Many highly successful women battle with self-doubt. They secretly think that their success is due to luck, that they’re not qualified for the positions they hold, or that they’re failing at their job. These beliefs are unfounded and inaccurate and are symptoms of impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome can take a variety of forms, but they all share a pattern in which an individual downplays or doubts their skills and accomplishments and fears that others will discover that they are a ‘fraud’. Impostor syndrome is more likely to affect women with a high need for perfection and control. Unreasonable goals and the tendency to take on too much set them up for failure and, when they fail, impostor syndrome creeps in. Perfectionists tend to be hard on themselves if they’re not immediately successful. They are also less likely to celebrate success and achievements, which leaves them more vulnerable to self-doubt.
Impostor syndrome can also be triggered as a result of an event. For example, getting a promotion at work, particularly if you are selected over other highly qualified candidates, can create self-doubt. This can manifest into a sense of guilt because you don’t believe you deserve the promotion or fear that others don’t believe you should be in the position. If you’re experiencing imposter syndrome as a result of a promotion you should revisit the process. It’s likely that you’ve had a consistent track record of success in your job and have excellent performance reviews to prove it. Your manager evaluated you and other candidates for the promotion and selected you based on your merit. Take a critical look at your performance and that of your colleagues, remind yourself of your accomplishments and know that you earned the promotion.
The important thing to remember about impostor syndrome is that it comes from within yourself. Overcoming or avoiding impostor syndrome is a lot easier if you acknowledge and understand how you feel about yourself and how you feel about yourself relative to others. You can begin to do this by:
Talking to other people about your feelings. If you don’t share your feelings, they can become overwhelming. Share your feelings with people you trust who will provide you with an objective opinion of both your strengths and weaknesses.
Record your successes. If you struggle with self-confidence in your position, write down what you’re good at and what you have achieved. This will help you form a more accurate assessment of your abilities and strengths.
Don’t compare yourself to others. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, you can spiral into self-doubt and sabotage your relationships. Instead of using others’ strengths to identify faults in yourself, focus on what is unique and interesting about them. If they have certain skills or have reached a level of success you aspire to, use it as a catalyst for your own personal development instead of putting yourself down.
Turn your feelings into gratitude. Instead of attributing your success to luck and feeling like you haven’t earned it, remember that you are successful, and you should be grateful for that. Reflect on the opportunities you’ve had and your accomplishments and be grateful for what you have achieved.
If you have tried all of these strategies and still feel like an impostor, you should speak to your doctor or mental health professional. Impostor syndrome can have harmful effects if left unchecked: feelings of low self-esteem and a persistent sense of failure could also be signs of depression.