6. A day in the life of our Imposter Types

with Frankie Ward on unconventional career paths

Welcome to Notes On, the newsletter from The Imposters Club. Every month we’ll be sharing what’s on our minds, what we’ve been loving, and thoughts & tips from our community.

Do you ask for what you want?

We want to hear YOUR voices and share them on the podcast. Over the coming weeks we'll be asking for voice note submissions of your experiences, thoughts and stories on different topics that affect our lives. So, we'd love to know: 

How do you advocate for yourself? 

  • Do you feel confident asking for what you want?

  • Do you advocate for yourself at work? How about in your personal life?

  • Would you tell a hairdresser you weren’t happy?

Or anything else you want to tell us about how you advocate for yourself. Send a short 30 second voice note including your name and age to theimpostersclub@gmail.com and we'll feature as many as we can on the podcast!

The 5 Imposter Types

Dr Valerie Young identifies five manifestations of imposter syndrome in her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. They are:

The Perfectionist sets impossibly high expectations for themselves

The Expert needs to know everything before starting

The Natural Genius is used to skills coming easily and panics when they don't

The Soloist believes asking for help means they've failed

The Superwoman is in competition with everyone around them at all times.

See yourself here (it might be more than one)? Let us know!

Melissa: roll out of bed, straight into a squat

Sinéad once described my morning routine as, ‘roll out of bed, straight into a squat.’ To be fair, she’s not far off. 

I’ve realised that this is the way of ‘super people’. I definitely don’t feel super, but I suppose that’s why I do it. I think it’s the instant hit of validation from doing something productive that does it for me - knowing I’ve started the day ticking something off a list. And doing it is easier than dealing with the loud, guilty voice in my head. 

I’ve found that planning my weekly exercise routine means I can’t back out - because backing out isn’t an option, right?! And they say that nobody regrets working out. Except for that time I worked out with a headache, then threw up and developed a migraine. When I say ‘that time’, I’m referring to a few times. I know that taking a break is necessary. Just try telling me that. 

This need for achievement doesn’t stop with my morning routine. It never feels enough, so I do more. That, accompanied by my ‘soloist’ need to do it all on my own, means my brain is playing the role of the bus in the movie Speed, and I’m Sandra Bullock desperately trying to steer it. 

I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse that I now realise this is a behavioural pattern and that other people don’t exist like this. The blessing is that I can step back and realise I’m doing it. The curse is that I know I’m doing it but I’m just not quite at the stage of being able to change it. I’m working on it. 

After my workout is the long commute to my home office desk with a bowl of cereal in hand. I’ll start the day working on that big project I agreed to produce, even though it’s not actually part of my job. I suppose it’s another way to prove that I’m good at what I do - I’m just not sure who I’m trying to prove that to at this point.

Inevitably it’s become a way bigger task than I originally thought. I hate it so much. I don’t care about it anymore and now, every time I think about it, it enrages me. The thought of asking for help has crossed my mind, quickly replaced with my fear of being seen as incapable. So I’m left wishing that I could go back in time and pretend to freeze on Zoom when the question about who should run it came up. Why do I do this to myself? Just for a bit of external validation. But now, in the words of Sum41, I’m in too deep. 

Lunchtime. Time to fit in a walk, empty the dishwasher, plan dinner, load the washing machine, message every Whatsapp group, all while half-watching some sort of high intensity medical drama. But obviously I have ‘no time’ to make myself a decent lunch.

Working from home has meant that there’s a million unnecessary meetings. Initially I found these infuriating; what happened to sending an email? I’ve since realised they’re the perfect time to pretend to listen and do some work for the other projects I’m involved in. Might as well use the time wisely. 

I know I can be pretty non-stop (mostly in my brain) but I do spend most of my evenings horizontal on the sofa in front of the TV. Yes, I might be back to my to-do list at the same time: arranging the next girls get together, doing the online food shop, project work, but that’s as relaxed as I come. I’ve got it into my head that this is laziness, and that maybe if I didn’t watch TV, I could get more done. I often joke that the only thing I didn’t like about turning 30 was missing out on the opportunity to be a Forbes 30 under 30. I’m 80% joking. OK, 50%.  

And, like most of us, since I’ve been working from home I’ve been clocking up obscene screen time, checking Instagram all day. Getting jealous at the perfect homes, perfect careers, perfect relationships. Wondering and, if I’m honest, hoping that people feel that about me. 

Sinéad: it’s taken me 15 minutes to write this sentence

The most frustrating thing about being a perfectionist is the fact that it’s taken me fifteen minutes to write this sentence.

My perfect morning routine is scuppered when I accidentally break my rule of not looking at my phone before I’ve showered. It’s suddenly half an hour later and I still need to do some yoga, shower, journal, meditate, make breakfast, and plan the day. Obviously I don’t have time to do all of these things well, so some will have to fall by the wayside. Not the perfect start to the morning.

At 9am it’s time to sit at my desk and get writing. I’m writing my PhD thesis at the moment- my ‘original contribution to knowledge’ in an area that I’m supposed to be an expert in. But seeing as I haven’t read everything there is to possibly read about Ireland, the First World War or Ireland and the First World War, there’s no way in hell they’re going to pass me. So I have what can only be described as an existential crisis over my morning coffee, worrying about where to begin with the stack of books in front of me and hoping I can somehow absorb everything in them through osmosis if I sit close enough.

It’s quite tiring, you know.

I spend another fifteen minutes trying to write the first sentence of the day. It’s about twenty words long, and I need to write five hundred to stay on track with my writing targets. At this rate it’s going to take over six hours of solid work with no breaks, no snacks, no scrolling.

At this point, my rebellious brain kicks in and makes me wander off to do something a bit more fun, like watching TV, making a focaccia or reorganising my sock drawer. I take breaks from procrastinating to do frenzied half-hour bursts of work where there’s no time left for perfection. My hastily cobbled-together sentences are painful to read, but I suppose they exist. That’s a win, of sorts.

Then one o’clock comes around and it’s time to linger over a delicious lunch with an episode or three of something funny and soothing, like Schitt’s Creek or New Girl, that I’ve already watched more times than I can count. Both of which gently wash over me, letting my brain take a little nap.

Growing up, I was always academic. I was in the top sets for everything at school until I got dumped the night before a maths test and had to move into the noisy class because of my resultant bad grade (no, I’m not bitter). I was able to pull off first class essays between rowing training and hangovers during my undergrad. So, naturally, I decided to pursue a PhD. Which, it turns out, is a very difficult task requiring a very specific set of skills that nobody naturally has. But obviously, to me, finding this difficult means I’m a huge fraud. I’ve somehow managed to avoid getting found out over the past 6 years, but my time will come. Any day now.

I have been plagued by self-doubt throughout the process of this PhD. I can never know everything, can never make it perfect and it’s objectively hard; the triple-threat of my imposter types are sure-fire signs that I’m going to fail and disappoint everyone around me. Each day brings with it a new mountain of overwhelm to scale; some days go really well. Other aren’t quite as successful.

I make the mistake of checking Whatsapp, where a tidal wave of heretofore muted conversations hits me. I don’t reply to at least half of them because I can’t focus enough to work out a response other than ‘haha’ or ‘ok’. A calendar reminder for the ever-growing list of things to do for The Imposters Club flashes up, and I realise it’s already 3pm. 

By the time I’ve made and eaten dinner, I’m exhausted. But I’m not sure what - if anything - I’ve achieved today. I berate myself for spending the evening horizontal, unable to string a sentence together, and feel a tight knot of panic in my chest as I lie in bed. 

It will be fine, I tell myself; I just need to find the perfect morning routine.

Things we’ve loved

Speaking to Abby Dixon, who appeared on our first episode of The Good Enough Guide. We recently joined Abby on her own podcast, The Whole Marketer, to talk about imposter syndrome. Listen here.

Listening to Save Your Game, Frankie Ward’s (who we spoke to below) new podcast where she chats to guests about the video games that shaped their lives. I think mine are Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and, of course, The Sims. What are yours? Listen on Apple & Spotify MM

Reading Cate Sevilla’s How to Work Without Losing Your Mind, an invaluable guide to making working life work for you - in her words, “a comforting hug followed by a sharp - but loving - slap across the face, followed by another comforting hug and rounded-off with a swift kick in the ass to send you on your way.” Who else could we have spoken to about having a good working day? SKK

Watching Special and Shrill - Two of my absolute faves came back this month, and I binged them in two days each. Both are witty, refreshing comedies with not-your-average main characters. MM

Relaxing with Foreo UFO 2* - We’ve been winding down in the evenings with at-home mask treatments from Foreo, featuring different ingredients and individual LED and temperature settings, based on what our skin needs each day. Mel described it as angels caressing her face.

*This product was gifted as part of Foreo’s sponsorship of The Good Enough Guide.

The Club: Frankie Ward on unconventional career paths

Frankie Ward is a globally renowned gaming and esports host and presenter of Save Your Game, Red Bull’s brand new gaming podcast delving into the storied careers and riveting minds of gaming icons, as told through their favourite games. Here, she chats to us about approaching her career unconventionally and managing imposter syndrome.

Tell us about your journey to the gaming world.

I've always played videogames, however it never seemed like a valid career option for me. After uni, I became a producer and worked for several broadcasters. In 2015 I was producing live coverage of the League of Legends World Championships at Wembley's SSE Arena and loved the whole feeling of the event - it was also where I realised that there was space for me to take my producing skills into live gaming. The next year I joined Twitch and did some hosting on the side after discovering I was naturally passionate when talking about games on camera and in 2018 became a fulltime esports and gaming host. I've since travelled the world to be part of events, from co-hosting E3's annual PC Gaming Show, to interviewing Counter-Strike players in Sydney.

You’ve had an unconventional career path - what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

I'd tell myself to trust my instincts, but go with the flow more - and try to make the most of time off!

Can you share a moment when you’ve felt like you weren’t good enough, were totally out of your depth or were tricking people? How did you manage that negative voice?

I get it all the time when I'm desk hosting Counter-Strike - oddly enough, I don't get it with other games - I try and breathe and remember if I was having a casual conversation off camera about the game, I could go all day! When I'm hosting CS I usually feel like it's meant to be someone else (and to be fair, I've done a lot of covering for other hosts on the desk - otherwise I'd be interviewing, which is the most natural job in the world for me). But when I feel confident I can really deliver - so I have to remind myself of that all the time. A vocal minority to the audience will always compare me to others, so I just have to avoid spaces where they do that and "slay in my lane", because the internet makes it easy to find the negativity you're seeking to beat yourself (stick-like) with.

What’s the greatest thing you’ve learnt about yourself? 

I don't think I've learned it yet. That being said, spending time at home due to COVID-19 (I spent seven months away from home while working in 2019), I've been able to see how important prioritising personal relationships are above work. When you're away from home and in a different city from week to week, you can be emotionally distanced as well as physically. In the last year I've learned to take stock of what I have.

Tell us about your new podcast, Save Your Game?

Save Your Game - The Red Bull Gaming Podcast is a bit of a dream project for me. Often I have to do short interviews around esports tournaments, but in Save Your Game I get an the opportunity to talk for an extended period of time and use my guests' games to get them to take a look back and make discoveries about who they were when they played those games and how it's impacted their life in the present. It's a privilege to hear about people's lives in a much more intimate format while also connecting over their game choices.

Listen to Frankie’s brand new podcast, Save Your Game, on Apple & Spotify.

The Good Enough Guide to Social Anxiety

Anyone else forgotten how to socialise? We talk about feeling exhausted after seeing friends, navigating FOMO and the newly scary concept of Soho on a Saturday night. We’re joined by Chartered Psychologist Dr Heather Sequeira to talk about what’s happening in your brain at a garden party, choosing quality over quantity and rebuilding your social stamina.

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts.