"I don't belong here." "I am a fraud." Sound familiar? At some point (or points) in our careers, most of us will suffer from "imposter syndrome" – feelings of inadequacy despite evident success. We get " stuck " and lose when we let the "imposter" win. But, when we exorcise it or at least manage it, we win!

I am no exception and recently experienced these feelings when I decided to jump back into the networking pool and attend my first ATD DC networking meeting since the beginning of COVID. I thought it was time to reconnect with the community that has given me so much, both professionally and personally. 

The meeting kicked off, and we were informed that we would be placed in breakout rooms to discuss a series of five topics. OK, no problem, I can do that. After all, I am an off-the-charts extrovert. And then the topics were revealed, with the first one being – "What is a book you like and would recommend to others?" I read that question and almost dropped off the call – my fraudulency of being a training professional was about to be revealed. Now, I like to read, but I cannot read professional books for pleasure – I tend to buy them and skim them as needed in preparation for a training I will soon deliver. So how am I going to appear to my peers?

I took a deep breath and joined the breakout room. I came clean and told my teammates, "In full transparency, I got nothing." Guess what? No one pointed their finger and banished me from the group. Instead, we had a wonderful conversation on different ways to learn the information we need for our jobs, and we shared lots of good recommendations. I wasn't alone. Whew!

Here are nine things that help me when the imposter syndrome strikes – they work!

  1. Recognize it by being aware of the early signs of the "imposter" creeping into your thoughts. 
  2. Remind yourself of your accomplishments and change the inner dialog to "I belong here just as much as anyone."
  3. Be transparent; when you don't know, say you don't know.
  4. Look at the situation as an opportunity to learn something new, get new skills, meet new people.
  5. Realize that others are people, too – they have their own "imposters."
  6. Put the situation in context.
  7. Seek support from colleagues, peers, and mentors.
  8. Set aside perfectionism.
  9. You're human so give yourself a break!

I felt more confident once I went through the list seconds before the first breakout. It was great to re-engage with other learning professionals. I came away from the session, recharged, and ready for 2022. I can without question answer the last item in our sessions, "What are you grateful for in the industry or ATD community?". In two words, friendship and support! 

Meet the Author

Lori Muhlstein is an accomplished independent trainer and facilitator within her company Lorim Resources. She focuses on critical communications skills such as public speaking, thinking on your feet, impactful interpersonal communication, and team collaboration. She has extensive experience in training, sales, and marketing, supporting telecommunications, government, healthcare, and other industries. Lori has a BA in Communications, an MPA in Public Management and Health Care, and is Strengths Deployment Inventory Certified.

You might also like