What I wish I had told my younger self was this…you are not an imposter! When I was 32 and was promoted from Director to VP within 8 months arriving at Turner (now Warner Media) I immediately fell into the imposter syndrome. I’m sure you’ve heard of it because it affects women more than men. It’s a psychological pattern that makes individuals doubt their accomplishments. I had the fear that this big media company would find out my sub par grades from college and think I wasn’t as smart as they thought I was. I was so new to the company I didn’t know how to, or if I even should, ask for help and reveal my insecurities. So what I did was I called the Employee Assistance Program provider and asked for help. They referred me to a psychologist who I met with for several sessions to talk things thru. She helped me understand my fears were irrational and to acknowledge that it would be hard to fool so many people and companies for so long if I wasn’t as strong and smart of leader as I was.
I have to say after those sessions I never looked back. The time I spent examining my fears was invaluable. Imagined fear can, and will, hold you back. I’m grateful that I know that now and that I can openly share my struggle with others. What could have happened if I didn’t confront the thoughts in my head? After that first Executive role I was promoted 3 more times, ultimately landing in role developed with me in mind to lead a team of over 1600 in 4 different continents. And you know what…in time, I even had the courage to share with others I got B’s and C’s in college and that this leader of technology teams hated Math and Science the most!
Years ago I was reading an article about Dana Perino and her time working for Tony Snow. She told about the time she was taking over for Tony as the White House Press Secretary for George W. Bush, as he stepped down due to being diagnosed with colon cancer. She was about to meet the press corp for the first time and she had serious doubts about her abilities and if she was the right person for the role. He said the most important thing to her at the moment she needed to hear it…”You are better at this than you think you are.” That is a mantra she keeps in her mind to this day and so do I.
So I say to my younger self always remember “You’re better at this than you think you are” and make sure you pay it forward by helping others to believe it in themselves too!