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AJ Odudu on imposter syndrome, small wins and the importance of self-kindness
When AJ Odudu needs a confidence boost, she knows exactly who to turn to.
“Definitely my mum. I credit her for just being so strong willed and strong minded,” says the TV presenter, who grew up in Blackburn, Lancashire, with her Nigerian parents and seven siblings.
Her mother – Florence – has always been there to build her up, she explains: “Whenever I felt a wobble, whenever I felt insecure about my accent, or a particular job or whatever, I’ve always got her in my ear to say, ‘You’re great, you’re here for a reason – you wouldn’t be selected to do this job if you weren’t more than capable’.
“That is definitely a tip of mine, for people to lean into their network,” the 35-year-old adds. “Listen to your friends and family, who give you an outside perspective, who see the great person that you are, and remind you that any imposter syndrome you are feeling is going to pass, and you can’t let it hold you back.”
It’s easy to assume confidence is a constant for somebody whose career is all about being on camera. But like lots of people, Odudu – best known for co-hosting shows like The Bridge: Race To A Fortune and The Big Breakfast, as well as her impressive stint on Strictly Come Dancing in 2021 – has experienced bouts of imposter syndrome over the years.
“It’s that annoying voice in the back of our head that tells us that we don’t belong in a certain space, or that we’re not worthy – when in actual fact, we are,” she says. “I feel like it happens from such a young age, be it school, on the playground, your teenage years to your adult years in the workplace, relationships – it’s just everywhere. It really does hold people back [and] it’s just so sad to see it arise in so many different spaces.”
She has teamed up with Galaxy on a new campaign focusing on the topic, after a survey by the brand found
53% of British women relate to experiencing imposter syndrome.
The poll, which quizzed 4000 Brits, found work was the most common place for these feelings to crop up (72%). But it creeps into relationships too, with one in five women (22%) who’ve experienced imposter syndrome saying it stopped them making friends, and 24% saying it affected their romantic life.
Despite being so widespread, the majority (68%) of the women surveyed said they’ve never spoken openly about the issue, with half (50%) saying they believed imposter syndrome was just something they’d have to learn to live with.
“I definitely think it’s something we should talk about a lot more, to just really highlight the fact that women who are experiencing it, they’re not alone,” says Odudu, who hopes the campaign will “really enable and empower women to thrive”.
Galaxy has also teamed up with Young Women’s Trust, on a long-term partnership supporting the charity’s mission to help young women thrive by providing coaching. They’ve also created a How To Thrive vlog series featuring interviews with inspirational women talking about their personal experiences of imposter syndrome and tips for overcoming it (Odudu’s vlog is available on YouTube now, with further videos coming soon).
According to Galaxy’s survey, lack of confidence (63%) came out as the most common trigger for imposter syndrome, followed by people comparing themselves to others (44%) and perfectionism (30%). For 15%, social media was also identified as a trigger.
Odudu is a firm believer that we can help ourselves – and each other – overcome these things and “release” those feelings of not being worthy.
This includes “celebrating the small wins”, whatever they may be. “Give yourself a pat on the back, and really encourage others when you see them doing things well,” she says.
“I remember a friend of mine saying, ‘Well, nothing gets easier because your goals get bigger, don’t they? And you keep on pushing yourself’. And that’s the beauty – it’s all about the journey, not the destination. We’ve got to embrace the journey and really be mindful within it,” Odudu shares.
While she “definitely” thinks of herself as a “goal-getter – I’ve got almost like a mood board in my head of all the things that I want to achieve and do”, Odudu also feels it’s important to savour the moment we’re in.
“I think we’re all guilty of living in this culture where we’re constantly onto the next: what’s next, what’s our next ambition, what’s our next goal? It’s important to stop and smell the flowers, and make sure you acknowledge every single thing you’ve achieved. Once you get in the habit of doing that, you think, gosh – actually, I’m doing fine! There’s a world of abundance, that I’m part of.”
For the presenter, staving off imposter syndrome isn’t just about what’s going on at work, though. “I definitely think it’s really important to lean into all of the things that bring you joy in life. For me, it’s watching a good film, exercising, spending time with friends and family, I feel like that’s really important.
“But ultimately, I think it’s all about just being kind to yourself. We’ve got to be kind to ourselves and speak to ourselves in the same way that we would speak to our friends, which is nicely! And accepting imperfection, letting go of trying to be perfect every single time.
“Social media is a highlights reel – it’s important to remember that in the same way that I’m not perfect, no one’s perfect,” she adds. “No one lives that perfect life, and no one’s happy 100% of the time.”
Thriving means having healthy boundaries too – which might mean skipping an event from time to time. “I’m definitely a social butterfly, but I’m also someone who takes stock of how I’m feeling,” says Odudu. “If things get too much and if I’m not feeling 100%, if I’m able to take a step back then that is certainly what I do.”
Find the How to Thrive series on the @galaxychocolateuk YouTube channel.