Since NISM brings together an international community of social media professionals who learn from one another in live webinars and virtual chats, it’s no wonder there’s one topic we see come up time and time again – Imposter Syndrome.
Chances are you’ve clicked on this article because you’re already familiar with the feelings of self-doubt and anxiety that surround this psychological phenomena. The good news is, you’re not alone! Research shows that up to 70% of people across a wide range of demographics struggle with imposter syndrome at some point in their lives.
Imposter syndrome is a condition that rears its ugly head all too often. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what imposter syndrome entails, explore why it so often plagues social media professionals, and share tips on how to best quiet the self-doubt noise.
What is imposter syndrome?
As defined by VeryWell Mind, imposter syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.
“To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.”
The term was first coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes as the ‘Imposter Phenomenon’ in 1978. Initially, their paper theorized that imposter syndrome was unique to high-achieving women. However, Clance later published another paper acknowledging that it is not limited to just women and even created a 20-question imposter syndrome test.
Imposter Syndrome shows up in different ways for different people but there are many common characteristics. According to the Center for Hope and Health, they include but are not limited to:
- Self doubt
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Berating your performance
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Sabotaging your own success
- Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short.
Why is imposter syndrome so prevalent in the social media industry?
Social media is massive and easily accessible to the more than 4.62 billion people around the world who use it. As social media strategists/marketers/managers, our role is to place ourselves at the forefront as experts every day. We are expected not only to stay up to date with industry trends but also get ahead of them so our clients don’t get left behind in the dust.
To top it all off, vanity metrics such as follower count can be publicly scrutinized and make it easy to fall into the paranoia that you’re only as valuable as the number of followers you have.
It’s no wonder we are susceptible to “stage fright” given that the audience we perform in front of consists of 4.62 billion people and our clients or key stakeholders are eagerly anticipating a standing ovation.
Perhaps even more unique to our particular field is the misconception that careers in social media are “easier” and “more fun” than other professions. Oftentimes social media marketers are undervalued because business owners don’t fully understand the potential of the platforms or the immense pressure of managing communities and running successful campaigns.
During a live webinar discussion with four NISM-certified Social Media Strategists, Katy Spencer Johnson, SMS, summarized this misconception perfectly:
“Unfortunately, all too often our expertise in this field is challenged because of the accessibility of our role. Anyone and everyone can have access to social media but are they really doing it well?”
How should imposter syndrome be dealt with?
It’s important to first address that imposter syndrome is the root of your symptoms and then acknowledge that there is no “cure” to eliminate it from your conscience completely. It’s a normal thing that happens and will continue to happen to the best of us as we try to make sense of career-related anxieties. The cycle is likely to repeat itself but hopefully the following tips will help you nip it in the bud when it does:
1. Acknowledge your self-doubt thoughts and put them into perspective.
Observing a thought is different from entertaining it. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking yourself: Does this thought hinder or help me? Impostor syndrome expert Valerie Young, who is the author of a book on the subject, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women reassures us: “People who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent or competent or capable than the rest of us. It’s very good news, because it means we just have to learn to think like non-impostors.”
2. Build confidence with intentional language choice.
One of the best ways to combat self-doubt is to bolster yourself with practices such as positive daily affirmations. While this helps with your internal confidence, it’s equally important to address your external confidence in work-related discourse. A common tendency in professionals with imposter syndrome is to add “sorry” to sentences that don’t require an apology: “Sorry if that doesn’t quite make sense” when you’ve stated something that is perfectly understandable or “Sorry if this inconveniences you” when you’re simply relaying a task or question to a colleague.
3. Celebrate all of your wins, big and small.
You have the right to acknowledge and celebrate your own successes. In doing so, you can help quiet all that negativity noise. Create a “success folder” in your Google Drive and whenever someone pays you a compliment, commends your work, or writes you a brilliant testimonial, add it to the folder! That way, when you start to stumble, you can look back on everything you’ve already accomplished. Also, don’t be afraid to treat yourself. The next time you accomplish something big at work, treat yourself to a nice dinner or that wishlist item you’ve been eyeing! You deserve it.
4. Fill your cup with professional development opportunities that bolster your confidence in the field.
As mentioned earlier, social media is an ever-evolving industry and it can sometimes feel downright impossible to stay up to date on industry standards. If you find yourself wanting some additional credibility that can reaffirm and reinforce your skills, commit to lifelong learning and enroll in a webinar or course that inspires and motivates you. Here at NISM, we’ve seen first-hand how our Social Media Strategist certification helps bolster confidence. In the SMS webinar conversation mentioned earlier, Katy Spencer Johnson, SMS, shared:
“For me it was really about validation. For one, confidence in my abilities — helping boost that a little, given that my degree was not in the field of marketing or communications. And, to really pursue continued education once I was certified. I really wanted this certification to provide some validation to my expertise and to my experience.”
And if you’re already entertaining imposter syndrome ideas surrounding earning your SMS certification, Amanda Andresen, SMS, also contributed in the panel discussion and advised:
“Don’t psych yourself out when it comes to the test and the information included. We do this job every day and you know what you’re doing. These are things we’re doing in our everyday jobs. Don’t overthink it. You do this, you know this, you’ve got this.”
Hopefully this blog helped inspire you to not give imposter syndrome too much of your attention. After all, you’ve got this! Please feel free to share your experience with imposter syndrome and any tips you find helpful in the comments below. We all serve as reminders that we’re not alone – we’re actually in very smart, capable, and talented company.
Author: Celeste Russell, SMS
Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, Celeste began working with NISM as a summer intern in 2019. Since then she has found a real home in the community, earned her SMS certification, and currently works as the Social Media Coordinator. Celeste graduated from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Acting & Communication for the Arts. Her passions always have included effective communication both on and off the stage and she is grateful that working remotely with NISM allows her the opportunity to pursue her acting career simultaneously.
Feel free to connect with Celeste on LinkedIn.
Check out her previous NISM blog post: Instagram Reels: Trendy and Targeted!