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
"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.