Two years ago I wrote an article: I am 39, I am a director and I feel like an impostor.
Over the course of the last 24 months, many people have approached me to thank me for daring to be vulnerable publicly. Since I wrote this original piece back in 2021, I have been promoted and changed position twice. Therefore, I thought it might be time for an update.
In April 2022, I became a Vice President and naively, I always thought that if I ever made it to that level, it would mean that I would have managed to finally conquer my impostor syndrome.
I was wrong…
And more importantly, over the course of the last 12 months, I have discovered that as a VP, I felt embarrassed and ashamed to still feel like an impostor. This is a subject I have avoided and it has taken me a long time to dare write this short update as I have feared my peers judging me or thinking “common Laurence, you are now a VP, get a grip and stop feeling like you don’t belong”. It seems that as one climbs the corporate ladder, sharing vulnerabilities becomes a scarcity and everyone tries to be tough… including me.
A few days ago, I was in a mentoring session and the person I mentor asked me how my impostor syndrome was going now that I had been in this new position for almost a year. I didn’t answer immediately, instead I smiled as I realized that this was the first time anyone asked me that question. After a short pause, I answered with all of my honesty and said “it hasn’t changed”. And it felt good. It felt good to admit that even though I have grown, developed and gotten promoted, I still struggle with feeling like an impostor. And as I answered, I also realized that now, as a VP, I’m doing a disservice to everyone, including myself if I pretend I no longer have an impostor syndrome. So no, being a VP doesn’t make you immune to this feeling, at least not for me.
Additionally, I think it’s a shame that many of us in leadership positions don’t dare share the hardship we have to go through when transitioning into a new role. I can’t speak on behalf of all leaders, but I can speak about my own personal experience and I will be honest, every role change has been a challenge and transitioning is always hard, especially when my new role is at a higher level and includes new responsibilities. There is no “Everything You Need to Know About Being a VP” manual and I have had to find my way into this new position. Therefore, it’s easy to imagine that my impostor syndrome has been highly challenged in the last 12 months. And it continues to be. As I settle into my role, build our strategy and solidify our foundation, I constantly ask myself if this is right and if this is enough. I think the lesson here is that there is no level nor any positions where self-doubt isn’t a thing. And I guess that’s ok because if I didn’t have such self-doubt, I don’t think I’d be human.
Don’t let the executive poker faces fool you, we all struggle at times! I hope that more leaders, old and young will dare be more open about the personal challenges they face while holding leadership positions, because there is something quite soothing in realizing we are all equally human.