Do you ever feel completely inadequate trying to chase your dream? And that it’s only a matter of time until someone calls you out on being totally unqualified to be there?
You’re not alone. So many of us feel this way to the point that it’s often called imposter Syndrome. Not only have I felt this way before in so many areas, but so has Liz Navarro.
Liz is a professor at SMU who wrote a gripping blog post, “Becoming Professor Navarro,” about how she felt so uncomfortable being an actual professor because she didn’t have her PhD. She basically calls out Imposter Syndrome for making her think she didn’t deserve to be where she was in her career – despite the fact that she was nailing it as a professor. I recently had the lucky chance to talk with Liz as she offered her wisdom and insight on how to overcome Imposter Syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome, according to Liz, is anytime you have that feeling that you’re not enough to do what you want to do – and you fear that someone’s going to call you out for it.
Where Does Imposter Syndrome Come From?
“There are a lot of messages that if you follow A,B,C, you will get result D,” Liz said. “I’m really trying to retrain myself that that does not have to be true for me. There are a lot of ways to get where I want to go.”
Imposter Syndrome also comes from our insecurities. Perfectionists often always want things to look so perfect, and it can feel wrong if we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing.
How Can We Combat Imposter Syndrome?
The answer is short and simple: Show up and do it anyway. It will become proof that if you work hard and pursue projects aligned with your interests and talents, you will see that you are successful.
Also ask yourself, “Is this me or is this someone else talking?” If it’s you, take a minute to dissect that. Remember: Thoughts are powerful. Choose good ones.
Moving your mindset is in your control, Liz explains. When you feel like an imposter, it is easy to think others have that control. But you’re the one guiding and making your choices. You’re totally qualified to do it and if you just do your best work, you can take that control back and it will open so many doors.
How Liz Felt Imposter Syndrome
Liz said she felt like she “fell into” a role as a professor at her alma mater, Pepperdine. Her background was in communications and she went to graduate school to study education with the intent of teaching K-12. She saw that there were people from her graduating class teaching at her university, so she decided to just ask if they may be interested in hiring her to teach communications courses at the university.
And guess what? They did.
Did they care that she didn’t have her PhD? Nope.
Liz taught for a year as a visiting professor at Pepperdine, and then her husband had a job opportunity come up in Dallas. As they prepared to move, Liz found herself in a weird spot where she found a career that she really wanted, but she didn’t feel she was qualified enough to teach anywhere else.
“It didn’t come from anything other than what I had written in my head,” she said. “Even when these opportunities opened themselves to me, I still thought that I needed to be following the rules and that each time, I was just getting lucky.”
While preparing to move to Dallas, she blindly reached out to SMU applying for a position as a professor. She asked a colleague at Pepperdine to read her cover letter – and she just so happened to know the division chair at SMU and sent a recommendation for Liz to for the position. Liz got a part-time job at the university and is currently teaching there today. How amazing is it that the universe showed up to support Liz?!
Even after getting the job at SMU, Liz found herself giving herself an ultimatum. She told herself often that her job could be taken from her at any time because she doesn’t have a PhD.
“I told myself that for quite a long time until I had this weird ‘Aha’ moment where I was like, ‘What a minute, I have been teaching college classes for five years. I am actually a professor. There is no reason why I need to change my credentials or how I got there….The only person telling me that I couldn’t do it was me.”
How Imposter Syndrome Can Be a Motivator
Is Imposter Syndrome all bad? Not necessarily. Liz believes it can work for our good.
“I have worked really, really hard in all the positions I thought could be taken away from me, and therefore, I feel like I’ve done them really well,” she said. “It’s made me show up as my best self.”
What Would Liz Say to the Person Feeling Totally Uncomfortable Trying to Stand in the Place They’re In?
Well, are you standing? Recognize what you’re doing and keep going!
And embrace that uneasiness. You’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying new things. You’ll look back and realize you don’t feel that way anymore.
Two Ways to Get Over Imposter Syndrome
Here are Liz’s go-to techniques to combating Imposter Syndrome.
- Channel your Olivia Pope. Do you know those scenes in “Scandal” when Olivia Pope would walk through the White House like she owns the place? THAT is how Liz walks into her meetings. Listen to music to pump you up, preach those affirmations and strut into the room with confidence!
- Catch yourself. Notice when you start to compare yourself to other people and feel inadequate – then jump out of it. One way to do that is to look at all of the small things you’ve done when you were scared and take a big picture look at how you’ve improved. What are you doing today that you could not have done last year?