Managing Imposter Syndrome when you Start from Scratch with Phyllis Njoroge

Change is scary; using times of change to create a better outcome for ourselves is scary, and many times even when we do manage to do it, we are filled with feelings of self-doubt. This is also called imposter syndrome.

Phyllis wrote a book about Imposter Syndrome, "From Fraud to Freedom," so I thought it would be helpful to get tips from her for those planning to start from scratch.


Define the feeling of Imposter Syndrom

"When you have a certain background and need to redefine yourself, everything new is scary. It's scary as you have no idea if you are able and if you are adaptable."

Phyllis and I talked at length about people having a feeling of imposter syndrome, but I loved that while she had a lot of sympathy, she gave them no discounts.

"It's important to acknowledge feelings aren't facts. "I feel it's out of my league" or "this is out of my league" are not equivalent, but one also needs to acknowledge reality. If you are not good at something, this does not need to be your permanent identity. Yes, play your strengths but also have a plan to improve your weaknesses."


What are your tips for dealing with imposter syndrome?

"Starting something from scratch will wake up and kick in your imposter syndrome, so it's important to know it's a phase. It passes but will come back the next time you move up. There is no such thing as permanently overcoming imposter syndrome.

Build self-awareness. Ask yourself and the people you trust for feedback and work on what you aren't currently good at.

Stop and celebrate when you close the gap on something you didn't know or weren't previously good at. And remember that success a self-reminder when you feel you can't.

Don't underestimate self-improvement. Build a plan to work on your weaknesses, don't accept defeat, be particular and stay consistent about how you execute that plan."


Change creates a lot of mental stress. How do you work on your mental health?

"When my skip-level manager announced she was leaving, it was a lot to process, so I ended the workday a few hours early. It was important for me to allow myself to not be OK. Some people need to process with others, but I needed to be with myself for a moment. And it's important to not ignore that you're not OK because those unprocessed feelings just accumulate and express themselves elsewhere. You don't want to blow up just because someone misplaced a spoon," she laughs.


What did you do on that day off?

"I mentally disconnected. I ate a good meal, watched my favorite show on TV, and realized the feeling of chaos was only at work; my life was just fine. Also, therapy and exercise help. One doesn't get up and feel resilient. We all need a support system."

"I read the book "Burnout by Amelia and Emily Nagoski". It basically says that to overcome burnout, you need to do three things 1) something creative 2) surround yourself with love, and 3) exercise. I do all those to stay mentally strong. I doodle and journal, meet friends, and exercise."



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