ITFI Mindset

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome to Become a Confident Fashion Professional

“I have a strong resume, but when it comes time to interview, I feel like I’m lying and like I don’t really have that much to offer because the things I’ve done have just been out of luck and have been things anyone can do. My thoughts spiral, sabotaging the rest of the interview.”

This is a direct quote from one of my students.
When asking ALL of my students how many of them had ever felt some version of this, every single one of them admitted they had. And if we’re being totally honest, I have too.

What about you? Does this sound like something you’ve felt before?

If you’re nodding your head right now, then you, my friend, have suffered from something called IMPOSTER SYNDROME.

We will be focusing on this complicated mindset, how it affects all of us and specific strategies you can implement anytime to ensure that you overcome any feelings of Imposter Syndrome so that you can thrive in your professional life, regardless of your experience level.

BUT WHAT IS IT?

By definition, Imposter Syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that your success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of your own efforts or skills.

It manifests as that little voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough, that you’ve faked your way to the top and that soon everyone will see you’re a fraud. The reason Imposter Syndrome is so powerful is that it recognizes any fear or self-doubt you may already be feeling, no matter how small, and magnifies it a thousand times over, making it all you feel about yourself.

In order to minimize its control and quiet that tiny voice telling us negative things we have to first recognize when the voice in our head is a product of Imposter Syndrome and then process what we’re feeling at the time it decides to show up.

Many times, we set goals for ourselves that seem out of reach and when we realize that we’re getting close to achieving them, we start to doubt. Our mind races with thoughts like, “Can I actually do this? Am I really going to make this impossible goal a reality? Am I good enough? I was just lucky and everyone will see that.”

WHEN DOES IT AFFECT US MOST?

It’s especially common to feel this way during transitional periods, such as right after graduation where you’re moving from the very familiar role of the student to a completely unknown role as a professional in the workplace. Or when you’re starting a new job where everything is foreign and you have to start from scratch, especially if you’ve come from another job where you were comfortable and knew the ropes.

But there is one thing – the most important thing – you need to know and always remember when you start feeling this way:  

The energy your mindset produces touches everything you create.

I’ll give you an example to clarify:

A person who doesn’t feel they are worthy of the role they’re applying to and that their accomplishments don’t mean anything, will show it on their resume, on their cover letter and on ALL the interviews they go on. 

Recruiters and hiring managers will see exactly that. They won’t understand that your mindset is being controlled by Imposter Syndrome – they will just think exactly what you’re thinking: that you’re not the right person for this role. 

You’ve got to remember: the hiring manager doesn’t know you. They only know the person that you show them you are. So, if you don’t believe you’re good enough for the position you’re applying for and this is what you’re showing companies and what you’re putting out there – the hiring managers are going to agree with you because this is the only version of YOU they know. 

If you give in to this mentality, it means that you’re not only listening to those negative thoughts in your head, you’re putting them out there for the world to see and agree with because that’s ALL you’re showing them. 

BUT IT’S NOT ALL BAD NEWS.

There ARE ways to battle this imposter monster and stop it in its tracks the moment we feel it approaching. 

As we break down the strategies you can implement, be sure to keep in mind that these work in any order and that it doesn’t matter whether you are just starting out or have been in the fashion industry for years.

STRATEGY #1: CELEBRATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS & SELF-REFLECT

Imposter Syndrome convinces you that your accomplishments are either nonexistent or worthless, so this is where you prove yourself wrong. 

To do this, I created a guide you can use and refer back to often. Click here to download your own Strategies to Conquer Imposter Syndrome Guide. 

Once you’ve downloaded it and before you begin, I want you to take a moment to think about all the things you’re proud of about yourself, both personally and professionally. You can do this by putting on some music that relaxes or inspires you and just start jotting things down.

In the Achievements column, write down all of the things you’ve accomplished. Things you’re most proud of having done in your life. Again, these can also be personal accomplishments.

While Imposter Syndrome usually attacks our mindset within our careers and professional goals, being aware and proud of your personal achievements will make you that much stronger and better prepared to overcome everything else that follows.

In the other column, write down what you had to do to make that accomplishment happen. What did you have to learn or overcome in order to successfully achieve it? Once you’re fully focused on this exercise, some of you may want to continue writing or thinking about any particular experience you’ve had with any of these accomplishments. I included a notes section for you to do just that. 

For some of you, this may not seem like that useful of a task right now or may seem like an impossible one if you’re currently trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome, but trust me when I tell you, it really works.

Doing this exercise forces you to take the time to think about the things you have accomplished, which we don’t do enough of in our daily lives. Take a moment to honor those accomplishments and if you can, even feel proud of them.

Now, if you ARE in a state of mind that doesn’t allow you to think of your accomplishments as worthwhile or to even see them as such: find a friend, family member or a loved one who knows you well. Ask them to tell you what they think some of your accomplishments are. You may be surprised at what they have to say…in the best way.

Doing this may seem strange or difficult, but we need to see ourselves through the eyes of someone who sees us when our eyes are clouded by all the judgement or negativity Imposter Syndrome often brings with it.

Pull this list out and look at it whenever you start to doubt your abilities or think you’ve only come this far because you’re lucky. This will be literal proof that you’re wrong and it will show you what you actually had to do to achieve this accomplishment.

STRATEGY #2: PRACTICE CONSTRUCTIVE SELF-CRITICISM

Self-criticism can be extremely beneficial to your mindset and growth, especially as it pertains to your career. When doing the work, you have to focus on behaviors you can change rather than personal attributes that make up the person you are. In order to be successful, concentrate on specific areas you can modify that are in need of improvement in an optimistic way.

For example:
Let’s say during a recent interview, you were asked a question you didn’t know how to answer. This answer would have made a positive impact on your interview had you known the information. 

Rather than saying to yourself, “I should’ve known the answer to that question; I’m just not a smart person”, which would be an attribute – try to break it down as a behavior that can be changed with something like this: 

“I focused my interview preparation on only my past experience and what I could bring to the company when I should’ve also researched the company’s current involvements and history; next time I could include this research in my interview prep.”

Do you see the difference? 

YOU’RE NOT ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER OR HAVE THINGS GO YOUR WAY.

In these moments, it’s crucial you take a step back and analyze what behavior led you to the action you’re criticizing. What behaviors can you change so that next time, you don’t make the same mistake? 

By doing this, you won’t allow Imposter Syndrome the opportunity to take over and make you feel like you failed or weren’t good enough. This exercise will help you understand why things didn’t go smoothly and create a plan for next time.

In the Strategies to Conquer Imposter Syndrome Guide you used for the first strategy, I’ve included an area for reflection and self criticism. Remember to practice this lesson with compassion and a positive mindset in order to truly learn and grow as a professional.

Progress is never a straight line and the best thing you can do for yourself is to get back at it and try again, understanding the things that are in your power to change and the ones that aren’t.

STRATEGY #3: BE KIND TO YOURSELF BY BEING FLEXIBLE

This is really more of a reminder than a strategy, but an important one, especially when dealing with Imposter Syndrome mentality. 

Not everything is always going to go exactly according to your plan. If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that life can throw us curve balls that even our best laid plans can’t undo. You’re not always going to achieve all of your goals on your timeline or even in the way you planned to…and that’s ok. 

All of those soon-to-be grads back in March of 2020 had probably envisioned they’d graduate and head out into the workforce to start a great new opportunity in the industry, but they didn’t because the fashion industry had completely shut down. 

Fast forward to 2021, to the world opening up again and jobs being made available. Those very same grads have now been hired for their first job, but it’s not in the office setting everyone is used to because jobs have become remote. Instead, they’re learning and navigating that new job…from home.

While it wasn’t ideal for anyone – it’s just how it had to be done and everyone had to be flexible. 

When you make a life plan and it falls through, even if it’s because of factors that are out of your control – it’s easy to feel like you did something wrong; like you failed. The last 2 years have seen a record number of mental health cases rise that have been directly correlated to anxiety and stress. 

Imposter syndrome adds to that stress.
Every job you interview for and dont get? You start to doubt your skills and ability.
Every task you are assigned at your new job that you have no idea how to work on from home?
You start to think that the only reason you got this job was out of pure luck and not skill.

Thoughts like these are all consuming and can seriously damage our self esteem and by extension, our daily activities – including our work ethic.

It’s important to remember this repeat it to yourself 3, 4, even 10 times if you need to.
You’re not always going to achieve your goals on time or in the way you planned…and that’s OK.

THE BIG PICTURE

Remember, your mindset shapes your relationship with everyone around you and with yourself. In a world that is already full of hardship and struggles, don’t let the way you see yourself and value your work be one of them. 

Keep fighting for your dreams and know deep down that you ARE good enough. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, but that really only means you just have to learn some new things and then you’ll be fine.

Better than fine – you will thrive.

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