Jane was recently promoted to a managerial position in her organisation. She was thrilled by the opportunity at the beginning, but she is now weighed down by feelings of being inadequate. Not being good enough. She is anxious that she may be unable to meet the expectations of senior leaders in her organisation. She feels like a fraud soon to be discovered and her abilities questioned. Jane is having the Imposter Syndrome.
The term imposter syndrome was coined by two psychologists in 1978. They observed that some high achieving individuals have a secret sense that they can’t live up to others’ expectations. Instead of seeing their failures and mistakes as performance feedback, they deeply personalize them. They may think their success is based on luck or timing, not their own experience, skills, or other qualities.
Imposter syndrome is most common among women leaders who feel undeserving of the success they have achieved. Imposter syndrome is a negative state of mind which can be overcome by adopting new ways of thinking and acting.
Discuss your feelings
Imposter syndrome is more common when people take on new or challenging roles, or when they are surrounded by high-achieving individuals. Sharing your insecurities with a person you trust and respect can help you separate what’s real from your perceptions of insecurity.
Review your self-talk
Do you attribute your achievements to your competence when it is the case or do you find other reasons such as luck or help from others more satisfying? Negative self-talk breeds disempowerment and feelings of being an imposter. It causes self-sabotage and holds back action. So, practice empowering self-talk especially in moments of self-doubt. Replace “I’m the wrong person for this job,” with “I have a lot to offer in this position.”
Take inventory of your strengths
Take the time to make a written list your strengths and what you contribute. Ask others for input, and refer to the list in times of self-doubt. If you’re in a new role, remember that you were chosen for a reason. Most people often overestimate their abilities; but people with imposter syndrome underestimate theirs.
Trying to be perfect and feeling that you need to “know it all” is unrealistic and can be costly on a personal level. Perfectionists typically believe anything short of a flawless performance all the time is unacceptable. But none of us can live a mistake-free life. Those with imposter syndrome hold themselves to impossibly high standards and feel shame, insecurity, and low self-esteem when they fail to meet their own expectations. Remember, progress, not perfection, is what really matters.
Especially in today’s knowledge society, having relevant skills for the market is more important than ever. Be honest about what you know and don’t know. Seek advice from experts. Small doses of fear and feelings of inadequacy are useful emotions as they remind us to work on building our competencies. The simple act of saying, “This is new for me, and I’m working hard to learn” can be empowering and communicates authenticity.
Be comfortable with discomfort
New experiences come with fear; but, remember to feel the fear and do it anyway. Fear is a useful emotion as long as it doesn’t escalate to the level of paralysing action. People with imposter syndrome are generally intelligent and capable but lack self-confidence. Practice and preparation are key antidotes. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said; “… anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.”
Do not let imposter
syndrome keep you from excelling. Like many people out there, you sometimes
have to fake it until you make it.
This article was originally published on The Citizen Tanzania
By Epiphania Kimaro on 18 Aug 2020