Feel like a fraud, even when you know you’re qualified to lead? If so, you have impostor syndrome.
Fueled by an inability to internalize one’s accomplishments, this psychological phenomenon appears to be fairly common among working women, and can prevent the afflicted from achieving their goals — but it doesn’t have to.
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First of all, it’s important to understand that impostor syndrome is holding you back. There’s no way to get your ideas heard when you feel like you don’t even deserve to speak up. Unmanaged, this way of thinking will prevent you from getting the promotions, raises, and recognition you deserve.
So how can you beat a problem that’s literally in your own head?
1. Remind yourself that you belong at the table.
“As difficult as this sounds, the fact that you have a seat at the table means that you do belong,” writes Kate Matsudaira at Popforms. “If you are in the room and invited to participate it means someone who had influence believed you would have something valuable to add to the conversation.”
Matsudaira recommends affirmations and visualization to beat back creeping doubt and reassert your right to be there.
2. Know that you’re in good company.
Some of the most successful people you’ve ever heard about have suffered from this problem, including Sheryl Sandberg and World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan.
3. Interpret fear as excitement.
Turn that adrenalin into a spike of energy instead of a paralyzing wave of terror, and you’ll fuel your participation instead of grinding it to halt.
4. Preparation is the key.
Matsudaira encourages those who suffer from impostor syndrome to overprepare before a meeting. Not only will it make you feel more comfortable, it will help work out the kinks in your presentation or discussion — an advantage that non-sufferers won’t enjoy.
5. Understand that sometimes, it’s good to feel like a fraud.
According the The New York Times, researchers at Purdue found that women who scored highly on an assessment designed to identify self-styled impostors also worked harder on academic goals. In other words, because they felt like frauds, they worked harder than they would have if they felt more confident. (Men, interestingly enough, showed the opposite effect: if they felt like frauds, they didn’t try as hard.)
Other researchers found that impostor syndrome was more of a “self-presentation strategy than a personality trait” — in other words, a way to manage expectations, and then exceed them.
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