Today I had a deadline. I had several deadlines, actually, but most prevalent in my mind was this blog post. I knew for over a week that it was due. Heck, I probably started stressing about it as soon as my last post went live. Yet, here I am, the day of, completing this post. I used to think this cycle of dread and procrastination was a sign of laziness, or ineptitude. If only I could get my act together, then I could meet deadlines and soar on wings of competency, at last a successful person. But I AM a successful person. I have a position that I love in a profession I adore. I’m a single mother working full-time, juggling e-learning and professional responsibilities during a freaking pandemic and I haven’t lost my mind (yet). Objectively, I’m rocking it.
So, why the disconnect between my vision of myself and how I’m perceived by others? Two words: Imposter Syndrome. I have it and, chances are, you have it too.
First identified in 1978, Imposter Syndrome is “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” People with Imposter Syndrome feel “that they are a fraud, the one incompetent person in an industry full of pros.” It often presents along with perfectionism and intense fear of rejection and failure.
Imposter syndrome is extremely common in both the legal and library fields, with women and minorities being especially prone to the phenomenon. It can be detrimental to our careers and personal lives, and even exacerbate the impact of discrimination. It can also negatively affect law students, setting them up for failure and damaging their confidence following graduation and into practice.
So, how can we convince ourselves and our students that we are all successful and competent people worthy of success?
There is a plethora of resources available with strategies to help combat imposter syndrome. There are articles, books, blogs, webinars, and libguides on the topic. A few approaches that I’ve found particularly helpful are:
- Reframe or “Flip the Script” – Imposter Syndrome uses the same tired lines over and over again. The next time you hear those self defeating words, remind yourself with real examples how many times and ways you have succeeded
- Connect with a Mentor – Choose someone who knows both you and the profession, they can provide valuable experience and validation
- Acknowledge a failure doesn’t make YOU a failure or a fraud – Abandon the mindset that you cannot fail, or risk being labeled a failure forever. We all fail. Even the best, most competent people fall short, or falter sometimes. Learn and move forward.
While these strategies can be extremely helpful to the individual, it’s of vital importance that we combat this issue systematically as well. The first step is admitting that we have a problem, the second is talking about it. The more we talk about our own struggles, the easier it is for others to feel that they aren’t alone. So, let’s start a conversation and if you need someone to tell you that you are rocking it, I’m happy to oblige.