A whopping SEVENTY PERCENT of people suffer from Impostor Syndrome. At some point in your professional life you have probably experienced this phenomenon. You just didn’t have a name to associate with your feelings.
In a nutshell, Impostor Syndrome occurs when high-achieving, competent people feel they don’t deserve their success. They feel like a fraud, afraid of being discovered as someone who should not be in the position they hold. One author describes it as “a nervous undercurrent that runs through your day-to-day experience, unacknowledged, only to crop up in salary negotiations or in small phrases like ‘it might just be me but….’” It should come as no surprise that the large majority of those suffering from Impostor Syndrome are women.
For instance, you are assigned a new project or get a promotion at work. There’s always going to be a learning curve with anything new, but you let a learning curve turn into full-fledged self-doubt. Left unchecked, these feelings can overwhelm you and ultimately damage to your career. Research shows women tend to apply for jobs only if they meet 100% of the requirements. On the other hand, men will apply for jobs when they feel they meet 60% of the requirements.
Now that we have a name for our feelings, how do we keep Impostor Syndrome in check?
REMEMBER IT EXISTS
Half the battle is identifying the problem. Next time these feelings of self-doubt creep into your professional life, remind yourself what you are feeling is most likely Impostor Syndrome. You are not actually inadequate or unqualified.
FORGET ABOUT PERFECTIONISM
Accept the fact that no one is perfect. This includes you (no matter how hard you try), and no one expects you to perform perfectly. Once you embrace this, you can open yourself up to constructive feedback and assistance from others which can be invaluable to your career. As an added bonus, not worrying about being perfect gets rid of A LOT of unnecessary pressure.
CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY
As women (particularly in the South), we are taught to be humble. Bragging would be tacky. This translates into a professional vocabulary filled with words and phrases that belittle the hard work we do: “merely”, “simply”, “only”, “it was no big deal”. Work on eliminating these words from your speech when you discuss your professional successes. Proudly own your accomplishments.
Research shows those who typically suffer from Imposter Syndrome are, in reality, the more talented among us. They strive for perfection, and anything less than perfect is considered underperforming in their minds. If you’re feeling like an imposter, remind yourself it’s probably because you are actually a hard working, competent professional.