What is ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and How to Tackle it
What is it?
Experienced by many people and particularly by women in high-level professional settings ‘imposter syndrome’ is when a person does not believe they are as competent as others think they are. This can lead them to think that they don’t deserve their successes and achievements and to feel like a fraud. Imposter syndrome causes a person to devaluate their self-worth and to doubt their abilities and capacity to do things, despite their expertise. It can be especially felt by people who have tendencies towards perfectionism. When receiving a job promotion or an award people suffering from imposter syndrome may feel that they have been wrongly rewarded and that others deserve the achievement more than them.
Do you have imposer syndrome?
There are varying levels of this mindset and very often individuals are not aware that they may suffer from it.
Have you ever doubted yourself and your capacities? Have you ever thought ‘I don’t belong here, I am a fraud!’ Have you ever thought your colleagues or fellow classmates are more qualified than you are? Have you ever been terrified that you won’t live up to expectations and maybe even refuse a task/position because you are afraid to disappoint? Have you ever thought your success was due to external factors?
Do you recognize yourself in these situations? Then you may have imposter syndrome! But don’t worry, according to a study by KPMG, 75% of professional women have experienced some level of self-doubt in their life and career. In addition, although it is called a ‘syndrome’, it is not a pathological condition, you are not sick. This article will help you understand why you may sometimes feel out of place and will give you tips on how to overcome this feeling of inadequacy.
Why are women more often affected?
It is no surprise that women, and particularly women in power positions, suffer from it more than men as there are less role models normalizing women’s ability and legitimacy to belong in leadership positions. As such, women aiming for success put the bar very high and set themselves goals which are very hard or even impossible to attain. When the goal is not achieved it leads to disappointment and a loss of self-worth.
Women also put a great amount of pressure on themselves to prove to themselves and to others that they do have a place in the professional sphere - especially when working in fields dominated by men, like technology, engineering or science. It can be more difficult to feel like you belong a room with men who have been told since their young age that they can be engineers and who have internalized this.
Finally in societies where gender inequality prevails, women have often been brought up to fulfill gender roles and expectations which can expect them to keep a household running, care for children and the elderly whilst successfully holding a job. Pressure to wear these many hats can make them feel and internalize like they are ‘failing’: the imposter syndrome.
How can I tackle it?
Fighting against a feeling of imposter syndrome can take a while and won’t happen overnight but here a few tips and tricks to recognize your worth and grow in confidence.
- Change the way you talk, it will change the way you think. When you have the expertise, say less of ‘I think this is how it is done’ and more of ‘I know this is how it is done’. These tweaks in language will gradually make you believe more in what you are saying and so believe more in yourself and your abilities.
- Make a list of your achievements and successes and refer to it when you self-doubt, remind yourself that you and only you have come this way, luck or external factors have not made you who you are, you have.
- Ask for feedback when you give a presentation; ask your colleague or your friend what they thought of you in a moment when you felt out of place or like a fraud. You will quickly realize no one perceived you as an imposter.
- Don’t strive for perfectionism because no one and nothing is perfect! If you aim for perfect you will never be satisfied because it is unattainable, give yourself attainable goals and write down each step that has brought you closer.
- Talk about it with friends and colleagues, you are not the only one feeling this way, and you may find out that the one person that always intimidated you also suffers from it! Talking about it puts the imposter syndrome back in its place: it is a FEELING and not a reality.
We hope this article has helped you understand what is imposter syndrome and that these tips can help you tackle this feeling and restore your self-confidence.
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Womenpreneur is a Brussels based NGO organizing activities in Belgium and in the MENA region. Since 2016, we have launched several initiatives and projects which aim to boost women’s economic participation and engagement in entrepreneurship and tech, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have reached and empowered more than 15 000 women since 2016.
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