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Charliiy Berry journal: imposter syndrome

Rider journals 2021: Charliiy Berry #04/October

Charliiy Berry is one of nine riders keeping a journal for The British Continental in 2021. Charliiy rides for the elite Pro-Noctis – Redchilli Bikes – Heidi Kjeldsen team and is a full-time physiotherapist. In her fourth journal entry, Charliiy talks frankly about imposter syndrome…

“Before you can win, you have to believe you are worthy.

It has taken me a while to write. I kept thinking ‘who wants to listen to me drivel on?!’ Especially when other journal writers have been having a much more interesting and successful time.

It’s a feeling I get often: ‘why do I matter? I don’t deserve to be here.‘ It’s a horrible feeling to have. Feeling that any second you will be found out; ‘I’m not actually that great on the bike and it’s all going to be taken away.

Second at Curlew, my best National Road Series result to date … I didn’t feel I deserved it, however

Imposter syndrome is common among high achievers… apparently. Common signs that you are affected are that:

  • you often attribute your success to luck rather than ability (that’s me)
  • you often have a fear you will be ‘found out’ (that’s me)
  • your berate your own performances (me again)
  • you suffer from self-doubt (err, that’s me too!)
  • you fear you won’t live up to expectation (definitely me)
  • you are unable to realistically assess your competence and skills (oh, and that one’s me as well!).

Most people don’t discuss imposter syndrome because the condition involves a fear of being found out. Why would you air your worries and further risk revealing that you are a fraud!? On the other hand, staying quiet is also ‘feeding the monster’ as such, so what’s going to help? Talking about it. So here I am. 

Picture by Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com – 26/09/2021 – Cycling – HSBC UK National Road Series – Beaumont Trophy 2021 – Abi Smith of Team TIBCO SVB (1st Place), Charliiy Berry of Pro-Noctis Redchilli Bikes Heidi Kjeldsen (2nd Place) and April Tacey of Drops Le Col supported by Tempur (3rd Place) on the Curlew Cup podium.

Second at Curlew, my best National Road Series result to date, albeit a single place higher than in the same race in 2019. I didn’t feel I deserved it, however.

I hadn’t broken away solo, I hadn’t lit up the race, it wasn’t anything superhuman. I wanted more from myself

My team had worked hard to take me to the finish in the best way possible and I just finished the job… or tried to. I hadn’t broken away solo, I hadn’t lit up the race, it wasn’t anything superhuman. I wanted more from myself. It was an odd feeling post-race.

I was so torn between being happy with a result that I never thought would happen again after Ireland, ecstatic to be finally getting my head back into racing, but equally feeling undeserving and disappointed. Post-race comments were made about other riders’ performances being even more impressive as they didn’t have teammates. I just read that this meant my ride was unworthy.

Picture by Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com – 26/09/2021 – Cycling – HSBC UK National Road Series – Beaumont Trophy 2021 – Abi Smith of Team TIBCO SVB wins the 2021 Beaumont Trophy, with Charliiy (right) in second

Performance-wise, I had done so well. I have been struggling with my head since Ireland. It can be terrifying hurtling around the countryside in a bunch. My post-race debrief with our team psychologist Steve helped though: ‘forget what others may say, chuck their opinions in the f**k it bucket, focus on performance goals, and celebrate said performance goals.’ 

I have been reminding myself that no one is perfect and that being the best all of the time at everything is unrealistic and unachievable

I have been reminding myself that no one is perfect and that being the best all of the time at everything is unrealistic and unachievable. Even the van Vleutens, van der Breggens and Vos’s of the world are not perfect. Seeing Vos come second twice in the past few weeks has helped somewhat. I mean, if Vos can’t be perfect… ‘better not best.’ So here I am, trying to be my best self, still slipping up, still needing to keep myself in check. Just remember, in order to perform at your optimal level, you must first feel worthy about taking to the start line.

Featured photo: James Little

Find out more

Charliiy Berry journal #3: the long-awaited return to racing

Charliiy Berry journal #2: let’s talk about Jay

Charliiy Berry journal #1: how to get through injury

Rider journals 2021: introducing Charliiy Berry

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