The journey to university was a struggle. After bad health, an extra year in college and a long commute each day, I finally submitted my application. Late November, an email popped into my account from UCAS. I had been accepted into my first choice, University of Greenwich.
From this point onwards, I referred to my acceptance as ‘lucky’. Not once, did I mention to anybody how hard I had worked, how I had spent an extra year gaining the grades for the course or my long commute each day to college. I put my acceptance to university down to ‘luck’.
In 2015, I ran in The PR Fraternity elections. A society that runs alongside my PR and Communications degree. All of the candidates were extremely strong and I assumed my chances were nil. Surprisingly, I was voted the role of President. I was extremely happy, but in the later days I found out that the vote had been very close. I chose to focus sorely on this information and again, I counted myself as ‘lucky’.
I didn’t know it at the time but this is called imposter syndrome: the fear of being exposed, that you don’t deserve your success, aren’t as good as others – and could be “found out” at any moment. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
This month, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. This is where I learnt of imposter syndrome and instantly related. It describes that women are more likely to feel that they are not worthy of their success than men. Men experience imposter syndrome to but use it very differently. Women use imposter syndrome to lean out of work, and men use imposter syndrome to lean into work. Men see imposter syndrome as doing something right, a challenge that they will conquer.
Throughout my presidency last year, I felt the success of the year was purely down to my team, honorary patrons and luck. I still to this day give myself no credit for the achievements throughout the year including a consistent guest speaker series and turning the society around to become the ‘biggest academic society of the year’. A male in this position however, would “always be proud of their success” says Sheryl Sandberg. Men label their success down to hard work, graft and effort.
We as women need to take note. There is a fine line between self-deprecation and self-destruction. We don’t need to start acting like men, or approaching imposter syndrome as a male, because of course, we are women. We just need to be ourselves and own our success.
More information on Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In campaign here.
Image credit: http://f–f.info/?p=18021