What is Imposter Syndrome?
You’ve probably heard about imposter syndrome, and you most likely have met or heard someone saying that they have experienced it. The question is, do you know what it means, and do you know the impact it can have on your professional and personal life? Imposter syndrome is defined as a psychological occurrence where a person tends to doubt his or her abilities, talents, and accomplishments. These individuals lack confidence in their skills, and they lack self-esteem and self-worth. They have an internalised fear that they are going to be found out as a fraud who is underserving of their achievements.
How do I know if I have imposter syndrome?
Note that there is a difference between having imposter syndrome and being in your “stretch zone”. When you enter your stretch zone, you are entering a new or unknown field where you have a slight knowledge and skills gap. It will then be normal to feel uncertain and therefore doubt your abilities. Imposter syndrome, on the other hand, is when you do have the competence, skills, and knowledge, but you still doubt yourself.
How people tend to respond to imposter syndrome
According to Laura, people tend to avoid the situation altogether, or they surrender to it and say, “I am just not that good”, or they go the other route and over-compensate for their “gap “and become an overachiever and do even more than what is expected from them. The problem with the third choice is that over-compensating is counterproductive because you are essentially being someone who you are not which feeds the imposter syndrome even more.
Imposter syndrome has a lot to do with your work environment. Ask yourself if your workplace is a place where you feel you can share failures or if you feel that you have to hide it. Reflect and see if you are working with a competitive group or are you are working with a supportive group.
Dealing with imposter syndrome as a manager
As a manager or leader in your work environment, you must facilitate a space for your team to be comfortable enough to come forward and share their expertise even though they lack confidence. Managers should create a supportive environment where their employees can share the things that they are uncertain about because this is vital to their growth, as well as the company’s growth.
Managers can create this space by being open about their failures and owning up to their mistakes. Creating this environment where you and your team share your failures and uncertainties, will help you to determine if your team really has a knowledge or skills gap.
Most managers think that they need to know everything and that there is no space for failure. This is another way how imposter syndrome can show up if you have an idealised image version of how you think things should be. We need to realise that being a leader is not just about your hard skills, but it is also about your soft skills and your ability to work with people.
Managers need the knowledge that is required to adequately do their job, but as a manager, you can take a step back and say, “I don’t know everything, but I do have people in my team that know more than me in certain areas.” You should think of a way how you can bring your diversely-skilled team together and make them feel comfortable to share their different expertise in order for them to develop.
What to do if you experience imposter syndrome
Look at the situation from an external view
Reflect and ask yourself where is the evidence for all these feelings that you are feeling and what are the facts that showcase your so-called “inabilities”
Compare yourself to 5 years ago and see how much you have grown and developed
Don’t dismiss what you have already achieved
A little self-compassion comes a long way. Don’t be too hard on yourself- self-criticism is important but being compassionate and fair with yourself is critical if you want to combat imposter syndrome.