Autism, Embracing Neurodiversity, Personal Stories

How I Manage Impostor Syndrome as Someone who is #ActuallyAutistic

In my last article I talked about impostor syndrome and how all my life I have struggled with this and feeling like I am a fraud who will be exposed at any moment for not being good enough. In this article I will share a few things that I’ve done to help me manage it as someone who is #ActuallyAutistic:

I turned my obsessions into my work

The things that I am interested in, whether they be for my work or my hobbies, are not just interests they are obsessions. I must know every single tiny detail about the rock band Queen and Freddie Mercury, I am obsessed with everything there is to know about cyber security, hacking and data security and I am fascinated with everything to do with nuclear war as examples.

When I was diagnosed as being #ActuallyAutistic I realised why I had these obsessions and why I was so focused on them. So instead of hiding them I embraced them. I “came out” as #ActuallyAutistic and I shared those interests and obsessions to the world. It was scary, but once I did this, I realised that I could be a thought leader and an authority on those subjects.

This was especially true for my obsession with cyber security. I had always had an interest in this and in hacking, technology and gadgets from when I was married to my ex-husband. This interest grew when I joined his software development company in 2009, and when we separated and subsequently divorced in 2012, I knew I wanted to stay in the industry.  Today I run the UK Cyber Security Association and I am a cyber security thought leader, keynote speaker and published author/blogger. I’ve even won awards for my work!

I speak up at events and in meetings

A big part of my impostor syndrome was the fact that I would never speak up or voice my thoughts and opinions. To combat that I applied to speak at conferences, round tables and to be a chairperson and panellist at events. This was also very scary and took me well out of my comfort zone, but I’m pleased to say that I’ve conquered my fear somewhat by doing this. I still do have those thoughts in my head that I am not good enough, but I try to stop them in their tracks when they happen.

Later this year I am speaking at a few cyber security related events and instead of keeping quiet about my thoughts and opinions, I will be sharing them in front of large audiences. It is a very liberating feeling!

I play to my strengths

When I was diagnosed as #Actually Autistic I had a full audit of my skills and abilities. I listed them all in a notebook and as I did so the thoughts of my not being good enough at them were ever present in my head.

I made a conscious decision that I would try to drown out those thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. I also made a conscious decision to focus on the skills I have that I know I am good at which include writing, cyber security, blogging, content marketing, marketing, events and promotion. Writing permeates into every aspect of my life, and I can’t live without it. I’ve been published in trade magazines and even the national press, so I know that deep down this is a skill I am good at.

Fortune favours the bold

Those four words are ones that resonated with me the moment I heard them spoken when I first saw the Queen and Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I love Queen and Freddie to the point of blind obsession, and I couldn’t WAIT to see the film. I’d heard those words before, but they didn’t click with me fully until I heard them in “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Since then I have been bold and asked for things that have helped to progress my work and my career. I have asked people who I have admired in the cyber security industry if they would mentor me, and they said yes. I asked leading figures if I could interview them for my blog and the UK Cyber Security Association website, and they said yes, and I did it. I could go on, but I think you get the idea!

It pays to be bold and ask for things. I would NEVER ask for things in the past for fearing that I would be exposed as a fraud at any second, but now I do. Instead of worrying about being an impostor I say to myself instead, “What’s the worst that can happen? They say no. If they do that’s fine, just walk away and say next.”

For me, especially in the last year or so, fortune really does favour the bold.

Managing my impostor syndrome is not easy, and it takes a lot of work on my part to drown out those thoughts and to not feel like a fraud, but it is getting easier since my autism diagnosis. I finally understand myself much better and what makes me tick, and I hope that with time I will be able to combat my impostor syndrome once and for all.

I hope these tips help if you suffer from impostor syndrome. Please share any other tips that you have for combating it, I’d love to hear from you!

We are always looking for people to share their experiences or thoughts on topics related to Neurodiversity. If you have something that you would like to share, then please get in touch.

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About Rosemarie Simmons

Rosemarie Simmons was diagnosed as autistic in 2018 at the age of 44. Neurodivergent & proud, she uses her experiences to raise awareness of autism & living in a world that is set up for neurotypicals