Thursday, July 28, 2022

Tell us more... being interviewed about Imposter Syndrome

 this post first appeared on the Freelance Heroes blog - for similar interviews with freelancers about other aspects and shared lived experiences of freelancing, please check them out! 

Imposter syndrome is a topic we often hear discussed not only in the freelance community but with many types of work and profession. So when Freelance Heroes member Adrian Ashton wrote a book on the subject called ‘Loving your doubt: Why everything we think we understand and know about Imposter Syndrome is (probably) wrong‘ we decided we had to delve a bit deeper and hear directly why Adrian chose this subject, what we can learn about it, and maybe how to view it a little differently.


Freelance Heroes: Imposter syndrome is a HUGE topic in the freelance world. What was your main motivation/driver for challenging our views and behaviours around this subject?

Adrian Ashton: As with everything I do, I try and be informed and led by evidence and research.

And when I realised that the evidence and research about imposter syndrome actually contradicts everything we’re usually told about this issue, and as a result people are living less complete lives than they might be, how can I not speak out to challenge ‘accepted wisdom’ that turns out to be wrong?


Freelance Heroes: Do you feel that imposter syndrome affects women more than men? Why?

Adrian Ashton: Imposter Syndrome isn’t exclusively for women – but women seem to talk about it more than men (think about any panels or blogs you’ve seen on the subject: they’re all usually by women speaking to/writing for other women).

Research shows that men are just as likely to feel ‘the gremlin of self-doubt’ as women, but perhaps it’s because of cultural norms in our society that men don’t feel able to be as open about it – and perhaps it’s also because when Imposter Syndrome was originally ‘discovered’ it was deemed to only affect women in managerial roles…


Freelance Heroes: I understand that you attended a seminar where the topic of conversation made you stop, start researching, and turn your thoughts and writing into `loving your doubt,` a pocketbook that really makes you think. What specifically started this process?

Adrian Ashton: It was Freelance Heroes Day 2020, when one of the speakers made a passing remark about how as freelancers we all need to get rid of our imposter syndrome, otherwise we’ll never succeed in anything (or something like that).

That’s quite a potent statement, and they offered no follow-up or qualification it – I’m happy to admit that at the time I was still feeling like an imposter, but yet still seemed to be achieving success in lots of areas, so it got be wondering about what it was that I was mis-understanding or had missed about imposter syndrome

Usually, I work out my ideas through drafting a blog post, but the subject matter was getting bigger as I poked it further, and I also wanted to test what I was discovering through my researches by speaking with different people.

All of these people seemed very excited when I shared my ideas and workings out with them, and all of whom encouraged me to publish it as a book for the benefit of others.


Freelance Heroes: Not giving away too much from the book, but why shouldn’t we be afraid of imposter syndrome?  And what surprised you the most?

Adrian Ashton: Having a degree of self-doubt is an evolutionary lay-over that can help us avoid taking risks that are too great: a safety values for times when our confidence may be greater than our actual competence (for example  although people will sing songs about you for years to come for doing so, maybe you should think twice about taking on that pride of lions single handed with only a pointy stick?); and in a more contemporary context, helps us avoid becoming complacent and allowing our competitors overtaking us as a result (how many of the companies listed in the FTSE100 index 10 years ago are still around today?).

And in terms of ‘being surprised’ as I did my research into this topic:

1) How recently imposter syndrome has been a recognised ‘thing’ (1978 was when it was officially ‘discovered’, although people have talked about the feelings associated with it far before then – including Albert Einstein!);

2) How none of the remedies or practices to manage or mitigate imposter syndrome seem to have been subject to any evaluations or research to establish their efficacy or relevance – that’s akin to being prescribed medicines by your doctor, or offered over the counter pills by your pharmacist, that have never been through any clinical trial to make sure they’ll work, and more importantly not accidentally kill you!


Freelance Heroes: How did changing your mindset about imposter syndrome work for you? And is there anything you would do differently in your career, knowing what you know now?

Adrian Ashton: I definitely feel more confident in my abilities since delving into this subject, and realising that actually, feeling like an imposter is a perfectly human and natural state –it’s only when we allow it to limit our relationships with other people that it becomes a problem.

As to the impact that having this insight and realisation sooner might have had on my career – I’ve never felt I’ve had a career: more a series of occasionally linked adventures… I’d still have done the things I’ve done, but I’d have done them sooner.


Freelance Heroes: What would be your parting advice to our Freelance Hero members?

Adrian Ashton: I’d paraphrase The Streets, Oscar Wilde, and my mum:

None of us are getting out of this life alive; so, try everything once apart from murder, incest, and Morris dancing; and remember that good manners can always get you further than you think they will…


Loving your doubt: Why everything we think we understand and know about Imposter Syndrome is (probably) wrong‘ is available to BUY NOW and is also featured in our Members Library alongside other contributions from our members.

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