Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome
As a woman, have you ever attributed your success to luck, timing, or computer error? Have you ever thought, “If I can do it then anyone can?” Do you ever worry that it’s only a matter of time before you’re found out? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone. Valerie Young refers to this as the Imposter Syndrome in her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. It happens to people (both men and women) who have a persistent belief in their lack of intelligence, skills, or competence.
There are a variety of factors that can create these feelings. Everything from your environment growing up, current workplace culture, being in a creative field, working in a company where your work is often criticized, representing a different social group, or working in another country— all of these scenarios can create feelings of being an imposter.
3 Ways to Overcome the Imposter Syndrome
Don’t wallow in faulty thinking! Here are three ideas you can start using today to overcome these unproductive thoughts and encourage you along the path towards continued growth and success.
1. Practice positive self-talk.
Too often we have negative and even false thinking creep into our heads that we start believing. We may beat ourselves up over not being as far along in our career as we think we should be. We berate ourselves for having to work a full-time job and not being the perfect classroom parent. Maybe we don’t get that promotion we thought we were perfect for. The list goes on and on. When we are disappointed or come up short, we sometimes stop trying for fear of failure.
Reshma Saujani speaks to this issue in her TED talk. Reshma reflects how she stepped outside of her comfort zone and ran for political office in New York because she had always wanted to run. She lost the election. The newspapers that once said she was a rising political star, now called her a failure since she wasted people’s money during her campaign by not winning. To her credit, she began to realize that the world would not end after losing and she would be okay. Furthermore, if she hadn’t run for political office, she would not have gone to local schools and seen firsthand how very few girls participated in computer classes. This eventually led Reshma to create Girls Who Code, ranked #1 by Fast Company’s annual list of World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019.
Next time you are tempted to beat yourself up, use positive self-talk. There will be setbacks along the way, but instead of viewing these difficulties and challenges as signs that you are not capable— use them as opportunities to grow and learn. Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone. If you are waiting for the perfect time to do something, know that there is no such thing. How you talk to yourself affects how you approach your goals.
This may also mean getting rid of the negativity in your life if it affects how you view yourself. If you are constantly comparing yourself to other people on Instagram or Facebook, it might be best to not follow them. Rather than compare yourself, challenge yourself to write down a list of your accomplishments to date or within the last 24 hours. It’s hard to be negative when you see how far you have come. Afterwards, make a list of goals you would like to accomplish. Know that your goals don’t have an expiration date. Put a plan in place for how you are going to accomplish those goals. Did you not get that promotion because you’re missing a certain skill set? Take a class. Have you told yourself year after year that you are going to run a marathon? Start running. Don’t do something for fear of failure but step out and be willing to learn.
2. Don’t think you need to know everything.
You may have heard the statistic that men will apply for jobs that they are 60% qualified for and women will only apply for jobs that they are 100% qualified for. Harvard Business Journal dug deeper into this study and found that the top three reasons for women not applying for new positions were the following:
1. “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t have the qualifications and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.”
2. “I was being respectful of the time and preferences of the person reviewing applications. They had already made it clear who they were looking for.”
3. “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications and I didn’t want to put myself out there if I was likely to fail.”
I think 60% is a good threshold for: 1) when you are applying for a job, or 2) for how much you should know about a subject to confidently speak to it. If you are in a meeting and you are not speaking up because you don’t know all the facts, ask yourself if you have 60%. You can probably speak confidently to that subject, if that is the case. If you are stuck in an endless pursuit of more training, more degrees, more certifications, etc., understand that this is a never-ending pursuit because there is no end to knowledge. Be confident in what you do know and speak to that. When you don’t know something, go find the answer. Never stop learning but have more confidence in what you do know.
3. Surround yourself with a community.
There is a reason that programs like Weight Watchers are so successful. People have a need to feel a sense of belonging. We want to know that we are not alone and that others have had similar experiences. If you do feel like you are all alone, get plugged into a community. There are so many organizations and groups. You would be hard pressed to not find something that didn’t speak to your interests and goals. Below is a personal list of communities that I have found beneficial.
+ For women in manufacturing, tech, healthcare, finance, or automotive in Michigan, check out Inforum.
+ If you enjoy reading, start a book club. We started a Women’s Book Club at DISHER with a group of 20 women. We have been reading The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young which dives deeper into the Imposter Syndrome. I have also personally enjoyed Rachel Hollis’, Girl, Wash Your Face.
As Rachel Hollis says, “This is your life. You are meant to be the hero in your own story”. Go out and be who you were made to be. Stop getting in your own way with negative self-talk or an endless pursuit of knowledge. Be confident in your 60%.
Written By: Shawna Vite, Talent Engineer
Shawna graduated with a BA in Management and Communication from Hope College. As a Talent Engineer, she partners with companies and plays professional matchmaker. She enjoys traveling and finding the next best cup of coffee.