AI Inspired Storytelling

By Raymond Smith

The Dreaded Imposter Syndrome

This is installment 6 in my series of things I’ve learned – and would love to share – in my 25 years in advertising. This is a strange one, and it’s one you may already be experiencing: Imposter Syndrome.

 In a nutshell, Imposter Syndrome is the creeping feeling that everyone around you is highly skilled, highly experienced, and deeply insightful or creative or talented…and you’re just a big old fraud. Even worse, you’re certain that one day they will come down from HR and say “You’ve been lying all along…you’re not a <job title here> at all! You don’t even have a <job title here> license! We’ve just checked.”

Here’s the thing: you’re not an imposter. In fact, you’re probably very good at what you do. You have ideas, insights, opinions and skills. I mean, it’s how you got here, and it’s why they keep paying you week after week. You bring something to the table, not just every now and then, but from Monday to Friday. You do a conscientious job, day in, day out…and you’ve earned your keep. You have as much right to be at the table as they person next to you. When you’re looking across the aisle at someone and thinking ‘man, have they got their sh*t together’, they’re very likely looking across the aisle at you and thinking the same thing.

Yet you continue to feel this way; so why? My theory is that we work in a field that is more art than science. And art makes it difficult to keep score. We know, statistically, who the best golfers and baseball players are. The number prove it. And, of course, professions with rigorous accreditation get respect; we know who got their PhD, their CFA, their MBA or their Masters. Those take time, effort, brains and money, and then you get a fine-looking piece of paper and some letters after your name.

But you…you went to art school…or community college for copywriting…or you earned your way into account management through a series of ‘other’ careers or jobs, or straight off finishing your B.A. from God knows where. (“Trent…where is that?”) Surely nobody from art school could have the best strategic insights in the room, right? Wrong, of course.

And yes, there are indeed superstars / rockstars / borderline geniuses in this racket who simply excel at what they do – and it’s inevitable that we compare ourselves to them and think we don’t measure up. But those same people are also really bad at lots of other things, and probably don’t even do their timesheets on time. Remember – in work as in life – the bell curve is at play. At the extreme ends you’ve got a few people who excel at nothing or excel at everything. Everyone else is in the middle, just doing their honest best, making a pretty good job of it, and holding it all together from day to day.

You’re not an imposter; you just have regular human doubts. But here’s the good news; those doubts tend to go away with time and experience. Doing something for a few hundred and then a few thousand hours will give you confidence. And maybe you get some promotions and some awards and you begin to think ‘hey, I’m actually pretty good at this’.

Which isn’t to say that, every now and then, when you have a bad day or a bad presentation, you won’t get this nagging feeling of “Oh boy. I’ve pulled off this fraud for 25 years now…but they’re absolutely going to find me out soon.”

But don’t worry…they won’t. You’re the real deal.