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In this episode, Chelsea lets loose on the trend of "imposter syndrome," and how you're likely a lot more qualified for jobs than you think.

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Hey, guys. It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And thanks to SoFi for supporting TFD.

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No purchase or refi necessary. Void where prohibited. And this week, I don't have a script.

I don't have my usual notes. We're going fully off the dome. We're going to see what happens.

And you might be sitting there asking yourself, Chelsea, how are you going to deliver the impeccable standard of quality that we have come to expect from a Financial Diet video without any notes, without having prepared-- well I've prepared a little bit in my thoughts but just like shower thoughts preparation-- or any kind of teleprompter? And I'm going to tell you one thing, first of all, I never use a teleprompter. Just, you know, I have that secret sauce.

But also, number two, I am not afraid to deliver my thoughts on this matter in an extemporaneous and natural way because I don't have imposter syndrome about my talents as an on camera personality. And as you might have guessed from the title and thumbnail of this video, this week we are talking about imposter syndrome, but not from what is, sort of, your typical imposter syndrome content, which is an influencer who's like a millionaire, supermodel, rocket scientist, top 10 pop star being like, I just never feel, when I'm in a room, like I'm good enough to be there. I'm going to give people the benefit of the doubt and say that most of the time when they express having these beliefs despite all apparent evidence that they're not just saying that to seem falsely relatable and actually do experience that.

I'm going to give that the benefit of the doubt. But I will say, I think that as we exit the small beans self-careification era of internet mental health, that it is time to get a little bit more real and rigorous with ourselves about who should really be experiencing imposter syndrome, and how we're possibly keeping ourselves, if we are in that cycle, in a totally unnecessary trap. So first, let's start by defining our terms.

And I want to be the first to say that I have, in the past years back, experienced what I would describe and did describe as a kind of imposter syndrome especially when I was starting off The Financial Diet, or when I was working as a freelance writer. I really definitely had a sense of, I'm not good enough. So many other people are better than me.

No one takes me seriously. I don't take myself seriously. And I will say that was not entirely self defined.

I definitely did experience from people in my life, especially things like extended relatives, and in-laws, and other authority figures in my life, not necessarily taking my career as seriously or my work as seriously because it was hard for them to necessarily understand or contextualize. I didn't have things like a brick and mortar office or other physical tangible things that tend to give people a lot of validation. I also didn't have things like a great salary when I was starting out my business.

So there were definitely reasons to feel down on myself, and that did often manifest in that general ambient feeling of like, I'm not good enough. I'm not able to do this. I'm faking my way and I'm going to be discovered as a fraud.

But in its essence, regardless of how it's been sort of bastardized by the internet over the past few years, imposter syndrome basically means just that-- a feeling that you are not in a room of your own merits, of your own hard work, of your own talent. That on some level you don't deserve to be there, whether that's a specific job or a specific social group or industry, and are basically going to be found out, unmasked, at some point as being undeserving of all of these things that you have. Now I wrote these tweets on this subject recently, which seemed to resonate, which was shared pretty widely on Instagram, which led to these follow up comments.

And I want to just take a second-- and you can pause and read them, have at it-- but I just want to take a second to contextualize that basically, my point here is that, I don't experience imposter syndrome. I've had a lot of professional projects this year that have kind of gone on behind the scenes that I won't be able to talk about until next year, both in and out of TFD, that were definitely more rigorous and more professionally and creatively demanding than I have experienced in the past. They required me to have a level of belief in myself that I probably wouldn't have had a few years ago.

But I definitely had, in these situations, a very strong feeling of like, not only do I know that this is good work that I believe in, I also am OK with feeling that way even if other people or institutions don't necessarily validate it. I'm willing to believe. I'm willing to invest in myself both literally and figuratively.

And I'm also not defined by other people's perceptions. I know my [BLEEP] is good, which is really, in many ways, the opposite of imposter syndrome. And do I think that there is an aspect of that is purely personality driven?

Maybe. I definitely am someone who has a lot of self love. I was lucky enough to be raised by two parents who are incredibly supportive of all of my various endeavors, often to a comical level.

Like my parents will be like, you're literally a princess. Everything you do is magical. Nothing you could ever do is wrong.

And I'm like, guys, let's-- some critical feedback would be helpful as well. But suffice to say, I do have all of that kind of working in my favor when it comes to my personality and how I perceive myself. And, on top of that, I do run a business, which is objectively successful, right?

The Financial Diet is profitable. It's a sizable company. It's real, like you can verify it.

I have a good salary. There are a lot of ways in which I have that level of structural validation of my work and that things are working for me. But it's important to remember that there are a lot of things that I still don't have, objectively-- there are a lot of levels of institutional validation that I've never received, that my company hasn't received, that we may never receive.

We don't get a bunch of puffy PR pieces about how amazing we are. My last book sold very, very well, but it wasn't a New York Times bestseller. There are certain circles that I don't move in.

We have lost out on many more advertising campaigns at TFD that we've pitched for than the ones we've secured. There are other people, including many deeply accursed people in the personal finance media space, who are much more objectively successful on a lot of those metrics than we are. It would be, therefore, totally understandable, and in some ways reasonable, to walk into certain rooms and to feel that sense of inadequacy-- to feel that sense of being an imposter.

But I can say, in all sincerity, that this is just not something I really experience anymore, even when on paper I'm punching above my weight class or going for something that's a bit of a reach. And again, even in moments where I'm actually being rejected. And I do think that, not only is the whole concept of imposter syndrome like extremely gendered, obviously, it does tend to at, least self-reportedly, impact women more than it impacts men.

It's a discourse that you'll generally hear more amongst women than men. It also tends to be an age thing, right? We very rarely hear about this stuff from boomers, also possibly because most of them were raised in a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome scenario when it comes to mental health care, so they don't even, maybe, have terms for things like this.

But in many ways, that sort of hyper-awareness and lexicon for these various mental health pitfalls that younger people may be experiencing, leads us to experience them more sharply or to give ourselves a label about what might be temporary experiences. For example, you may feel, in certain professional situations, nervous because you're new at it, or you're being judged harshly, or you're experiencing or rejection. But when you think about a term like imposter syndrome, a syndrome implies a much more ambient illness.

It implies that this is your relationship to your work, and not just an isolated moment in an overall life experience that is going to have tons of victories along with those downfalls. So I do think, from just a purely pragmatic perspective, using terminology like this isn't always super helpful. But on a more practical perspective, over the past several years especially, we work at TFD with a lot of large corporations-- media corporations, financial services corporations, advertising agencies, companies that are much bigger than us, much wealthier than us, much older than us, have a lot of infrastructure.

And one thing that basically anyone who's interfaced with corporate America, or any large industry, will tell you-- even some in, for example, the public sector or academia, is that these industries are filled with a lot of mediocrity-- point blank, period. And it has become surprising to me, over the years, that it is typically younger people who are going to more acutely express these type of emotions and the sense of, I'm not good enough to be here, when it is often those same young people who not only had to work so much harder to get into these positions-- because as we've discussed in other videos, we have experienced a huge inflation in, for example, the degrees required to even apply for entry level jobs, as well as the wages for those jobs stagnating, and the unpaid internships it often requires people to take in order to get into them. So even just being in the room for a younger person now requires a lot more hurdles to jump over than for previous generations.

But there is also such a higher level of demanded competency from those same young people. Most people who've worked a corporate job have worked with highly paid executives who can barely operate a spreadsheet, while an unpaid intern is expected to be able to run, like, 80 different pieces of complicated software just to have the privilege of working there for free. And when you take into account just how expensive and competitive it is to get into these entry level jobs, it's increasingly only a certain social class of person in younger generations who's able to access them.

Jobs come through connections. They come through networking. And as we've discussed in previous videos about things like the nepo baby phenomenon, it might be more visible in Hollywood, but it is certainly not limited to Hollywood.

And the ability to get a degree from a prestigious expensive school, to work the unpaid internships that will get your foot in the door, to know other people who can help get that initial foot in the door from their connections-- all of this means that even amongst that generation of younger people who have had to work so much harder to get these positions, a huge subcategory of those people already had an enormous leg up on navigating our increasingly unfair and class biased professional system. So when I think about why I don't have imposter syndrome, I often just think about it in raw terms of what I've achieved versus the things that I brought with me. Yes, there are definitely ways in which TFD could still grow, or receive accolades, or institutional validations that it hasn't yet.

But it is a profitable media company that my co-founder and I, along with the rest of our team, built from literally zero. And we didn't come with a bunch of Institutional funds. We didn't have investors.

We didn't have wealthy connected parents. We did have other privileges, which we have discussed, but based on where we came from, and the waters in which we're swimming, and the people were navigating against, where we are is more than good enough. And trusting your own judgment and using your own internal validation system is so much healthier than constantly basing it on an external set of validations that are, as we've discussed, often very skewed and unfair, but also a constantly moving goalpost.

Someone who's achieved enormous success in a given industry always has further things that they could aspire to or may not feel qualified to do. There's never a point at which we can say, OK, we've won our careers. There's nothing left to achieve, or work toward, or learn.

And frankly, if you ever did feel that way, that in and of itself would be a massive problem. But the other, and maybe even more emotionally relevant thing about this whole imposter syndrome conversation, is that the idea that you are somehow faking it until you make it, and that's a bad thing, goes against basically the very fundamental tenets of what the American dream was originally supposed to be. It used to be so much more common that people were expected to learn on the job-- that they didn't need graduate degrees just to apply for an entry level position.

There was an expectation that you learn as you go, that you are being paid for your labor, but you're also a bit of an apprentice wherever it is that you might be working. And even someone with an enormous amount of educational credentials is not going to be able to walk into an average private sector job, or really any job, and be completely proficient and prepared for every aspect of that job from day one. Everyone, to some extent, is learning.

And being able to make yourself something from nothing isn't just something not to be embarrassed of, it's something to be deeply proud of. If you're able to be in a room and you feel like you have a lot to learn from that room, that's a positive. And if you're ever in a room and feel like you are by far the smartest and most qualified person in that room, it's probably time to go to a different room anyway.

I've been told off-camera that that sounded like a Jordan Peterson quote. And first of all, I'm going to say it right now, a stopcock is right twice a day, let's start there. And B, It's true.

I don't know if he said it, but it's true either way. At the end of the day, it's very important that what we judge as valuable and worthy about ourselves, what we judge as our own skills and competencies, are much more internally based than externally motivated. Aside from the endless political games that you can often find yourself getting into at an average job, which can mean someone's own competitive interest or just not liking you, can outweigh tons of hard work and talent, it's very important to remember that in most industries, hard work and talent often have very little to do with what makes a person successful.

It's about connections. It's about resources. It's about privilege.

It's about status. Take one trip through an executive assistant subreddit and see how many of them are working for millionaire Fortune 50 CEOs who can barely use a computer. Even if you were somehow Joanne the Scammering your way through an industry, honestly, that's it's even cooler and more bad-ass because these industries, this whole game, is deeply rigged toward the already wealthy-- toward the already powerful and well connected.

If you're able to be a scrappy Upstart and bust your way into a company through your own wiles, you're amazing. They should make a movie out of you. But for the most part, when people are describing their imposter syndrome, they're mostly just describing a lack of self confidence about their own abilities that isn't at all based in objective reality.

As I said in the beginning, there is an enormous amount of mediocrity in every industry. And if you're the kind of person who is sensitive enough to the quality of your own work to be doubting that you're good enough to be in the room and be focused on improving those perceived defects to be at the level you want to be, you're probably already way better than most of the people in the room. But lastly, even if all of the rational, objective reality in the world won't erase that feeling, just remember that some legacy higher executive whose relatives for like 10 generations have all gone to Dartmouth and become CEO friends, and take each other golfing, and raise their kids on the tennis courts or whatever-- that guy who's become an executive just like 50 generations behind him, and can't even work a computer, and is like borderline illiterate-- he's not out here questioning his credentials.

He's not out here saying, do I really deserve all of these things that I have? [BLEEP] no, he's not! He is just on his private jet going to visit his second wife and the toddler that he has with her even though he's like pushing 60. That man is living.

He is living his best life. He is sipping a Margarita on the beach. He doesn't care about imposter syndrome.

He doesn't worry about whether or not he's good enough to be CEO. And honestly, you deserve to at least have a little taste of that unearned self-confidence, because you've probably actually earned it. I know I have, and I'm not going to ever doubt it again.

As always guys, thank you for watching, and don't forget to hit the subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Bye.