Confidence is beautiful, but what do you do when you aren’t feeling it? That’s what Masiel Torres, SCI’17 explored in a recent webinar on imposter syndrome. Her relatively swift rise from Rutgers graduate in 2017 to the manager of social media advocacy and PR at L’Oreal had made her somewhat of an expert on the topic. When she accepted the job in November 2021, “the PR and the influencer aspect wasn’t something I was comfortable with at all,” she says. “I joked to my friends and my fiancé, ‘Did they even read my résumé?’”
The new role brought to the surface feelings of imposter syndrome—a thought pattern, which Torres explains, involves feeling like you aren’t as competent as others perceive you to be. “It has links to perfectionism,” she says. “Some common signs of imposter syndrome include: the inability to realistically assess your competence and skills, attributing your success to external factors, the fear that you won’t live up to expectations, overachieving, self-doubt, setting very challenging goals for yourself, and feeling disappointed when you fall short.”
In the half-hour video, she shares the strategies that have helped her navigate these feelings and believe in herself as much as those who hired her. Here are a few insights she provided during her talk.
Take time for reflection
Torres has spent a good deal of time unpacking the cause of her imposter syndrome, and she discovered that perfectionism is a significant factor. “There are some positives of wanting to do things right,” she says. “You care about the quality of your work. You care about striving for excellence.” The problem comes when you don’t challenge yourself because you don’t want to make mistakes. Making mistakes isn’t only okay, it’s essential. “If you’re in the right room, you’ll be the person with the least amount of knowledge,” she says. “You always want to be where you will grow and learn from other people.”
Ask for feedback
This may seem like torture if you’re already feeling like a fraud. But Torres asserts that asking for feedback is a great way to give yourself a reality check. “I thought that [my managers] were going to tell me what I thought about myself, which was, ‘You’re not doing too great in this area,’ and that’s never been the case. I’ve always gotten great feedback,” she says. “Ask for that feedback because you’ll find that it’s sometimes a lot in your head. And people are seeing the great work you’re doing.”
Separate feelings from facts
The feeling that you “don’t belong” is a cornerstone of imposter syndrome. To counter that nagging feeling, Torres recommends talking back to that little voice in your head. “Regardless of how much you feel you don’t belong, you were chosen for a reason,” she says. “You had the background. You have the skills. They see something in you that maybe you don’t see in yourself. Those are the facts.”
Face it until you make it
Torres has issues with the “fake it till you make it” mantra. “If you fake it, you validate that you don’t belong. ‘I shouldn’t be here, so I’m going to fake it,’” she says. “Well, you should be there. You’ve earned that spot.” Instead, she believes in facing that you don’t know everything and embracing it. She told herself, “It’s okay that I don’t know this. They aren’t expecting me to know everything in one month.” To fill in gaps in knowledge, she recommends being very candid when you don’t understand something, asking lots of questions, and taking courses so you can “feel comfortable in that space.”
Highlight the positives
A characteristic of imposter syndrome is attributing your successes to outside forces like luck or fate. As a first-generation college graduate, Torres says she feels lucky to have gone to Rutgers, which helped set her on this course, but she tries to keep in mind that her parents’ sacrifice and her own hard work and perseverance got her to where she is today. (She applied at L’Oreal “God knows how many times” before they hired her.) “Take a moment to realize who you are, why you’re there, and what your why is,” she says. “It wasn’t fate. It wasn’t luck. It was your hard work.” By remembering who you are and what makes you tick, you’ll quickly see that you were never an imposter after all.