a lifeline. Going to your boss and saying something along the lines of “I’ve really enjoyed the past few weeks, but would really like to dive in X deeper. I’d like to take next Wednesday to really learn all the nitty-gritty of the system.” You want to be sure to approach them with a solution/plan, not just a problem. Avoid words/phrases like “feel behind” or “confused” and speak in a more proactive and positive tone.

And to get you through meetings remember this, no one knows what’s going on in your head unless it’s on your face. Keep a neutral expression, take a lot of notes, and follow up one-on-one, after the meeting, with any questions you have.

Best of luck with the new job and I’m sure you earned it πŸ™‚

 

xx

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