Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that manifests as a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud" despite evident success or accomplishments.

It often leads individuals to doubt their abilities and achievements, attributing them to luck, timing, or deception rather than their skills or efforts. This pervasive sense of self-doubt can have profound impacts not only on individuals but also on organisations and businesses.

It can hinder productivity, stifle creativity, and create a toxic work environment, ultimately affecting an organisation's overall performance and success.

Why do people experience Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. A lack of self-confidence characterises it; anxiety increases; doubts sneak in about our thoughts, abilities, achievements, and whether we deserve praise or success.

According to research highlighted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Imposter Syndrome originates from certain factors such as personality traits, family background, and individual experiences. It is not considered a mental disorder but can be linked to anxiety and low self-esteem.

Jane's story - a classic example of Imposter Syndrome

I recently worked with Jane, a highly competent and accomplished professional.

Despite receiving accolades and recognition for her work, Jane told me she constantly felt like she didn't belong and that she would eventually be exposed as a fraud.

This constant self-doubt kept her from pursuing higher-level opportunities and advocating for her ideas, limiting her professional growth.

There are benefits to Imposter Syndrome

That's right - there is some good news! Research from STEM Women suggests that experiencing Imposter Syndrome can offer unique advantages. It can lead to enhanced performance and drive as individuals work harder to overcome their self-doubt, ultimately contributing to personal and professional development.

As a leader, how do I help my people overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome involves a multifaceted approach.

Firstly, it's crucial to recognise the emotions that arise when feelings of being an imposter surface. Instead of succumbing to these emotions, we should sit with them and act anyway, pushing through the discomfort.

To achieve this, we need well-developed self-awareness and emotional intelligence. A tool like the DISC Flow Core Report can help unpack this, as it looks at both emotional intelligence and behavioural tendencies when a person is under stress and pressure.

Secondly, encourage your team member to pay attention to the stories they tell themselves about their abilities and achievements. Reauthoring these narratives can help in building self-confidence and mitigating feelings of inadequacy.

Lastly, it's important to try and remove the label "Syndrome" from Imposter Syndrome. By doing so, we can explore how our perceptions and experiences change, allowing your people to embrace their accomplishments and build a healthier self-image.

Imposter Syndrome is a pervasive issue that impacts our people and our organisations. However, if we develop our self-awareness and emotional intelligence, we can turn Imposter Syndrome into an opportunity for personal and professional development.

The outcome? Better well-being across your team, improved productivity, and higher performance.

Read more Leadership Bites

View all