My Experience with Imposter Syndrome – Neil Fisher

My experience with Imposter syndrome. 

There have been countless articles about Imposter Syndrome over the last 12-18 months and it is something that’s beginning to be better understood, but what is it exactly and how does it affect us? 

This article is not a general overview of the intricacies of it, it’s a personal reflection of how it’s affected me. I suffer with imposter syndrome, often quite badly. I can have huge self-doubt, I can feel as though my work isn’t good enough, I can feel like a failure. At times it can become crippling to productivity. 

Something I’ve done recently is self sabotage. I’ve applied for a job which was a Senior position, but then withdrawn my application because I didn’t feel as though I would be able to do it. Now, my rational brain tells me that I could do this job really quite easily and I would be successful, but then unfortunately my imposter appeared… My imposter spent a full weekend telling me I wouldn’t be able to do it, I was going to fail, I was going to ruin the reputation I’ve earned over the years, I needed to withdraw my application and keep my head down. 

I withdrew my application…😔

Another attempt at self-sabotage, I’ve recently undertaken a pilot course (more to come on that soon). There were strict timescales in which I needed to complete this course online, it wasn’t a course that was levels above where I operate day-to-day, it wasn’t anything I should theoretically struggle too much with, but… here comes my imposter

“Just forget about it”

“Move on and get on with your day job”. 

I almost did…😔

This time however I had an added incentive in that I was offered the space on this pilot course as a favour and I knew I’d be letting the person who gave me the opportunity down (not just myself). So I had to keep going, I finished the modules but ‘Imposter’ was still there-

“You’re not going to pass the assessment”

“You may as well just get it done and move on because you’re going to fail”. 

Come the assessment, I passed with a score of 16/20 which is 80%. I’d very nearly talked myself out of this and realistically only went through with it because I wasn’t comfortable letting someone else down. 

This is self-sabotage, it causes you to doubt yourself to the extent that you withdraw, even though your logical brain tells you not to. Me personally, there’s very little I can do when it strikes hard, I’ll just withdraw. 

My advice to anyone suffering from the same or similar, reach out to someone, it doesn’t have to be a close friend or colleague as often the thought of being open with someone close can be unthinkable and may make the ‘fraud feeling’ surface. Consider someone you know (however loosely) who won’t judge, who will listen and who will be able to offer words of encouragement. 

Also, don’t fight it, don’t fight the feelings, we’re taught from a young age to repress our feelings “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”, how many of us heard that as children? It’s difficult to ‘unlearn’ something, try to accept what you’re feeling, once you’ve acknowledged it you can move forward in a positive way. 

Don’t compare yourself to others, understand who you are as a person good and bad points  take little steps to improve.

Thank you so much Neil for your honesty and insight on what is a sensitive subject.

Neil is a member of the HSE People Panel offering insight into HSE in the rail industry. If you would like to ask Neil or another panel member a question get in touch