Aug 14, 2017

Is Imposter Syndrome Holding You Back?

If you’re a woman in the workforce, it’s likely that at some point you've felt in over your head.
By: Team Knix

If you’re a woman in the workforce, it’s likely that at some point you've felt in over your head (and if you haven’t, call us — we need your mojo). The difficult thing about feeling out of control, incapable, or unprepared is that it can often be hard to untangle truth from fiction when it comes to your own performance. Are you really a disaster, or are you just suffering from imposter syndrome?

“The impostor syndrome describes the countless millions of people who do not experience an inner sense of competence or success. Despite often overwhelming evidence of their abilities impostors dismiss them as merely a matter of luck, timing, outside help, charm--even computer error. Because people who have the impostor syndrome feel that they’ve somehow managed to slip through the system undetected, in their mind it’s just a matter of time before they’re found out.”  Valerie Smith, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women
Sound familiar? If so, you’re far from alone. In fact, Knixwear founder and CEO, Joanna, is no stranger to imposter syndrome. Having left a successful career in media to start her own lingerie business, she’s often found herself in situations where she’s been made to question her own competency and self-worth. Ironically, it’s often when you’re at your most successful that these feelings are strongest: “Imposter syndrome is what happens when you start to experience success and start questioning your own self-worth, whether you’re deserving and if you’re cut out for it,” she says.
So, how can you combat these negative thought patterns and focus on what really matters? Read on for four expert-approved ways we’re building confidence and silencing our inner haters.
1. Joanna likes to talk about the magic that happens when you own your competitive advantage. This means taking an honest look at where you feel you’re falling behind and where you are clearly succeeding. Maybe you’re not the best public speaker in your office, but people often come to you for help with an email or written report. Focus on how to further strengthen your writing skills, and start owning your own expertise. If you’re starting your own business and know you can’t compete with the big guys when it comes to spending, draw on your motivation and determination and outhustle and outpace those bigger fish. No one will ever be the best at all things, but learning how to focus on where you do excel — and putting your energy into defining that skill set — can make you much more confident in the long run.
2. Indulge your doubts. Rather than quieting the voice that tells you you aren’t good enough, listen to it. Let it yell at you, in fact. Do this either by gathering one or two close, supportive friends or in a journal: get out all your negativity and self-loathing. Seeing it on paper — or on your friends’ faces — can help you understand just how ridiculous your inner monologue can be. Over time, this should help you recognize the crazy thoughts as exactly that.

"While the impostor syndrome is not unique to women, women are more apt to agonize over tiny mistakes, see even constructive criticism as evi­dence of their shortcomings, and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. They often unconsciously overcompensate with crippling perfec­tionism, overpreparation, maintaining a lower pro­file, withholding their talents and opinions, or never finishing important projects. When they do succeed, they think, Phew, I fooled ’em again."

3. There’s no such thing as magic. (Sorry!) That means that wherever you are, you played a role in getting there. Start a file that catalogues your praise: positive job reviews, kind emails where someone has noted your help or accomplishments, cards from loved ones or your kids. As nice as it would be if this were true, it’s simply not possible to wish our way into success. If you’re doing well, it’s because you worked hard for it, not because some mystical forces conspired in your favor. Go back to the file whenever you question your self-worth, and gradually, you’ll begin to see yourself the way others do.

4. One of the scariest phrases in the English language is “I don’t know.” It’s also one of the most helpful. If you’ve been feeling like a fraud, it’s time to make “I don’t know” part of your permanent vocabulary. Remember that every good idea, every worthwhile invention, started with “I don’t know.” There was definitely some guy in history who asked Galileo, “What’s up with earth — square or round?” “Great question, dude! I don’t know, but let me find out for you…” If you’re in a position of power, get input from those around you to help figure out the unknowns. If your supervisor is asking, saying “I don’t know, but I’ll find out!” shows that you are both willing to ask for help and committed to making it better. By acknowledging the mysteries, you leave space to find a solution.

Photo by Olayinka Babalola on Unsplash

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