Invite Yourself: The first step to dissolving Imposter Syndrome is inviting yourself to the party. Whatever that party is. Know that everyone in that room invited themselves. No one got an engraved invitation. When working with women who want to be featured in the media, this is the first skill: To stop waiting for the media to recognize you. Invite yourself.
As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing
Alexandria Abramian is a PR coach who helps women get publicity without a publicist. After a 15-year career as a magazine editor and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, OC Register, LA Times, NY Times, Elle, Architectural Digest and other publications, Alex pivoted into teaching women how to get their work featured in top-tier publications without paying for a publicist.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thank you for talking! I’m so happy to be here.
I started my career in journalism — first as a freelance writer, then as a magazine and newspaper editor for 15 years. During that time, I received more than 100,000 pitches, and the great majority, probably more than 99,000 of them, went straight to my delete folder. As for 1% of pitches that turned into published stories, profiles and features? I started seeing distinct patterns — some key components that every one of these successful pitches had in common. So I switched to the other side, from being a magazine editor who got pitched by the publicists to being a publicist who did the pitching.
Then three years ago, I started wondering, “What if people could learn how to pitch for themselves? To form their own connections with editors and writers? Was a publicist actually required?” I founded Publicity Without a Publicist to help women learn the who/what/how of getting featured in top-tier publications — without paying for monthly PR retainers.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In 2013 I was the lifestyle editor for The Hollywood Reporter and attended the magazine’s Women in Entertainment Breakfast. It was an amazing annual event at The Beverly Hills Hotel and that year, Oprah was the keynote speaker. There I was sitting with celebrities, studio executives, advertisers and other THR staffers. Oprah talked about how “power is strength over time;” how following our instincts is not optional; how at times in our lives we will go against the grain. I felt a couple of tears start to roll. Then a small stream. Then the floodgates.
Why was this making me sob? Because I was in one of the lowest moments of my life. I was drowning in my job; unsuccessfully trying to balance motherhood with too many other demands. And mostly because it had been so long since I had felt a sense of hope.
Her talk only lasted 15 minutes but it sparked something. I left that ballroom knowing it was time to move on from journalism. The great job with the endless perks, celebrity events and five-star press trips was over. Hope was kicking in.
Since my Oprah moment, I’ve continued to seek out people who are ahead of me. This could mean a book (like the amazing Work Clean by Dan Charnas that I’m currently reading) or working with my once-in-a-lifetime business coach Kelly Hollingsworth or talking to a friend who has achieved success in a certain area. All of this has helped me to develop my second career far faster than had I tried to go it alone.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There aren’t that many publicists who started out as journalists and spent as many years in editorial as I did. I think my decades on both sides of the media coin, as an editor and a publicist, brings unique value.
The other thing that’s different is that my program is built to achieve my own obsolescence. My goal isn’t to work with people for years. It’s designed so that after a few months clients are able to land amazing media placements on their own.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I decided to make the jump from journalist to publicist, offers came in pretty quickly because of my journalism background. But one stood out: Michael Kong, my former boss from Angeleno Magazine who founded Modern Luxury Media, had decided to sell his publishing company and start a new business, a tech startup. Michael not only offered me my first job in PR, he also showed me exactly how to do something entirely new without an ounce of Imposter Syndrome. We worked together for three years, during which time I saw him pivot from a 20-year career as a magazine publisher to a founder of a tiny-but-mighty tech startup. Witnessing someone fully assume a brand new profession without looking back was an incredible gift.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?
Many of us think that Imposter Syndrome is when you feel like you’re faking it, often at work. But the truth is that the term is often code for something else: For thinking you’re not good enough, smart enough, established enough, thin enough, whatever enough to belong. To belong to a profession, a social group, a family. Belonging is so important to all of us, and when we feel like we don’t, we often respond with anxiety, worry, fear of being found out. Which makes us retreat and not engage with others. Which only confirms, I do not belong. It’s a cycle that perpetuates itself. For some it lasts a lifetime.
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
When we don’t feel we belong, we often wait for something to happen or someone to grant us official entry into whatever we’re trying to belong to. To get from outside to inside. The result is more waiting.
And during this waiting, people often devote incredible amounts of time to creating yardsticks — tools that they feel can measure them as “good enough.” So many people are currently using Instagram in this way — to measuring their worth. But when you’re coming from a “not good enough” place, there truly are no number of followers or amount of engagement that can make you feel enough. There will always be someone with more.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
One of the most insidious symptoms of Imposter Syndrome is that people become focused on fitting in, instead of standing out. Why would you want to stand out if you’re faking it? You want the opposite. To not be noticed. To not be seen. And when you’re desperate to fit in, you hide the best parts of yourself.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
I was the ultimate “media outsider” growing up. We were relatively poor. I didn’t know anyone who worked at a magazine or newspaper, in radio or television. I only knew that I loved print media. From my first NatGeo Kids subscription on up to travel, lifestyle and literary publications that I still read. When I decided to become a writer, it was all cold-calling, cold-letter writing, etc. Eventually, I became a junior editor at a magazine. Then a senior editor. Then editor-in-chief of Angeleno, a luxury lifestyle magazine here in L.A. The job meant long days in the office followed by long evening and weekend events. There I’d be at fancy store openings on Rodeo Drive or moderating panels at interior design events or hosting dinners for that month’s celebrity cover. I write about it now and it sounds like an amazing job. Unfortunately, my acute case of Imposter Syndrome drained almost every ounce of delight I should have been experiencing. How could a girl from the wrong side of Santa Monica be hosting a media dinner at Cartier or the Hotel Bel-Air? It was an endless loop of: “I’m not actually this person I seem to be.” “Soon I will be discovered to be the fake that I am.” “How long can I keep this charade going???”
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
Yes! After years of suffering, I was able to eliminate my sense of Imposter Syndrome with just one realization: There is only one difference between “insiders” and “outsiders.” It isn’t a college degree. Or family connections. Or your bank balance. The only difference is that the insiders invited themselves in. To a job. To a family. To a professional group. This is the only thing needed to permanently eliminate Imposter Syndrome from all areas of your life. The only person who can let you in is you.
In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Invite Yourself: The first step to dissolving Imposter Syndrome is inviting yourself to the party. Whatever that party is. Know that everyone in that room invited themselves. No one got an engraved invitation. When working with women who want to be featured in the media, this is the first skill: To stop waiting for the media to recognize you. Invite yourself.
- Up Your Visual Game: So many women ae waiting to be younger, thinner, smoother, whatever-er in order to feel ready to belong, to be seen. Part of inviting yourself to the party is having the right photo assets that communicate your belonging. When I had my photos taken for my website, I knew I wanted to look like I already belonged to the tribe of successful business person. So I got some nice clothes and I also had a retoucher make me look younger, thinner, smoother. Seeing is believing. I love my photos. Even if my kids remind me I don’t look like them in real life!
- Mine Your Gold: There is no faster way to dispel Imposter Syndrome than mining for your own gold. What do I mean by this? This is identifying how you are an Industry of One. A Unicorn. To figure this out, take out a piece of paper with two columns: On one column list everything you provide in your business. In the second column list how each of these services, skills or offerings brings your clients unique value that they could not get from anyone else. This one step alone will help dissolve Imposter Syndrome faster than anything else.
- Spread the Word: Once you have mined your gold, it’s time to share it with the world. What do you do that’s different from everyone else? How do you provide totally unique value? These nuggets of gold can go everywhere: Your bio, social media pages, website, sales materials, speaking events. It is time to shine.
- Be a Poster Child for Belonging: Dissolving Imposter Syndrome can literally unlock your life. When you have successful accomplished it, an incredible weight is lifted: The gnawing worry, anxiety and fear of being “found out” is a thing of the past. Share this with other people. They need to know it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My goal is to help as many women as possible grow their business by learning how to stand out and shine in the media. I am building a community grounded in the collective strength and knowledge of women so that we don’t look outside ourselves for answers, but rather learn to trust our instincts to move forward, grow and connect with others.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Mega shout out to Spanx founder Sara Blakely. Every facet of her business encourages a sense of belonging. Even when you buy something online, the box has a message inside that makes you feel part of her world. The whole concept of Spanx to me says, If you’re worried about not being perfect, don’t wait. Put these control-top puppies on and get yourself to the party!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on Instagram at @alexandria_abramian
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you SO much!