Two sides of the same sword
Words by Hayley Bolding
By encouraging others to promote themselves, you are not only setting precedent for others but also reminding yourself.
It felt like a first date, I had sweaty palms and butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I was nervous. What if I don’t recognise her? What if she doesn’t recognise me? Worse, what happens if she doesn’t like me? I was imagining every worst-case scenario I could come up with, inevitably ending in my humiliation. I was meeting Hayley Bolding, a very impressive woman with a very impressive title - Hayley Bolding OAM. In the Australian honours system, appointments to the Order of Australia confer the highest recognition for outstanding achievement and service. So when I mean I was meeting an impressive woman, I certainly was. The meeting was not like I had imagined it at all, well… not entirely. I arrived at the coffee shop, scanned the room and, thinking I couldn’t see Hayley, sat down at a table. After sending her a text, she turns around from the table in front of me, grins a huge smile and waves me over - I hadn’t recognised her. We hit it off instantly. I was there to talk about Artemis and our current theme of humility, Hayley had mentioned she would like to talk around imposter syndrome and we felt like the two themes connected and there could be a good article in there somewhere. I was aware that it was I that was supposed to make Hayley feel at ease but it was really she that made me relax. She was immediately warm, funny and chatty. It only took a matter of minutes for us to delve into a conversation, flitting between the topic of the missing middle and women's challenges within the workplace. Hayley is clearly a smart, driven and passionate individual. The topic of imposter syndrome came around naturally as we began speaking about her nomination for the OAM. You see Hayley informed me that it was mainly old white men that received this accolade and she’s not lying, delve into the archives and you get a list of names that goes something like this, Keith, Glenn, Francis and Ken. But what astounded me most was the fact that a lot of the men being nominated for this prestigious award were in fact, nominating themselves. And there it was, the perfect entry point into the conversation of imposter syndrome. B: Imposter syndrome is an interesting topic to tackle - why did you choose it? H: It was around the time of receiving the award, we were at the fancy awards night and I got pulled to one side by a woman and she asked me to speak on my nomination and to actively encourage women to nominate one another, she wanted to change the system, get more women recognised. It was also then she informed me of the fact that the men actually nominate themselves. I was astounded, like you; utterly shocked by the revelation. At the time of receiving the award, I was suffering massively from imposter syndrome. It felt like a good topic to talk about. B: Clearly, you have been personally affected by imposter syndrome, would you like to delve deeper, tell us a little about the experience and how it affected you? H: Someone, I don’t even know who, which is the most irritating thing, but someone who knows how to play the game nominated me, which is important. The whole process takes a couple of years, my boss at the time actually wrote a reference and it was a year and a half before I found out about the nomination and reference. The first thought that raced through my brain was why would you have done that for me, little old me? The awards get announced on Australia Day, I had prior knowledge and needed to write something on LinkedIn, thank goodness I had some media type friends, who know this world well, so were they more than happy to write and put that together for me as I wouldn’t have been able to do it for myself, it's so difficult to write about yourself, you feel like such a dummy. With this sort of thing, you have to promote yourself but the internal monologue makes you feel like you are bragging. Humility and imposter syndrome are simply two sides of the same sword. B: Oh agreed, it is so hard to talk about yourself without feeling arrogant, but do you think that is because imposter syndrome is just a female thing, or is it related to the culture or the society we live in? H: Oh yes, all of the above, I think I have a good healthy dose of being female, middle class and Australian, I would say that they are the key ingredients in the imposter syndrome pie. What I find irrational is that I don’t begrudge anyone that shares their successes publicly, I'm the first person to share my congratulations but when it comes to myself I get so embarrassed. But from where I’m sitting, I definitely think that you are more likely to suffer with imposter syndrome as a female. There are big systemic things holding women down, the patriarchy and all that. B: So did you or have you managed to overcome imposter syndrome? H: No, unfortunately not, I still suffer from it, it's a vertical climb. I really have to make a conscious effort to try and overcome it, I don’t think talking about myself will ever to naturally to me.
I definitely think that you are more likely to suffer with imposter syndrome as a female. There are big systemic things holding women down.
B: Have you got any advice on how others might overcome their imposter syndrome? H: Well to start, get over your middle-class guilt! But in all honesty, the only way to overcome imposter syndrome is to help others get through it. By encouraging others to promote themselves, you are not only setting precedent for others but also reminding yourself. I often do for others what others can do for me. Whenever you know someone needs to be recognised or you can drop the topic into a conversation, or nominate could them, do it, do all the things that you don’t do for yourself. This feels like a very female approach and solution to this. Another thing is I try to remember is the hashtag I created ‘#noonecares’. Public speaking is a great example of this coming into practice, you have to get over yourself and think “this isn’t about me, I have a job to do and that is to entertain these people.” In the long run none of those people are going to remember you and most of what you said, ultimately if they can remember one thing that I/you say, we’ve done our job and a good one at that, we are simply the vehicle to drive the education. I often think if I’m going to see a speaker, I don't’ want to be them to seem nervous, I want to be inspired. I think the most important thing to remember is that you have been asked for a reason, trust the people that have picked you. B: Artemis is currently tackling the theme of humility, I think it relates quite closely to imposter syndrome, would you agree? Does humility and imposter syndrome go hand and hand? H: That’s a great question, so what you are asking is there a link between a lack of worthiness and humility? Am I being humble because I am humble or am I being humble because of its a cover for lack of worthiness or low self-esteem? Being humble isn’t really a characteristic you describe yourself as is, instead, you get described as someone humble, someone who has humility and being humble is definitely seen as a positive characteristic. It’s interesting because if we go back to the award, I was nominated because what other people see is this amazing achievement but what I see isn’t even close to what I had set out to do. Is it the same as humility do you not know that you are humble unless someone describes you as it, people see it in you. But is what people see as humility actually you surfacing your lack of confidence or self-esteem is being mis-interpreted? I’m not really sure how to answer that but I definitely think the two are connected in some way.
Hayley Bolding OAM is a serial social entrepreneur who is passionate about education and preparing the next generation to thrive. She is passionate about all things travel especially to her second home India. Fun fact she is also a Colour analyst @coloursbyhayley in her spare time and is determined to get people to stop wearing so much black 😂. Hayley works with edtech company Practera, is founder at @atmaorg and was awarded a OAM in 2019 for her work in development across Australia and Asia. @hayleybolding
The purpose of Artemis is to increase the range and diversity of stories shared and written by women. Therefore, Artemis has one rule, nominate! To write for us you must either nominate someone or have been nominated, so if know you a woman who has a great story to share, fill in the details below!