Many professionals have encountered imposter syndrome, whether in school or the workplace. As defined by the University Of Nevada, Las Vegas professor Richard Gardner, imposter syndrome is comparing oneself to others and submitting to self-deprecation and self-doubt, resulting in feeling like an outsider.
At The Society of Professional Journalists panel “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome,” journalists got vulnerable expressing their experiences with imposter syndrome in the workplace. They also revealed how they were able to overcome the feeling.
Along with Gardner, other panelists included Incoming SPJ President Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins, The Texas Tribune Afternoon and Evening News Editor Laura Garcia, and SPJ Region 5 Coordinator Nicole DeCriscio.
During a moment in her life when she was supposed to be proud of her accomplishments, Blaize-Hopkins was put down by her peers. In high school, after announcing her acceptance into Columbia University, she was told by a classmate that the university chose her because she was Black.
“And for a split second, I was like, ‘is she right?’” Blaize-Hopkins questioned.
Being put in a position where she compared herself to others made Blaize-Hopkins self-reflect on who she was. She was an athlete, a child actor and a president of two clubs at the time. Her self-reflection validated her confidence in herself and allowed her to diminish the imposter syndrome she felt.
“When I got to Columbia, and I took my first couple of classes, I said, ‘You know what? This is easy. I do belong. And I’ve earned the right to be here. If anybody has anything else to say about it, you can catch me outside,’” Blaize-Hopkins said.
While Blaize-Hopkins was put down by her peers, others can experience their own self-doubt.
Some panelists suggested people surround themselves with a supportive community to not feel pressure to be perfect.
“Maybe when you’re talking about whether you belong, whether you’re good enough, whether your credentials are as impressive as other people, I just have to constantly remind myself that I freaking did that,” Garcia said. “It’s not just like a one-off, that’s what we do. And I’m able to do that because I surround myself with people who also believe in me and who I can trust to tell me the truth, to help me get there.”
Despite creating The Owen News Project, a non-profit newsroom, DeCriscio, 30, has doubted herself and her success due to her age. Surrounding herself with others who feel like her, allows her to see that everyone can experience imposter syndrome.
“The thing that gives me a lot of comfort to see is other women and other leaders that I admire, including the ones here on this panel, that they have the same insecurities that I have and sometimes the same small voice that says you’re not enough,” DeCriscio said. “And you don’t always see that. You see an accomplished, strong woman, and it’s important to say, ‘Hey, I struggled too.'”
From the audience, Inside Edition investigative reporter and 2023 SPJ keynote speaker Lisa Guerrero also chimed into the conversation. Guerrero’s trick to stop imposter syndrome in its tracks is to get comfortable feeling awkward and committing acts of bravery to be proud of.
“At some point during the day, there’s going to be a time for you to make a decision to do something uncomfortable, awkward, something that gets you out of your bubble,” Guerrero said. “Do one thing that’s great every single day. The next day, it gets easier, the next day it gets easier and suddenly when there’s a catastrophe, when there’s a crisis and you need to be a superhero, I promise you, you’re going to be a superhero.”