You have years of experience – accolades from peers and colleagues. Yet, you suffer from chronic self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Are you unable to recognize your accomplishments, regardless of your success? If so, you may be suffering from Impostor Syndrome, an insidious disease that afflicts high-performing professionals in every field.
Although both men and women can be afflicted with this, it is far more prevalent in women. It is estimated that 70% of professional women suffer from Impostor Syndrome. Here are some common symptoms:
You worry you won’t live up to expectations. This is the most obvious and most prevalent. It’s the fear that you are not “good enough.”
You avoid projects in which you might really shine. A stand-out project comes with a certain degree of risk, a risk that you avoid to maintain the status quo. You worry incessantly about diminishing the quality of the status quo.
You attribute your success to other factors. It’s luck, happenstance, or fortune. Not your efforts and abilities. You minimize your role in your success.
You worry about being “discovered.” At their core, people affected by Impostor Syndrome fear that they will be outed, and identified as frauds. As a result, they take great precautions to ensure this won’t happen, often expending energy and resources on unnecessary and meaningless tasks.
You are not challenged in your current role. Your present position doesn’t light your fire, but you’re terrified at the prospect of a role that would challenge the way you think and execute. As a result, you might stay in an unsatisfying role for a protracted period, being held back by fear.
You undervalue your worth. This is a huge problem, particularly for women. You tend to downplay the value of your skills, experience, and abilities. At your core, you don’t believe you deserve better.
You focus on tasks rather than results. Tasks are concrete and easy to manage. Results are a bit more amorphous and require more effort. While you’re not afraid of effort, you live in abject fear of failure. As such, you gravitate toward that which comes most easily and with which you’re most comfortable.
The bottom line
Impostor syndrome kills productivity. Seeking out a supportive team environment in which everyone is valued can help, but is often difficult for an employee to do. Savvy managers and leading organizations can help by establishing cultures of authentic leadership, where individuals are recognized for their unique contributions. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual suffering from Impostor Syndrome to work to overcome it. You can do this by finding a mentor, seeking professional help, managing expectations, or by redirecting your internal conversation and focusing on what you objectively do well. In the end, your efforts will benefit not only your organization but your psyche as well.