Featured Employee: The Upside of Imposter Syndrome: 7 Leaders on Turning Self-Doubt Into Success

Michelle Blake is one of our Senior UX Designers, and we asked her when she has dealt with Imposter Syndrome and how she overcame it.

Give us some background. How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career?

I have been incredibly lucky to work at many supportive and inclusive companies, but as a woman in a male-dominated industry and field, I believe that no matter where you work, there will always be a degree of imposter syndrome simply because we’re in the minority.

Communication is the area where I notice gender differences are the most potent. I notice that women often listen, respond and challenge others differently. Being the only woman in most professional situations is powerful in the sense that we get to offer a unique perspective and diverse style of team support, but communicating that perspective comes with the challenge of being alone. 

For example, I often find in meetings that I and other women will take a bit more time to think through their thoughts before responding, making us appear quieter. Due to the rapid communication styles we often find ourselves among, we’ll sometimes have to speak with more urgency and interrupt or jump into any break in the discussion to be heard. This challenge requires a degree of confidence and perseverance to be effective because we have to fight to get ourselves into and stay in the conversation.

How did you deal with your imposter syndrome? Was there a particular situation, quote, idea or person who helped change your perspective?

What has helped me be the most effective at combating the feelings of imposter syndrome is being thoughtful about how I communicate. I try to eliminate words that make me look and feel less confident, like “I feel” or “I think.” Instead, I keep my words focused on the facts surrounding the problem and use specific data or evidence to support my thought processes. 

Taking the focus off of myself and onto the problem reminds me and others that the conversation is not about the people at the table but about solving the challenge at hand. I find this type of thinking helps me remain calm in stressful situations where I feel alone because the situation feels less personal and therefore less intimidating or tiring when I am challenged.

What advice would you give to other professional women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

When you’re feeling alone or unheard, remind yourself that regardless of the people in the room, you were hired because you have valuable skills that your company needs to solve problems. Whatever stressful or scary situation you are in, challenge yourself to keep your focus on the business problem and off of yourself. 

Never forget that feelings of fear and incompetence are completely normal and healthy, but that none of those feelings are because of you or about you. Your challenges are real, your experience is valid and you will be successful.

Original article written by Hilary George-Parkin, click here for the entire article.