After listening to Tiffany Dockery speak at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on an inadequate feeling know as “Impostor Syndrome.” According to Wikipedia, Impostor syndrome (also spelled imposter syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud”. Now that is DEEP!
I have found myself, on more than one occasion feeling this way. As recently, as 5 months ago I started to deal with this exact feeling. I keep thinking “what If I am not as good of a recruiter as they think I am”, and “what if I don’t know what I am doing and they find out.” Despite trying to come off extremely confident for my employer, peers, and client, I was terrified internally. I wasn’t sharing this feeling with anyone, and started to be a real downer. Finally, I started to confide in a mentor of mine and he was able to reiterate my success and validate my abilities, but most importantly he told me to stop doubting myself. Everyone else knew my abilities and valued my strengths, the problem was with me. It was in that moment, that I started to turn around and realize that I am not stupid and do know what I am doing.
Fast forward 6 months and my mentor was having the exact same issue and was venting to me! Thank goodness it was after Tiffany’s presentation, because I knew just what to say and was able to identify that he was dealing with “Impostor Syndrome.” More than likely you or someone you know will go through this as well. The most common trait of that I have noticed is when someone starts apologizing for every little thing. Being asked a simple question like “Hey John, did you send me that presentation?” If John is battling impostor syndrome he may answer like this, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I haven’t sent it yet.” Why is he sorry? A simple “No, I haven’t sent it yet, I will get it out by noon,” would have sufficed. Another thing I have noticed is that people dealing with this may stop speaking up. They may become quiet in peer meetings and you will notice that they stop offering up their ideas. These are just a couple common signs that they may be feeling inadequate.
Who is affected by this overwhelming feeling? The impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achievers. That’s right… high achievers! The cream of the crop is most affected by this madness. For companies that are sales driven and very progressive with performance management, I would suggest tackling this issue early on with your employees. Another demographic group that often suffers from this phenomenon are minorities (specifically African Americans and Mexican Americans). Being the beneficiary of affirmative action may cause a person who belongs to a visible minority to doubt their own abilities and suspect that their skills were not what allowed them to be hired.
Most people who experience impostor syndrome are unaware that others feel inadequate as well. Imagine how shocked I was to hear my mentor doubting himself? I had no idea that he felt inadequate and he was able to get vulnerable with me. The most prominent way to manage imposter syndrome is to discuss the topic with other individuals early on in the career path. Get a mentor! And Become a mentor! Mentors can discuss experiences, where impostor syndrome was prevalent. Clear your mind and take time to think. Reflecting upon impostor feelings is key to overcoming this burden. Make a list of accomplishments, positive feedback and success stories will also aid to manage impostor syndrome. Finally, developing a strong support system, that provides feedback on performance and has discussions about imposter syndrome on a regular basis is imperative for those experiencing inadequate feelings.
There are so many articles and reports on impostor syndrome. Please remember, you are not alone, and you are such a badass at what you do, that its common to feel a little inadequate under all that awesome! You are amazing and don’t you forget it! Follow me on twitter for more information on Impostor Syndrome! @Its_Rozi