My Experience Learning to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

This article was written by Fanny, Junior CSR Manager in Indonesia, as part of 24Slides’ Storyteller Program.

Many youths who graduated straight from college are ready to dip their toes into adulthood, find their passion, start a career, enroll in graduate school, or plan their business. Like them, I also tried to secure a job that could last a lifetime.

After many things, I finally landed a job. Unlike the vast majority of people in the world who get excited once they get a job, there is me, who frown in front of my phone screen when I read the email informing me that I got a job in 24Slides as a Junior Corporate Social Responsibility. “Me? No way?” It took me several minutes to finally realize I had gotten the job in the company I had always wanted to join. 

Living unremarkably almost my entire life, joining this company was supposed to be a blessing and worth celebrating. But as a person struggling with imposter syndrome, it becomes another story. 

Let me tell you one simple sentence for those who have yet to learn what it is. Imposter syndrome is like a parasite that always forces you to believe you are a fraud and do not deserve your accomplishments. 

That is why my reaction when I got that email was, “It must be a joke. I am not that qualified for the role. The hiring manager must be made a mistake in hiring me.” “I don’t think I can handle the work. I am a fraud.” Trust me, after I received the email, my sleep pattern was a mess. I didn’t feel any hunger; even if I did, I chose not to eat, and anxiety controlled me. 

I constantly felt like I didn’t deserve this job during my onboarding day. I felt like I had lied to get it, even though I took it seriously during the recruitment process. I was forcing myself to do extra work to feel like I earned my way into this position, which ended up leaving me more miserable and overwhelmed.

I struggled with imposter syndrome and anxiety every day during my first week in the office until I told my manager about it. The fact that I was brave enough to tell her about it blows my mind. It’s like it just came out of my mouth. She gave me a very empathetic response, which I never expected because mental health is taboo in our society, let alone telling your manager about it. She immediately told me that someone in our company also struggles with it and would like me to meet her. She handled it very carefully and asked me whether I wanted to do it, and it was all up to me to decide. First, I thought not to disclose this information to anyone except my manager. Until I realized I had struggled with this issue since college, it must be relieving if I’d get a chance to meet someone who also struggles with it. 

Not long after my weekly meeting with my manager, the person my manager referred me to contact me through Slack, and we booked a meeting for the next week. But, the imposter syndrome took its toll on me again. I criticized myself for how a new employee like me could get a chance to talk with someone in the top management to listen to my issue. Then, there was another episode in me in which I convinced myself that I was not fooling anyone, this was a real issue that I was struggling with, and I needed someone to give me some tricks to overcome this. Living with this issue, it’s like two people are within you, and the other person is always trying to gaslight you, making you doubt my accomplishment and your perceptions about yourself. Therefore, being a new employee and having this issue is like constantly battling with myself from the moment I open my eyes in the morning until I close them again at night.

I finally met the person through an online meeting, and she was very nice. She told me how she coped with this syndrome and how she could survive in her job. Every obstacle she faced because of it  was everything I had been through my entire life. She talked about self-doubt, the dread of meeting with a bunch of people who are more intelligent and experienced than you, how your expectations of yourself are so difficult to achieve, and how you constantly compare yourself with others. She was spitting facts about me as if she already knew me for 20 years. All of the things that came from her mouth left me with my mouth open. She motivated me and gave me everything I needed to overcome these struggles. 

After the meeting, I sat in front of my laptop in disbelief while thinking, “I never thought there was a company that really cared about their employee’s mental health.” Before I joined 24Slides, I worked in a factory, and no one wanted to know about your problems and help you out with them unless it was for lunch gossip. They just want you to do your job and achieve the target. They didn’t care enough to provide you with anything unless paying your salary. 

After having a 45-minute conversation with her, it finally opened my mind to why I did what I did, leaving me with a strange feeling. It is a feeling that motivates you to do better, aspire to be more caring toward yourself, and acknowledge that you have treated yourself so freakin’ hard all these years. 

The discourse about mental health, at least in Indonesia, is increasing each year. Many young adults are starting to think of how essential it is to focus on mental health, but some do not understand what it is like to struggle with mental health issues, instead pointing fingers and saying that we are too weak for society. People always compare their generations, saying they were more ‘RESILIENT’ both physically and mentally, which made it difficult for me to open up about this issue. 

For me, it is essential to reach out for help, especially when it affects your daily activities. It is acceptable to show your vulnerability to people you trust. Being brave and speaking about the most vulnerable parts of yourself is the first step to making you feel better. Well, not everything will be fixed magically from the get-go, but at least you will start to gain confidence, and it will be easier for you to see the bigger picture and find a solution.

Thankfully, I crossed paths with 24Slides and joined the company that gives me room to share my vulnerabilities without being afraid of being judged. I have been given time to transform my weakness into something more remarkable in this company.