Last year I was speaking at an organisation and was asked during the Q&A: ‘What is imposter syndrome?’ This question was asked by a young man! I had no doubt that most of the women in the room not only knew what imposter syndrome was but lived it.
KPMG conducted a study in 2020 which found that 75% of female executives have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers. The definition used for imposter syndrome in the study was:
‘The inability to believe your success is deserved as a result of your hard work and the fact you possess distinct skills, capabilities and experiences.’
In my line of work where I coach professional working mothers, it breaks my heart every time I hear yet another woman say: ‘I don’t feel good enough!’ Women just don’t feel good enough when it comes to their professional work because they constantly compare themselves to men, and it is not a level playing field. Men are held to a different standard and they do not have to do the dance of balancing the perfect household with their professional life. That particular tight rope is left for the women to walk which makes them constantly feel like they are losing on both fronts and erodes their self-confidence.
Additionally to be successful in the workplace, women have to navigate the landmines of several gender biases like performance, affinity and maternity to name a few that are often just waiting to amputate them. So is it any wonder that they are riddled with self-doubt by the time they make a breakthrough?
The big question is how can they overcome these feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy?
Here are 3 ways to overcome imposter syndrome:
1. Perfectionism is not your friend
Perfection is driven by low self-esteem and it drains you and stops you from putting your best foot forward. If you want to feel like you belong at the top, work on your self-esteem, trust that your best is always enough. By the way, you don’t have to be perfect to achieve great things. The 2019 World Heptathlon Champion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, said she experienced chronic self-doubt, even while performing at an elite level.
2. Understand your strengths and weaknesses
Know what you are good at, then decide to never doubt yourself in that area again. Period. Then understand your weaknesses, own them and aim to get better when you get a chance or recruit or outsource what you are weak in. Remember no one is 100% in everything, so having a weakness doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. You add more value by focusing on your strengths and delivering what you are strong in so don’t allow your weakness to sabotage your greatness, they are part of who you are. If it is any consolation, Michelle Obama when she was first lady said she still had imposter syndrome.
3. Take care of yourself
Everyone goes on about self-care these days but for me, if you are plagued with feelings of not enoughness, it means you are not taking care of yourself on some level. Most people expect someone to come and give them a pat on the back to say: ‘ You are doing a good job’ before they allow themselves to feel they are doing well. In the professional world, where it is fiercely competitive and people are preoccupied with their own stuff, no one has got time to come and give you that validation. You have to give it to yourself. You can only do this consistently when you value yourself enough not put yourself on the back burner and treat yourself as an afterthought. After all, why will anyone take you seriously when you don’t?
So next time you feel like an imposter know that the only person that can stop you from feeling like an imposter is you. Accept your power.
Gifty Enright, Author, Speaker, Women in the Workplace Expert
Gifty Enright, is the author of ‘Octopus on a Treadmill; Women, Success, Health, Happiness’. She is also a international Speaker who specialises in Women and Wellbeing in the Workplace. She has spoken at Multinational organisations and also given a Tedx Women’s Talk. If you want to hear more from me you might be interested in my FREE masterclass.