Impostor syndrome: “It only happens to the best of us”
Do you know what impostor syndrome is? The feeling of not being qualified enough to do what we set out to do, whether it’s in work or personal life. It’s easy to forget what we have achieved, and remember only the failures. Why? For some, staying humble has been trained into us since birth.
Many of my qualified Community Manager colleagues struggle with impostor syndrome. Heck, really anyone who is qualified and successful will at some point or other question themselves and what they are doing. I see it in my husband (who btw is awesome at his job) and I see it in my friends and colleagues. I am not one to lack self-confidence… but this feeling creeps up on you every now and then. It is imperative that we don’t let it have a hold over us.
I have been a community and social media manager for the last 5 years, and have been very lucky to learn from the best in the industry. I have most recently been hired in a title that far exceeds my age and some would argue even my experience in the industry (Or does it? Could this be part of the imposter syndrome?)
While I feel like an impostor sometimes, I also know that I can live up to my new responsibilities and title. I always want to prove myself. I have spent the last 9 months strategizing and building a brand new community space.
I was lucky enough to be able to hire a great Community Manager for my team earlier this year. She is not only awesome, but also brings great experience to our organization. Her knowledge and skills are complementary to mine, filling in some of the gaps and holes that I may not have been exposed to so far.
We have completed a phased internal launch of our community in April for testing and content seeding purposes with great results. Nearly 30% of our invites turned into registrations and we saw truly amazing engagement rates.
So now you would wonder, why is this woman writing about Imposter Syndrome, when everything she wrote about so far reads like a Community Manager’s dream?
Here is why:
No matter how successful you are and how well things are going, sometimes fear pops up at irrational times. My worries were triggered by the slowing growth of the community after our initial launch.
Right after our launch, I cautioned my team and executive sponsors about setting expectations too high, based on the initial response. I did so, because our phased launch was internal, highly targeted, with a short term purpose of testing, feedback and seeding content. We never expected the high response rate we got. But more importantly, we had to stay rational and not get caught up in the initial success. As a “seasoned” CMGR we all know that a brand new, owned community is not going to grow at a rate of 30% conversion from visitors to member. The beginnings are slow, tedious and usually very manual in inviting and connecting members to each other.
I spoke up early to set expectations and keep people reasonable and set us up for success with a more sustainable growth.
What happened next?
Yet, here we are 6 weeks later and we have about 5 new members a week and about 10 new posts per week. (that includes new topics and responses alike). Compared to 30 new members and 50 posts a week we had during our first phase. Current results seem meager.
I love data so I analyzed the situation based on facts. These statistics make me feel like:
- I am letting my team down
- I am unworthy of the “strategic role” that I am holding
- I am just simply not good enough
And this is a big BUT. I needed to take a step away from my emotional tie to “this baby”. If any of my esteemed colleagues in the industry came to me and shared their numbers, I would say:
“Don’t be silly. You are doing all the right things, this growth is healthy and sustainable. You are growing at a good rate for a community that is totally organic and has no customer or public exposure at this time. Just keep going, the results will show. Don’t forget that even the best of communities take about 9 months until they are mature and self-sustaining! Don’t ever give up”!
So why can’t I say the same thing to myself?
I can, and I WILL, and I think that is the biggest difference I have discovered in myself at this stage in my career. It won’t have an immediate effect this time, but if I keep practicing this behavior. I believe and hope that I will be able to manage the feeling of being an impostor better, faster, and more efficiently.
It is hard to reconcile your expectations of yourself versus what your experience and rational mind would expect of others. I will keep fighting for my community. I will use this experience to remind myself that my advice to others is equally correct and applicable to myself.
There is a reason why you are facing this challenge
Here is a reminder for all of us: You are good at what you do. Which is the reason why others gave you the challenge you are facing today. Others will see you more objectively than yourself. Trust in their opinions and learn to accept praise and kudos and compliments, because you deserve them. (Also, it’s rude to disagree with kindness.) Work with facts not with emotions. And have a clear picture of your accomplishments. Practice Hard Optimism to carry you through the difficult times and share successes with your team members when you are in a positive swing.
One of my all time favorite quotes is from Suzi Nelson, when she speaks about tackling impostor syndrome. She said, “I try to remember that everyone, everywhere no matter the position or the job is largely just making it up.”