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Unmasking Imposter Syndrome: My Insights from the TEDx Durban Brotherhood Social

White male stressing at his desk.
Don't let imposter syndrome burden your potential for growth. Here are my insights to power through it.

Recently I had the privilege of attending the TEDxDurban Brotherhood Social - a networking event at the prestigious Pencil Club in coastal uMhlanga, north of Durban. It was a gathering of diversely skilled gentlemen, and the topic of discussion for the night's forum was one that resonated with everyone on various levels - none other than imposter syndrome.

As a voice-over artist and marketing professional, I couldn't help but reflect on how this real-life challenge affects not only creative individuals but also those from a multitude of vocations. Here are my insights on imposter syndrome and my learnings from my latest business-minded adventure.

What have I learnt?

Imposter syndrome is like a sneaky shadow that follows many of us, both professionally and personally. It was an eye-opening experience to hear from my peers at the event and watch an insightful TED Talk on the very topic that plagues so many talented individuals, including creative artists like actors, writers, singers, models, and content creators, as much as traditional professionals in the business, healthcare and engineering arenas.

One key takeaway from the TED Talk and my conversations with the inspiring gentlemen I connected with was the need to be more open about mental health challenges and how imposter syndrome shows up in our lives. The stigma surrounding mental health needs to be tackled head-on, especially in the workplace, where it can often impact productivity, creativity and overall well-being.

The evening's discussions reminded me that imposter syndrome is not a sign of weakness, but rather a universal phenomenon that affects even the most accomplished individuals. It's essential for us to recognise its presence, acknowledge the feelings of self-doubt that it brings, and challenge ourselves to transform that energy into something positive and productive.

As I connected with my many colleagues and friends in the creative industry over the years, I've also found that sharing my own experiences and discussing imposter syndrome openly, fostered an environment of support and understanding. These many engagements showed me that we were not alone in our struggles and that we could lift each other up by encouraging a growth mindset.

The same experience became apparent at the Brotherhood Social. In our discussions, we agreed that surrounding ourselves with successful and inspiring individuals plays a significant role in reshaping our perspectives. When we see others achieving greatness despite their own insecurities, it becomes a powerful reminder that we are capable of achieving our goals too. With that in mind, let's start to flip the perspective on imposter syndrome and anxiety as a whole from being a negative stimulus, into one that we see as helping to drive us to some new state of success or improvement. How? Well because anxiety is in fact our mind's way of giving us the information and preparation for a future we've yet to encounter, and that can be very empowering once we shift our paradigm to that way of thinking.

What can you do about it?

In the spirit of flipping our own daily narratives, here are some nuggets of wisdom from the Ted Talk and Brotherhood Social that really hit home for me, and some of my own insights that might help you improve your resilience when next facing your own episodes of imposter syndrome.

1. Imposter inevitability - They say in therapy the first step to overcoming a problem is acknowledging that you have one to begin with, for we can only begin to address a problem once we recognise what it is. Imposter syndrome knows no boundaries - it can creep into both our professional and personal lives. But fear not! The key is to acknowledge its presence, embrace the nervous energy, and channel it into something productive.

2. Is it all just in your head - Is imposter syndrome a natural phenomenon, or do we create it ourselves? Well, a bit of both! It's time to shift our mindset from viewing change and the unknown as threats, to seeing them as opportunities for growth. Everything in life comes to us for a reason, for better or worse. What can these experiences teach us to help us grow, instead of being overcome by them to the point of doubting our abilities outright.

3. Birds of a feather - Cliches are called such because they are overused, but this doesn't dilute the truth they embody. Surrounding ourselves with successful and inspiring individuals can be a game-changer. They serve as role models we can learn from and aspire to emulate. Take some time to re-evaluate the core circle you associate with most often and impartially assess whether they are adding or detracting from your personal growth and happiness and if they're really bringing out the best you can truly be. If not, it's time to level up by surrounding yourself with those who push you to be your best self!

4. You are the captain of your ship - Imposter syndrome is essentially a psychological occurrence in which people doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as frauds. But chances are, that you my friend, have already been crushing it in SOME way in your life. In short, you're not a fraud and you control the fate of your mind and actions. All it takes is just a minute of your precious time to turn around and find out just why. Consider micro and macro moments in your life where you've excelled - this can be achieving a major milestone life or work goal, as much as it can be a win from something as simple as making someone feel a certain way. Whatever you identify as those key moments, map them out on your vision boards, add them to your mobile's home screen, find ways to visually remind yourself of all the things you've accomplished that have brought you to where you are right now.

Often, we get caught up in the minutiae of daily life, that we forget just how amazing we truly are. How is it that everyone else can tell you this, how you can say it about others too, but when it comes to yourself, you're selling yourself short? Find ways to visually remind yourself of these moments of where you've been, and then look at how you can channel your nervous energy into generating more of those moments. The trick is to build your confidence as being a "winner" in a specific sphere, to avoid spiraling into feeling like a failure in yourself as whole.

5. Stop. Being. So. Damn. Hard on yourself! - There's a quote that really hit me from the impromptu discussions we had at the Brotherhood after watching the Ted Talk: "Your insecurities don't define your capabilities." We are always evolving, learning, and growing. That means that failure doesn't have to be seen as an end, but rather a stepping stone on the path to success and personal growth. Consider your life as moments that all temporary and whether bad or good, know that this too shall pass. And that's still okay. Because you, will be okay.

Final thoughts

The TEDxDurban Brotherhood Social was not just a gathering of like-minded individuals for networking purposes, it was a catalyst for change. It reminded me of the importance of self-compassion and the need to support one another in the face of imposter syndrome - in short, my personal motto and mission of #SpreadyJoyBeKind was onto something.

As we strive to excel in our careers (creative or otherwise), let us remember that we are all a work in progress. Let's embrace the journey of growth and learning, and let go of the fear of not being good enough. By acknowledging our feelings and supporting one another, we can dismantle the stigma around mental health and create a more compassionate and inclusive workplace (dare I say, society!) for all.

I highly recommend watching the Ted Talk below and reflecting on how you can overcome imposter syndrome together with the right support base. Let's embrace the unknown, learn from our experiences, and become our own biggest cheerleaders, because there is no greater love or relationships we can share, if we do not have sufficient love for ourselves first. Together, we can unmask imposter syndrome and celebrate the unique talents and voices of every individual.

Watch the Ted Talk we discussed at this TedXDurban Brother Social.

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