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Ghost The Imposter In You

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The Problem With The Imposter In You

When a new opportunity presents itself at work, it can be exciting to think about getting recognition or being considered for a raise, promotion or new responsibility. But if you are like an estimated 70% of the population (according to Gallup) , you're feeling like an imposter and don't enjoy it or take action.

The term imposter syndrome is a misnomer. Clinically, a syndrome is a disorder with a diagnosis. This is "more accurately known as 'impostor phenomenon,' a term coined in the late 1970s by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. In a study of 150 highly-accomplished women, they noticed that the women frequently confessed to feeling unintelligent and unworthy of their success, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary." Psychology Today.

The problem is also that people who identify with imposter syndrome often have higher levels of uncertainty, anxiety and depression.

It's not what you are that holds you back, it's what you think you are not. Denis Waitley

The Upside Of The Imposter In You

The opposite of imposter syndrome is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is where people assess their ability as greater than it is. There is a high correlation between those assessing that they are better but actually being worse, or incompetent.

With imposter syndrome, there is an extremely high correlation between those that feel like a fraud but are actually highly competent. Fear of failure, caring what others think, or even anxiety-inducing perfectionism drive them to be better. In his book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?: (And How to Fix It), Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic shows that some of the world's best leaders saw themselves as lower performers than they were.

Identifying The Imposter Looking Back In The Mirror

One of the best ways to take away the power something has over you, is identifying and naming it. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Dr. Valerie Young highlights 5 types of imposter syndrome:

  • The Perfectionist - They have such high expectations for themselves that even small mistakes will make them feel like a failure.
  • The Superwoman/Superman - They put in longer hours, never take days off and must succeed in all aspects of life in order to prove they are the “real deal.”
  • The Natural Genius - They are used to things coming easily, so when something is too hard or they don’t master it on the first try, they feel shame and self-doubt.
  • The Soloist - They don’t like to ask for help, so when they do, they feel like a failure or a fraud.
  • The Expert - They continuously seek out additional certifications or training because they feel as though they will never know enough to be truly qualified.

While you may feel as though you fit into more than one of these subgroups, the majority of us can identify with at least one of them. Figuring out which one is being triggered in you, will help you decide which tools to use to help you get past it.

Top Ways To Get Rid Of The Imposter In You

  1. You are not alone. Knowing this allows you to reach out to others for support and knowing that many successful women (and men) before you have felt the same way, boosts your confidence and pushes you out of your comfort zone into embracing opportunity.
  2. Embrace your imposter. By embracing that you imposter exists, you take away its ability to negatively affect you. As Michelle Obama said “eventually, I just got tired of always worrying what everyone else thought of me,” she said. “So I decided not to listen.”
  3. Count on your success. With the widespread exposure from social media and the increase in exposure the higher you go, imposter syndrome today may rear its head more fiercely and more often. After publishing her 11th book Maya Angelous said “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody.” Banish the guilt by embracing your platform and your success.
  4. Believe in yourself. Counter balance the feelings of incompetence and negativity with positive thoughts and examples of competence. Talk to a friend. Keep your own list of accomplishments. Have a partner, friends or family who help boost you back up. The more you can keep your confidence bank account filled up, the more you can ignore your feelings of incompetence.

This article was first published by our partner network member: AVA an action-oriented learning community for ambitious professional women. 

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half the sky (HTS) is a career platform for women in Asia. We connect women to career opportunities at companies that care. We also want to equip you with information, tips and strategies to navigate the workplace today and the future.

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