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The topic I want to talk about today is Imposter Syndrome and will discuss ways to identify this phenomenon to improve your confidence and career. I want to share some statements of what to look out for and how this shows up especially for high achievers and women. I also want to share with you some actionable strategies that will help you further manage these feelings when they do show up. Lastly, I will share my personal experience with Imposter Syndrome.
How do these statements resonate with you?
1. I attribute my success to luck and timing rather than my hard work and talent.
2. I worry that others will find out that I am as knowledgeable about this topic and they’re going to find me out.
3. I feel undeserving of my success.
4. I don’t know if others think I’m worthy to do this job.
5. At any moment I may be exposed as a fraud.
If these statements resonate with you in any way, I am going to share a few high profile people that have had similar experiences. Maya Angelo wrote “ I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ooo ho I have run a game on everyone and each time think they’re going to find me out.” or Einstein wrote, “ The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel so compelled to see myself as an involuntary swindler.”
I know that you probably wouldn't expect these statements from these high profile people and that you would think do not experience any self doubt. So you see that you are in good company.
What is Imposter Syndrome? Imposter Syndrome is a term that was coined by a couple of psychologists back in 1970. It showed this sense of inadequacy. I don't really belong here and people are going to find out. It's most common in high achievers because they are the people that are always pushing and challenging themselves. If you go to a safe job where you know what's going to happen next and know your role well, then you will experience less of this. Also, If you experience it it's a sign that you are growing and challenging yourself. It's more common amongst women but men also experience this.
How does it show up? It's different for everyone. Anxiety is a common feature whether you worry if you belong in a role, whether you’re going to do well or not etc. Also, when you prepare for an upcoming big project, and you worry that no matter how well you prepared, you will fail. Strong fear of failure. Also when you do well, you tend to momentarily push it away and move on to the next thing. You don't internalize the praise and success. Perfectionism is another symptom. It's a very high bar that you set for yourself much higher than anyone has set for you. Overall, It's the general willingness to internalize praise.
Some of this also comes from family and culture. Sometimes for men there’s a fear that they don't want to be more successful than their fathers. Or women fear that they don't want to be more successful than their husbands.
In my experience, when I was working in executive leadership positions and kept moving up the corporate ladder, the way that imposter syndrome showed up for me was as follows. I was constantly afraid of the pressure that I was feeling at the time as my responsibilities increased whether I was good enough to manage them and also felt tremendous fear that I was going to fail. Another way that this showed up for me was in my dealings with other male executives in a very male dominated environment. Especially in meetings I felt that people in the room that had higher authority and experience than me were judging whether I knew my stuff and was also afraid that If I was asked any questions, that I wasn't going to know the answers and worried about the embarrassment that they would bring. I was also praised for my achievements as a child from my father so I grew up in the identity that in order to feel worthy, I always had to achieve. Only after my self awareness and personal development journey did I become aware of this. When I was at corporate, I unfortunately did not have the language and awareness that I have now to even name the experience.
When I started my business I noticed that Imposter Syndrome started showing up again because of the new challenges and growth that I was putting myself through. However, at this time I had more knowledge about healthy coping skills and was equipped with the awareness to take action despite fear anyways. When I faced the fear and took the actions despite it and came out on the other side I always felt good and my self confidence increased. So experiencing this over and over build my resilience to just to keep on going.
How can we overcome Imposter Syndrome? We should start by measuring our own value on how you decide to see yourself. The more we see that we are responsible for our feelings the less we rely on others to validate us. Self awareness and insight is power- the more we understand the more we choose how these things impact us. Start by acknowledging the syndrome and name it to claim it. Just knowing that there is a name of it and knowing that you are not alone helps you feel better. Building on that, saying it out loud and getting it out of your head is another effective way in managing it. “In your head, and you're dead”. Has anyone heard this saying? Just saying it out loud, helps you get some perspective and gives you a chance to reframe the experience. Share your feelings with people you trust or a coach.
As women in particular, own your success. Come up with the practice of writing down your accomplishments.Some reasons for this is that this is a helpful process to use for self performance review, update your resume etc. Also, when self doubt comes through, you can read this list. You are training your brain to pay attention to the things that you are doing well. Have balanced self awareness- work on areas of development and also balance that with your strengths and abilities. Especially as women we were raised that bragging about ourselves is bad, and we have to challenge and change that, because knowing our natural strengths and abilities helps us build confidence we need to realize our fullest potential.
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