It happened just this week:
“I’m OK but I’m no expert” went up the cry from a woman who’d spent the best part of 20 years crafting a role as a freelancer providing services to a multinational company. She had trained as a therapist and a counsellor – in several different modalities – and then as a coach and she’s sort of fallen into her current role and it seemed to suit her well, but no, she was no expert.
The number of times I’ve heard women say that or something quite like it:
- “I’ve been doing this for years but I’m no expert.”
- “I’m good at my job but I’m no expert.”
- “I’m good enough but I’m no expert.”
- “I love my job but I’m no expert.”
Have you ever wondered what’s so wrong about being an expert that so many women will tell you in no uncertain terms that no, they’re definitely not one of them!
Is it that it’s such a bad thing to be an expert? I know post-Brexit it seemed many people had had enough of them (really?!). Experts seemed to make a brief comeback during the start of the pandemic but, I still don’t know many women who feel comfortable owning that title.
Is it that expert status is something only to be conferred on you by others?
Does the claim to be an expert set you up to be a target of hate speech, taken down a peg or two, chopped down in your prime like the proverbial tall poppy?
There’s no doubt that many of us have been socialised to not show off and heaven forfend that we get too big for our boots.
Does thinking you’re possibly an expert on a subject simply trigger the “Who do you think you are?!” response from the Inner Critic in us?
The roots of our aversion are possibly many and varied but many wise, experienced and hugely talented women seem genuinely afraid – or appalled – to think of themselves as experts.
I wonder what you mean when you deny you are an expert?
“a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a subject or area”.
There’s nothing in that definition that says the expert knows everything.
Nothing to claim that an expert knows all there is to know.
No hint that an expert lacked capacity to learn more or get even better.
An expert is simply someone who is skilful or very knowledgeable. Why is that so scary?
Do you avoid calling yourself an expert?
Do you avoid or reject being called an expert by others?
I’d love for you to know at a deep and profound level that you are good enough. You have amazing capacity to grow and to know more and you can still take delight and pride in the knowledge that you are very knowledgeable about your subject very skilled and worthy of calling yourself an expert in the most humble way you can manage.
In my “Imposter Syndrome Sources and Solutions” programme we look at where those early messages come from, ask whether they are still true or helpful and yes, re-evaluate what we need to believe as we continue to make our way in this world as intelligent and able adults.
A previous participant shared:
I had so many lightbulb moments where things about my life or why I feel certain ways suddenly made so much more sense. It was very liberating to develop that understanding and is going to make a huge difference to me in the future.”.
I’d be happy to help you see those same lightbulbs shine and change your life in the future! I’ll be relaunching the programme in a few weeks time so if you’re interested, do let me know.
Until then, if you’re interested in learning more, do head over to MargaretCollins.com/OISF to find out more about how Imposter Syndrome feelings may be holding you back and what you might do about it.
If you have any thoughts on why being an expert is so triggering, let me know.
Until then, do enjoy another sunny weekend!