The idea that I am not enough has driven me most of my life.
Whenever I’m applying for an award or discussing my career over drinks, I don’t really feel comfortable listing my accomplishments.
I don’t feel like my voice is particularly useful or persuasive even as I write this article.
In spite of these feelings, I don’t let them win. I sit with them, challenge them, and try to write or say what my feelings deny. I know I’m not alone in this.
At this point, everyone in the digital marketing industry is familiar with “imposter syndrome,” a term bandied about offices almost as often as “synergy” or “optimization.”
Ninety percent of 150 digital marketers I surveyed online agreed: “Yes, I’ve experienced imposter syndrome in my career.”
A Twitter poll and a LinkedIn poll confirmed the overwhelming experience of Imposter Syndrome among digital marketers – 85% on Twitter and 97% on LinkedIn.
Most other people in digital marketing feel the same way.
All of us are silently berating ourselves, exhausted by self-doubt.
Why do so many people feel trapped in the depths of their personal misgivings? What can we do?
As a result of speaking with several professionals in the digital marketing industry about imposter syndrome, I’ve discovered three perspectives to consider:
- You need to look within.
- Take a look around you.
- Make others feel seen by helping them.
Remember: Imposter syndrome isn’t going away. It’s not an on/off switch. Awareness of its presence is crucial to managing it.
You need to look within
The imposter syndrome is usually described as a feeling, rooted in one’s sense of lacking, unbelonging, and inherent deficiencies.
Tazmin Suleman described the feeling as uncomfortable and agitated.
He now coaches SEO practitioners on their confidence at work and in their personal lives as a former SEO analyst.
Suleman has dedicated her career to combating imposter syndrome in the SEO industry through mindfulness training and soft skills development.
Suleman asked, “How can you trust yourself if you make a mistake and say horrible things about yourself?”
People don’t grow as a person by critiquing themselves to the point of exhaustion, but by giving themselves enough grace to learn and grow.
Keeping up with algorithm updates, legal rulings, and the latest technical buzz (read: artificial intelligence) can feel impossible, according to Suleman.
The only way to make progress is to take action. The only way to take action is to feel confident,” Suleman said.
It is impossible to find empowerment from the SEO industry without turning inward.
Burnout is Caused by Imposter Syndrome
Burnout is inevitable when imposter syndrome is left unchecked.
When a person doesn’t feel adequate, they don’t care about their energy levels, relationships, or sense of self. It’s easier to be a machine when you ignore your body’s symptoms.
In order to overcome imposter syndrome, Adrijana Vujadin, SEO manager at Affirma, was driven by burnout.
I hoped one day I could open my laptop and feel good about myself, but that didn’t happen. It was just more frustration, more negative thoughts, more sabotaging,” Vujadin said.
Despite her body’s anxiety attacks, she ended her days covered in sweat from stress.
“I was ready to quit even my career, my job, because my work was affecting my mental and physical health,” Vujadin said of her SEO career.
One year later, she’s presenting a talk at Search London called “How to be SEO Confident.”.
When Vujadin rested, she realized that no matter how much she worked in SEO, nothing mattered if she was exhausted.
Vujadin said 99 percent of people talk about their technical skills and years of experience, but this isn’t enough. People can have 20+ years of experience and still feel like they’re an imposter.
People can gain confidence and find meaning in their careers by posing a few questions to their self-talk:
Imposter Thoughts: Questions to ask
- What do you think of this thought?
- Does this thought make sense?
- In the past, when you thought you weren’t good enough, have you proved yourself wrong?
Vujadin’s questions have helped her emerge from her lowest point as a stronger, more confident strategist.
Take a look around you
The concept of imposter syndrome is a cultural lie in many ways. Imposter syndrome did not originate with the name “imposter syndrome” – it evolved into this concept as part of office culture.
Since the late 1970s, imposter syndrome has been co-opted by self-help books, office support groups, and therapy sessions.
I can choose from more than 1,300+ stock photos depicting imposter syndrome on iStock.
People who are facing their first day at a new job or preparing for public speaking gigs often use the phrase “imposter syndrome.”
Typically, the term “syndrome” refers to an issue that can be treated. It can be as simple as a brief feeling of nervous anxiety or as complex as a long-term depressive episode.
It is self-defeating to blame oneself for imposter syndrome.
Often, people blame themselves for feeling like they’re an imposter, according to Michelle Stinson Ross, CMO of Feelalytics.
It is the community’s fault that someone feels like an imposter. Syndrome is a misnomer because it is not internal or a malfunction of the individual. It is a malfunction of the community.
A more analytical mindset associated with males is traditionally associated with the SEO community, according to Stinson Ross.
As a result, certain types of people may struggle to feel welcome in this environment.
Even with his impressive resume, George Nguyen still felt isolated because others did not look like him.
Perhaps we can broaden our understanding of SEO as a practice and skillset rather than expecting people to conform to one type of logical, data-driven SEO.
“I have imposter syndrome not because I am deficient, but because I am trying to fit into an image of myself that isn’t entirely authentic,” Stinson Ross said.
Feeling like one’s authentic self at work creates a sense of belonging, and it is only through this sense of belonging that people can truly feel free from imposter syndrome.
It is ultimately up to the SEO community and employers in the digital marketing space to make others feel welcome.
Individuals are responsible for combating negative thoughts, but a culture must support each other.
- Make Others Feel Seen by Helping Them
Imposter syndrome can be addressed in three steps:
- Manage your internal self-talk. Tell your imposter syndrome thoughts to chill out.
- The second step is to acknowledge the external factors contributing to your imposter syndrome. Who is making you feel unwelcome?
The third step is to build a community.
She has faced multiple challenges throughout her digital marketing career, from being rejected for raises at a previous job to being furloughed during the pandemic.
In spite of these challenges, she’s been featured on popular podcasts such as The SEO Rant and has grown a following on Twitter.
I still struggle to get my voice heard as a black woman on a male-dominated team, and it is humbling to receive compliments. However, my best piece of advice to anyone who feels you aren’t enough is to talk to your community and we will help you to light that voice in your head with a match and blow it up,” Audain said.
In the SEO community, like any other group of humans, we are bettered by our support and the way we make each other feel seen.
People with unique backgrounds can join the following SEO communities:
- SEO for women in tech
- SEO sisters
- SEO women
This list focuses on diversity, highlighting groups for people who might struggle to fit in. However, there are many other groups available, from those specializing in a particular discipline of SEO to an organization’s internal employee resource groups.
Everyone in SEO should feel like they have a community behind them, whether you’re telling someone they did a great job with a presentation or reaching out for second opinions.
Stinson Ross said that you are modeling the types of behavior and communication that foster belonging.
We can only grow the SEO community as a place where everyone belongs if we build true, authentic relationships with others.