What is Imposter Syndrome & How Can PR Pros Overcome It?

Jan 25, 2021

When you start to find success in your public relations career, it’s a fantastic feeling. But sometimes, there are unfortunate feelings of anxiety and fear that come up. What is imposter syndrome, and how does it affect PR pros? 

In today’s blog post, let’s dive into all things imposter syndrome. We’ll go over the following so that you can overcome these feelings: 

  • What is imposter syndrome? 
  • How imposter syndrome affects PR pros
  • Ways to overcome imposter syndrome

Let’s get started! Remember, you aren’t alone in feeling this way (and you don’t have to let these feelings control you). 

What Is Imposter Syndrome? 

Have you ever felt undeserving of your success? Have you ever worried that you aren’t qualified for your role? These feelings all match up with imposter syndrome.

To start focusing on overcoming these feelings, first, let’s explore: what is imposter syndrome? 

Imposter syndrome is when a person feels that they aren't truly successful or deserving of their position or success. You might experience anxiety or fear that you will be called a fraud. 

How does this work? Why are we so hard on ourselves when it comes to our success? 

When we look at other people's success, we see just that—we only see their success. But when we look at ourselves, we see the full story all the time. We see our learning, struggles, and past failures in addition to our successes. 

Imposter syndrome creates this feeling of not deserving to be where you are. We think that others are more qualified than us and that they haven’t struggled as we have. 

How Does Imposter Syndrome Impact PR Professionals? 

So many entrepreneurs, especially PR pros, struggle with imposter syndrome. If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone! I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome, and so have plenty of other high-level PR pros. 

Let’s dive into the reasons that PR pros deal with imposter syndrome. First, it’s sometimes difficult to quantify the results that you're getting for clients. Sometimes the success of campaigns is obvious to us, but impossible to measure results definitively. 

Just because you can't measure success doesn't mean that there isn't immense value and worth in your work. PR is critical to your clients’ success, and you need to remain confident in that—no matter what! 

Another thing that we tend to deal with a lot as PR professionals is rejection. Whether you hear a “no” or hear nothing at all, rejection fosters doubt in ourselves. We wonder if we’re doing things right and even qualified to do what we do. 

Here’s a secret. Even the biggest PR names, and the most prominent agencies charging multiple five-figure monthly retainers, get rejected or ghosted by journalists and writers. 

You might also start to feel imposter syndrome when you find success and serve bigger clients with bigger retainers. 

You might start to second guess whether you’re qualified to charge specific amounts. With higher stakes comes more fear. But when you find success, you have to know that you’ve worked for it and earned it! 

How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Now that you understand what imposter syndrome is, here are some ways to overcome it and feel better. 

Cultivate Expertise in a Specific Area

Imposter syndrome can happen when you try to be a jack of all trades. The more specific you get in honing in on a niche, the more confident you’ll feel. 

Remember, if you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up being nothing to anybody. 

Honing in on a particular industry can allow you to dive deep into cultivating strong expertise in one area. You’ll feel much more confident that you’re an expert in one specific area!

Remind Yourself That You Can’t Be Successful All the Time

As much as we’d love to have a perfect record, it’s not possible to be successful 100% of the time. Life will throw you curveballs, and things will go wrong. You’ll see several challenges and failures along the way. 

Would you expect an employee to be perfect? Would you expect a team member to make zero mistakes?

You wouldn’t place unrealistic, unattainable expectations on your employees. Don’t expect perfection from yourself either!

Related: What Is Your Definition of Success?

Learn From Your Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. In PR, you should always learn from each mistake and adjust your strategy! There is so much to learn, so take every instance of failure as a learning opportunity. 

Remember, no one starts off being an expert in their field. Failure is a part of being an expert because you know exactly what not to do. 

Instead of beating yourself up, give yourself the grace to grow. 

Celebrate Every Small Milestone

When we make small mistakes, we always wind up feeling bad about it. When we make progress towards reaching our goals, we rarely feel good about it. Why are we so slow to celebrate those small wins?

Ignoring those wins is a big problem because it decreases your motivation and makes it harder to achieve your biggest goals. 

Make sure to celebrate all of your wins, no matter how small! 

You don’t have to do anything huge. Just treat yourself to a Starbucks drink or pat yourself on the back. These small rewards will help you realize how successful you are. If you know how good you are at something, imposter syndrome will have less of an impact. 

No matter where you are in your business, you will feel doubt and anxiety as your business grows. Asking the question, “what is imposter syndrome?” will help you learn to recognize the telltale signs so you can overcome imposter syndrome! 

Overcoming imposter syndrome takes work, but you can do this! I believe in you.