How to Get Over Impostor Syndrome and Be The Expert

I promise to follow this with some actionable tips. But first, allow me this one rant: Impostor syndrome sucks.

For nearly a decade, my career has been totally focused on PR. In addition to my constant client work, I train small business owners and even PR teams on the latest trends getting media attention.

So, in other words, I’m an expert.

But as soon as I claim those three words, “I’m an expert,” it immediately leads to insecurity. I feel like such a fraud.

I can tell you all the latest and greatest PR trends that are working because I personally made them work, but I also know all the times I’ve had a strategy flop. Sometimes I don’t get the results I was hoping for, the media just doesn’t respond, or I don’t get as many placements as I thought I could. And I just cringe thinking about when I didn’t meet my client’s expectations despite my best efforts.

Overall, I know I have succeeded way more than I have failed. It just feels like I shouldn’t be teaching others to get media placements if sometimes I don’t get media placements myself.

This is Quintessential Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is when a person feels they aren’t as successful as they truly are, or even worse, when they feel the anxiety and fear of being called out as a fraud.

When we look at other people’s success, we see just that—their success. When we look at ourselves, we see the full story, all the learning, struggles, failures, and success. Other people also have a full story of ups and downs, but we typically only see their success. 

Rather than judging ourselves based on the lowest or average of all we’ve done, we should judge ourselves based on the heights of our achievement.

Why You Should Embrace Your Expertise (Hint: $$)

Let’s bring this back to PR. I actually deal with impostor syndrome all the time with my clients.

Here’s the scenario:

I’ll get a new client who is amazing at what they do and recommend a strategy that includes positioning them as an expert. At this point, they tell me they aren’t comfortable with that because they don’t think of themselves as an expert despite all their industry knowledge and first hand experience.

Usually, I can get them to come around. The media will need an expert, I’ll connect them, and guess what? My clients are always able to answer questions with interesting information and get loads of high-quality media attention for their business. 

This is one huge benefit of getting over imposter syndrome and embracing your expertise. You can share your knowledge with the world and the world will come knocking at your door wanting to do business.

How to Get Past Feeling Like an Impostor

From personal experience, I know getting over imposter syndrome is easier said than done. Here are a few things that help me get through it.

(See, I told you I would get to the actionable tips.)

1. Remind yourself, no one has success 100% of the time

…even if it seems like it on Instagram. Everyone has had an unhappy client, a bad batch, didn’t place, or lost the deal.

100% is not possible. It’s not reality. It would have to be supernatural for me to get a response every time I send out a pitch. 

One way to deal with such high expectations is to imagine yourself as an employee. Would you expect yourself to get everything right and done to the fullest extent in record time, all the time? Have a little reasonable compassion for yourself. 

2. Learn from what didn’t work

When a campaign doesn’t get the results I want, I see what is going wrong and fix it. A pivot is much better than a stop. A pivot just means that you know that “other way” is wrong and your new direction is better. This just adds to your expertise.

3. Pay attention to your success, not your failures

When I really let myself think about, I know it is undeniable that I have succeeded at more projects than I have failed at. If I can focus on that instead of the few times things didn’t go my way, then I don’t have any fear of teaching PR.

Celebrate every win, let it sink in and let it raise the bar. You did that! That’s who you are!

Rebekah Epstein