Imposter Syndrome isn't something I had heard of until I started this wedding thing. It's the feeling of being surrounded by so many amazing vendors and you're just there like "Do I even belong here? Who do I think I am? Have these people really trusted me with their wedding day?!"
Imposter Syndrome is something that hits me every single week, and it's the reason I work my absolute ass off to make sure I deliver the best I can. Surely if I work hard they won't notice how worried I am that I'm gunna f*ck up? I mean, what gives us the right to be trusted with the biggest day of someones life? I don't have any qualifications, I just sort of fell into the wedding industry, and while I've been doing it for a while I still have this sense of doubt that surely someone is going to realise that sometimes I am just winging it.
I thought I was the only one who felt like this until Joel from Barefoot & Bearded hosted a talk recently at The Wedding Social Co. and he touched on imposter syndrome. He made a really good point... He said our expectations of ourselves are here (Imagine me holding my hand above my head), but that our clients expectations of us are here (said hand is now at chin height). Imposter syndrome does this to us, it puts a niggling little voice in our head that we battle to prove wrong, setting the expectations too high on ourselves. Our clients just want what they've paid for - great service, they don't expect the world, we've put that on ourselves.
Without sounding like a wanker, sometimes I struggle with how successful this caravan bar thing I've created has become, and I think surely it's going to come crashing down soon. My fear of failure is the key to success for me, I'm so scared of failing that I've created back up plans for every scenario that could go wrong at a wedding. I drop my vans off the day before a wedding so I know it's there with plenty of time to spare, I pay my staff to arrive an hour earlier than needed to avoid them being late, I've spent thousands on a keg system that can chill warm beer but still spend $100 on ice every week to keep them chilled just in case my u-beaut keg system fails, which it has. (I once had to rush to the bottle shop and replace an entire weddings worth of kegs with bottled beer because the keg system shit itself, luckily my client understood and was super cruisy. The mistake cost me $700 out of my own pocket).
Imposter syndrome isn't spoken about enough and I think it's because no one wants to look like they don't know what they're doing. But imposter syndrome isn't pretending to be good at something, you can be the best damn photographer in the world and still feel like you don't belong. Imposter syndrome is simply a disbelief of your success.
Valerie Young. is an internationally-recognised expert on imposter syndrome. I thought her 10 steps to challenge these feelings might be useful to you reading this article;
1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing.
2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider.
4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens.
5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on.
6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance.
7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tape that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait til they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”
8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress.
9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behaviour first and allow your confidence to build.
I guarantee every vendor you admire has experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their career, go easy on yourself!