How to Challenge Impostor Syndrome
Impostor Syndrome: The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
Even as Editor in Chief of one of the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines, Impostor Syndrome can still affect you. “Impostor syndrome never leaves you. But I also realise – that’s what pushes me,” explains Edward Enninful in a Guardian interview last year.
When the feeling of being an impostor takes hold, it can be challenging to shake. Self-doubt is a universal experience shared by people from all professions, levels, and backgrounds. For individuals from minority groups, it can be even more challenging to overcome. When entering pre-existing white-dominated spaces, businesses, and institutions, we can easily fall into the trap of questioning our right to be there.
We spoke with photographer Alia Romagnoli, whose visual artistry explores the themes of South Asian and LGBTQ+ communities, and Donna Salek, Associate Editor at World of Interiors with featured work in Whistles, Wonderland, and Buffalo Zine, to learn about their experiences with Impostor Syndrome and how they work to challenge it.
How do you relate to the issues of imposter syndrome?
Alia: I’ve felt imposter syndrome for the majority of my working life. I think it’s a feeling that creeps up on you especially when you are young and in the arts and trying to navigate your way through it.
Donna: I’ve struggled a lot with imposter syndrome in the past too and still do. There have been moments where I’ve been awarded an opportunity or a job and for some reason feel as though I’ve duped the person that gave it to me, and that at any moment my real identity could be revealed and everyone will know I’m a fraud. But realistically, I don’t really have the rational thoughts to back these anxieties up.
Have you ever felt not experienced enough for a job and then realised it was self-doubt rather than lack of experience?
Alia: A bad habit I had for a long time was underselling myself, whether that be through fee or even ability. In my case, there were definitely times when I would feel insecure about my technical skill when it came to lighting. Over time, I realised that I knew a lot more than I thought.
Donna: I go into applying for jobs and interviews with lots of confidence and self belief. It’s only when the job is offered to me that the self doubt kicks and the thoughts of being an imposter begin to bubble. Once I start the job, though, the thoughts settle and with time and experience they get quieter and quieter.
What do you do to combat those feelings when they arise?
Alia: Remembering that it’s okay to get things wrong sometimes, you only learn from your mistakes. Something I’ve told myself repeatedly, is that everyone has to start somewhere. If you want to learn, you will and you are allowed to take up space!
Donna: When the feelings arise, and I start wondering if I’ve swindled the managers and editors who hired me, I just remind myself that I’m not that good an actor, and these senior hiring managers aren’t amateurs. They believe in me for a reason, so who am I to question their judgement?
Do you have any advice for others who also experience imposter syndrome?
Alia: I still experience imposter syndrome but reminding myself that I am capable. I look back at the work I’ve created in the past and it gives me the confidence to tackle each obstacle.
Donna: Imposter syndrome is born from anxiety and these intrusive thoughts come and go. Try not to dwell on the thoughts and let them pass as easily as they enter your mind. Acknowledge that there’s no rationality behind the thoughts, and as long as you’re putting in the work, doing what you love and making yourself proud, you’re worthy.