Owning work mistakes and making Imposter Syndrome my new friend – with Lily Lowe

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Hi, I'm Sapna

So I presented at a work meeting last Tuesday morning and you know when you just want the earth to swallow you up? It went soooooo badlyyyyyyy. I feel like I managed to make silence even more silent (I know right) and I presented the whole thing like a cheesy presenter from the 90s. 

As soon as this ended I felt a bit sick. But alas, it was done. My friend messaged me afterwards and told me what a great job I did. What? Impossible! The earth was spinning so fast and everything was blurry and messy. But that’s the thing… from my view it was looking that way, but she saw something completely different in her view. 

This is usually down to two reasons:

  1. You’re insanely better than you think, and are doing wonderful things, it’s just you are too. damn. hard. on. yourself.
  2. She wasn’t focused on me, she was focused on herself, in the same way I was completely and utterly focused on myself.

That’s right – you’re not alone in worrying about every move you make and how it comes across, we’re all out there doing it. So next time you put a foot wrong remember that the chances of somebody having actually tuned in to notice that are pretty slim. Ahh, such comfort. Use that thought to up your game! Oh I’m gonna make you see what I’m capable of, Graham… that’s right, I know you’re so close to falling asleep. If it goes wrong, who cares? Not Graham, that’s for sure.You’ve probably made his boring day infinitely better.

What is Imposter Syndrome? It’s when an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

When I got my first job in the big wide world I felt like I had so much to prove. And I suddenly felt really, really small. 

I was a bright kid at school, and the phrase I kept toning over and over again since I left was “I don’t know what’s happened to me, my brain seems to have shrunk.” In actual fact, it wasn’t my brain that was shrinking, it was me and my belief system. 

My first part-time job was working at a theatre, and my first full time job was in caravan insurance (not my calling believe it or not). After that I began to work for the government in communications. 

I can’t lie to you, my brain works differently to 99% of the people that I work with, but that’s when I had my epiphany. You shouldn’t hide from the places you don’t naturally gel with, because that is where you stand out.

I’m pretty imaginative and I work in quite a corporate role where this ‘up in the clouds stuff’ is, eh, how do I put it? Received with shock horror. 

BUT THIS IS THE THING. I can (and I will eventually) take my imaginative brain to some ‘perfect fit’ creative role, and that will be all well and good, I’m sure I’ll love it, but I’ll also be competing with thousands of people that think just like me. Nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong, but there’s also nothing wrong with forcing the ‘outside of your comfort zone’ places to adjust to you, rather than you adjusting to them. 

Don’t shrink yourself to fit in the box, go outside the box in every possible way!

Wherever you go in life, it’s your calling to bring newness with you. I don’t care what company you’re a part of, it might be the stuffiest most ancient office known to man, they need your different ways of thinking in order to expand.

And that’s why you must expand. 

Speak in meetings and don’t fear that you sound stupid. So what if you do? You’re adding something. Do you know how many times I haven’t said my idea because I’m worried it’s lame and then somebody says it straight after? 

The more confident you become using your vocal chords, the more you will realise that your voice counts. If you speak, people will listen. It doesn’t matter what they think about your baby shiny idea, it matters what you think. The only person doubting your capabilities is yourself, everybody else is excited by the prospect of you and what you have to say. Tell yourself that even if you don’t inherently believe it at this point.

I always think of Lady Gaga when I’m struggling with not feeling good enough. Infact, I have a weird perfume sample / cut out image of her that I keep on my desk now for this reason. I’m sure that Gaga has been made to feel unbelonging in circumstances where she doesn’t ‘fit’, but what would she do? She would shine the hell anyway and show those people that she has an inherent and unique power in her. Your time might not be now, but we were all chosen in this lifetime, which means we all have a unique blueprint that makes us us and was specifically designed to give something to the world.

I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way!

Forget about the idea of perfectionism too. It takes 5000 ideas for one of them to be successful, but if you never bring any of these ideas out of the torture chamber of your head and don’t allow them to live and breathe in the real world, how do you expect yourself to make something or be something? I’m speaking to myself when I say this one, if you practice what you’re going to say in your head 1000 times before you say it, chances are you would have lost the opportunity to say it anyway. You don’t have to be 100% equipped, you just have to go in all guns blazing and the environment will respond to you. 

And when you do have these awesome kick-ass days where you feel like you’ve set the world alight and brought so much to the table, you’ll find that the week after you have another day where you feel pretty small and useless again, like you want to draw the curtains and live permanently on mute. C’est la vie, baby! 

I think the key is owning our mistakes, rather than withdrawing into them, and realising that they are what make us more relatable and admirable to somebody else. You’re doing somebody else a world of good by a) distracting from their pitfalls and making them feel less weird about having them and b) reminding them that inadequate moments are a human thing!

This is why I’m making Imposter Syndrome my friend. Because on those days where I feel lacking in skill, talent or worthiness, or like a general fraud, this thought alone is going to remind me to believe in my intended purpose again. I’m not lacking in anything for a successful career, I am just made of different things, and somewhere needs what I bring. It’s up to me whether I bring it here or at the next place. 

Next time you have an inadequate moment, you can choose to revel in it and let it define your whole life. Or you can get up, brush the dirt off, and see it for what it was. Your emotional response is never everrrr the reality of the situation. Trust me on that one.

That means that when you feel like the whole world is ending because you were sucky at your meeting today, it’s still spinning for every person around you (except the other 1,000,877 people who are also slipping up like you are in this exact moment).

Slip ups are good! They keep us on the ball, re-focused, and they make life more exciting. It’s not meant to be perfect, it’s meant to be messy.

We’re all making fools out of ourselves every single day, but it gives us a good laugh doesn’t it?

Post by Lily Lowe

Instagram: @whatamooduk

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