• R. Lynn Epps

Imposter Syndrome - Real Talk and Real Tips

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Plagued with doubt, uncertainty, or fear when faced with a new opportunity to grow, expand, or develop. Not sure if we should speak up. Questioning our voice, our space, and more times than not, our thoughts? The dreaded imposter syndrome plagues many of us. Here’s a small snapshot of my story and some approaches and mental tools that are helping me on this journey. Hopefully, they will inspire and encourage you as well. 

A couple of years ago I received an email that presented an amazing opportunity and at the exact same time, scared the mess out of me. The email was an invitation from the German American Fulbright Commission to serve on a panel in Berlin, Germany as a representative of the United States at a higher education conference. The invitation included all-expenses paid travel and a per diem. To provide some context, in 2015, I applied for and received a Fulbright Award from the German American Fulbright Commission which allowed me to travel to Germany and France with a small group of higher educational professionals to learn about the Bologna process. We also had the opportunity to get a brief immersion into civics and culture in Germany and France. It was the experience of a lifetime. 

Okay, fast forward to the summer of 2018, and I received an email from the German Fulbright Commission inviting me to serve as a panelist at a conference that brings together higher education professionals from all over Germany. My first thought was shock! I read the email about 5 times until it sunk in. All expenses paid trip to Germany, sit on a panel with higher education professionals from at least three European countries, representing the US - you’ve got to be kidding me. Then the questions started to bombard me: How did they pick me? Why did they pick me? Who am I to represent my institution, let alone the United States? They must have picked the wrong person? On, and on and on, until I had taken a deep dive head first into doubt, uncertainty, and fear. In fact, in less than a few minutes of processing I had immediately started to think that there must be someone else in the institution that is better suited than me, I don’t even have a doctorate degree. Would my boss let me go? I was swimming deep in imposter syndrome.

Until I wasn’t. Realizing that this uncontrollable mind maze was not sustainable, I took a deep breath and my first step was to say “stop”! Stop doubting yourself, stop overthinking, stop questioning and take the next step. Next step: express gratitude to God for the opportunity, no matter what happens. Then, the next step:  tell your husband, loved ones, and closest friends and celebrate the opportunity.Then, the next step: reach out to your boss to get his feedback. Then the next step: respond to the email say yes, and move forward, one step at a time. This process helped me get back on track, get out of the deep-end of fear and doubt, and begin the prospect of enjoying this amazing journey. It was another trip of a lifetime and my mom joined me which made it even more special.

Have you battled with imposter syndrome? What have you done to overcome this and navigate through those tough times?  Here’s a brief video that explains more about imposter syndrome: 

I would love to say that doubt never came up again during this trip, but I’d be lying. What I can say is that when it showed up again, it gave me the opportunity call it out, immerse myself in gratitude, acknowledge the truth of who I am and whose I am, and when necessary say “I will not be afraid” (even when I didn't fell like saying it) and then, take the next step forward. 

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