As a 25-year-old female, young professional, outgoing millennial with a pretty successful career so young, most would think well what is there to doubt? All of the above descriptions are detailed in a way which points anyone in a positive light, right? And you’re correct, they do, and I’m proud of where I am in life to date. However, diving deeper behind those titles, is where imposter syndrome lies.
25-year-old female – what does she know she’s only a young ‘girl’
Young professional – ‘young’ professional *awkward emoji* am I that professional?
Outgoing millennial – people will see me as ‘one of those annoying cocky millennials’
Pretty successful – but who can define success?
All of those come with negative connotations, at least to me.
For those of you who maybe don’t know me as well, my names Emma, I’ve been working for Barclays since I was 20 years old, and Eagle Labs specifically since 2019. I’ve always been super outgoing and pretty positive and those of you who know me, will probably only ever see that side to me. However, who can say they are always as kind to themselves as they are to others? When I started in the bank, I joined as an apprentice within procurement, and this is when I experienced imposter syndrome for the first time.
In September 2016, shortly after returning from a summer stateside teaching at camp, after dropping out of university, I applied for the apprenticeship scheme within Barclays Procurement – Supplier Management function (disclaimer I had no idea what supplier management was at this stage). I got invited to an assessment day, which included all sorts of tasks and interviews. At this point in my life, I’d never experienced any type of gender bias, or any insecurities that I wasn’t capable of achieving my goals. That day I was the only female in the room, 8 males and myself, this naively didn’t even come into my peripheral vision that it was an issue (and I’m still not saying it was). Later that day I was on the phone to a friend, and she was asking how it went and I said, “ah I don’t know I messed up a presentation stumbled on a few bits”, she asked shortly after “How many women applicants were there?” I said, “I was the only woman” she then replied, “well then obviously you’re going to get the job it’s a tick box”, this was the start of my feeling that I did not deserve a seat at the table.
Now all those years on I am completely confident that my achievements, experience and confidence got me that role, and from I received my apprenticeship, the team were always amazing at reminding me all the great work I was achieving. However, knowing this has not halted me from feeling like I do not deserve a-lot of the opportunities that have come my way despite all the effort I put in to achieve each one. As Sheryl Sandberg quoted in Lean In, “we internalise the negative messages we get throughout our lives”.
Now 2 years into my role as lab manager at our amazing Eagle Lab in Belfast based here at Ormeau Baths, I complete a stretch role within our Digital Team at Eagle Labs, and I support the Female Founder agenda. I will always come across new opportunities, and every single time I think ‘what on earth am I doing, are they mad letting me do this’. The one thing I try to remind myself is, no one knows what they’re doing when they start a new role or explore a new venture. I try to dive in headfirst and find out what to do along the way.
I’ve tried quite a bit over the last few years to read and listen to books from other successful individuals who have conquered the same internal battles in their journey to success. Something I read in Brene Brown’s ‘Gifts of Imperfection’, is that we all have an intense need for perfection all the time. Brene states that people feel like, if they have every area of their life perfect, then they will avoid shame and judgement. Personally, this hits deep for me, I feel like I constantly have to be in control, and constantly perfect, and anything else just won’t cut it. If I don’t achieve this level of perfection, I feel like I don’t deserve to be where I am and Brene completely dispels this. I would really recommend anyone who suffers from imposter syndrome to read:
Brene Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection
Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability
Glennon Doyle – Untamed
Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In
I’m not here to tell you all I have some amazing way I work around suffering imposter syndrome daily, because I don’t. I am still very early in my career, and every day I face obstacles, and sit in meetings and think “if they come to me here, I have absolutely not a clue what I am going to say, because I have no idea what I am doing”. Hopefully one day I will be able to have a workaround for this.
The one thing I can advise, is something that I’m certain of, you may not be #1 in every situation, but the point is your efforts aren’t the determining factors behind this, you are still taking your seat at the table, you are still putting yourself out there and that’s 500 steps ahead of so many, so be proud.