Here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter what you achieve or how good you are in your field when you are dealing with imposter syndrome. When you operate with a sense that you are undeserving of the accolades you’ve obtained, it’s extremely difficult to appreciate yourself.
I’ve spoken to many women who’ve started their own companies, made lots of money, and achieved high academic qualifications. Some of them admitted that even with all that they’d achieved, they still felt inadequate.
This is something that I’ve dealt with over the years, and I didn’t realize how much my environment affected the way I viewed myself and my achievements. When I joined OwnTrail, I got to meet like-minded people who helped me rethink this concept of imposter syndrome, and this article shares what I learned.
How Help Beacons Helped Me
I’m an introvert who avoids small talk and introducing myself to strangers. That’s always made it very difficult for me to network with other women and make meaningful professional connections with them. I didn’t know it at the time, but that only put me at a huge disadvantage. It limited my world to the one I was born into, the one where I didn’t know a single woman I could look up to. The one where I didn’t know any young woman who inspired me to challenge myself.
Our environments can greatly influence our perceptions of ourselves and our achievements. When I graduated high school a year early, I got scoffed at and asked questions like “what’s’ the rush? Where do you think you’re going?” When I won over $100,000 in scholarships to study in Switzerland I was told, “You can’t move that far away from home, you can’t handle it, you’re just a little girl.” I was also told, “You’ll come back pregnant with no degree, just wait and see.”
The environment I was in taught me to doubt myself and believe that even when I achieved something notable, it was never enough because I am a young girl who will never amount to anything. Those voices were deeply embedded in my head as I went through college, became an academic mentor, joined the Honors society, and graduated a semester early with a 3.5 GPA. It was never enough. People would come up to me and tell me what an inspiration I was from starting in a small town in Uganda and becoming an academic success in Switzerland. I’d stare blankly at them and remember to smile and say “thank you.”
That’s when I knew that something was off.
I’ve always desired to push myself to the limit and I have always aimed for the highest. But even when those goals were reached, I’d still feel inadequate. So I kept chasing more things. I thought that maybe if I did more, earned more, achieved more, then this feeling would go away. It didn’t.
That’s when I sent a Help Beacon on OwnTrail and started connecting with incredible women who had experienced similar struggles. I was letting them into my world because I needed to have women in my life that were doing big things. I knew that this would influence the way that I viewed myself. I come from a society where women my age are all-consumed by having their 6th child and cooking a delicious meal for their aloof husbands. Few of them are dreaming, few of them are innovating, and even fewer encourage other girls to think outside the box.
It made me realize that my social circle was so small. I desperately needed to surround myself with women who inspired me and lit a spark within me. I didn’t have that for so long, and now I do. When I talk to Trailblazers, suddenly my dreams don’t feel so out of reach. I get to meet young women who are achieving great things and that makes me believe that I can do the same as well. Now, I’m not so shy and timid about managing a PR agency at my age. I don’t feel inadequate when I have to lead an international team and manage a global clientele.
All this change happened when I changed my environment and started surrounding myself with women who challenged and inspired me. It may not seem like much, but that was the start of my recovery from imposter syndrome. I feel less like an imposter in my own world and more like someone who has worked hard to get to where I am now.
Women Supporting Women
No matter who you are, your environment can affect you tremendously. By this, I don’t mean the vegetation or the weather of the city you live in. I’m referring to the people who speak into your life, who mentor you, who you get advice from, and who you look up to. If you are in a place where you have no one in your life that challenges you or encourages you to live outside of your comfort zone, then you won’t grow. And even if you do grow, you may deal with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
By changing this, you can impact your own destiny. OwnTrail is a place where women support other women and we don’t have enough of that in this world. Being on a platform like this has shown me that I can learn a great deal from others and teach others the lessons I’ve learned along the way as well. Women are doubted, scoffed at, minimized, and looked at as the ‘weaker vessels.’ It’s important that we break free from those labels that confine us and walk our paths while we encourage and look out for each other — and OwnTrail is a good place to start.