Do you feel like a fraud who doesn’t deserve the promotion or new job you’ve been given?
You might suffer from impostor syndrome, a phenomenon that can cause even the most capable professionals to struggle with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. As many as 70 percent of successful people have experienced impostor syndrome, including Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg.
Impostor syndrome sufferers live in fear of being exposed as a fraud, exhibiting self-limiting behaviors such as isolation and risk aversion as defense mechanisms. Yet, these defenses can derail your career. For example, a woman suffering from impostor syndrome might be less effective at negotiating a higher salary or asking for a raise. Worse yet, she may miss out on career advancement opportunities if fear and doubt prevent her from taking on new challenges.
Women must recognize how impostor syndrome can lurk quietly in the background to limit their true potential. JJ DiGeronimo, president of TechSavvyWomen, says impostor syndrome can appear whenever a person feels ill-equipped to complete a task or responsibility or is promoted before they think they’re ready.
How can we break free from the false narrative of impostor syndrome?
Bank On Your Victories
Do you have a “nagging” feeling that others are more qualified than you? This mindset can hinder your career if it prevents you from taking on bigger roles. It’s been noted that men apply for jobs they’re 60 percent qualified for while women only apply for jobs in which they meet 100 percent of the requirements. DiGeronimo says taking a close examination of how you’re feeling and what you’ve truly accomplished can help you work through uncertainty. Bolster your confidence by keeping a list of your career successes and use it as a tool to quiet feelings of doubt when impostor syndrome creeps in. As your victory list grows, so will your confidence.
Bulk Up Your Risk Muscle
Risk aversion associated with impostor syndrome can keep women operating under the radar where they feel they’ll be less likely to be “found out.” However, skills growth comes from diving into new opportunities. According to DiGeronimo, women build their risk muscle by tackling greater challenges than they think they can handle. These small projects can bring positive results that boost self-confidence. Develop inner strength by establishing yourself as a thought leader. Become an event speaker. Publish an article on LinkedIn. Or step into the limelight with your own podcast or blog.
Build Your Cheer Squad
Impostor syndrome is not based in reality. Negative self-talk can make you believe the false narrative. DiGeronimo says the only way to leap from impostor syndrome to a positive self-image is to drown out the negative thoughts. It’s important for women to surround themselves with supportive people, career catalysts who can help you see your true value and capabilities. When impostor syndrome strikes, these cheerleaders keep you focused on your accomplishments and help you work through your fears.
Women who advance in their careers quickly or who work in male-dominated professions, where they’re less likely to have female role models, can be more prone to impostor feelings. Recognizing the false narrative and taking active steps to separate fact from fiction can reduce the impact, and help women develop more confidence in taking risks—and owning their career status.