Imposter syndrome is the inability to believe that our success stems from our hard work and commitment, and rather believing that it was achieved because of sheer luck. No matter how accomplished or respected they are in their field of work, people who suffer from imposter syndrome will feel inadequate about their abilities and achievements. It is more pronounced in women because of a variety of factors like personal and familial experiences, stereotypes, and even labels like “the first” to have achieved something can trigger it. The syndrome was first identified in 1978.
Imposter syndrome can get in the way of one’s career progression, especially for women. Women already have the proverbial glass ceiling they need to shatter, along with doubting their abilities to do so time and again. One of the biggest reasons for the existence of the gender pay gap is because even senior women leaders are afraid of asking for a pay raise.
When women are affected by imposter syndrome, they start playing small, stop taking risks and are not assertive about what they want. A study released by KPMG LLP says that out of the 750 high-performance executives interviewed across different verticals, more than 75 percent of them admitted to experiencing imposter syndrome. The report also says that more than 74 percent of executives said that they believed that their male peers do not doubt themselves as they much as women did.
Here are a few more interesting statistics from the study that will give us a deeper insight into how imposter syndrome affects women in the workplace:
81 percent of women believed that they put more pressure on themselves not to fail than men do.
57 percent of the women executives mentioned that they experienced Imposter Syndrome when they assumed a new leadership role or rose to an executive level.
47 percent reported experiencing imposter syndrome because they never expected to reach the level of success that they achieved
56 percent of executives believe that those around them will not believe they are as capable as they are expected to be.
62 percent expressed concerns about being able to meet the corporate’s cultural expectations.
77 percent of the women in the survey said that they experience imposter syndrome when what they expected from their career is different from the reality.
Let us see how women can overcome imposter syndrome:
Stay away from seeking external validation:
Wanting external validation for everything is a textbook sign of imposter syndrome. Women should note that this validation is not from the work itself, but in the act of working itself. Do not let anyone else have the power to make you feel good or bad about yourself. It should be under your control. Make yourself feel confident by internally validating yourself.
Write down your achievements:
When you are focused on the day’s tasks and keep working on the trot, every time you make a mistake, you will start feeling under-confident and start questioning everything about your work ethic and ability. This is the time when you have to pore through a list of all your accomplishments. If you don’t already have a list of all the goals that you have achieved and the tasks you have completed successfully, then you should start from today.
Find a mentor:
It is no wonder that women feel less confident in a workplace that has mostly male colleagues. One of the problems for women to feel insecure about their ability to climb the corporate ladder is that they don’t see many women in leadership positions. Find a mentor early on, preferably someone in your industry. Share your feelings with your mentor and see what they have to offer in terms of insights about how everything works, especially if you are a woman.
Having a mentor makes you confident because what they tell you is a reflection of what others think of you, especially since women with Imposter Syndrome are overtly critical of themselves.
Have honest conversations about Imposter Syndrome:
If you are feeling inadequate, acknowledge it first instead of going on a mental tirade of self-pity and criticism. Have honest conversations with your colleagues about imposter syndrome. You will be able to find male allies who will agree with how you feel and help you in ways that could cut down the feelings of self-doubt. Once it is spoken about in the open, imposter syndrome loses its relevance.
If left unchecked, imposter syndrome can be debilitating for women who will find it difficult to carry out their roles at work. Women need to acknowledge the issue and take steps to counter it in ways that are possible.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)