The Impostor Syndrome
Have you seen the “impostor syndrome” among successful women executives? Do YOU feel like an impostor some days?
Women who are remarkably accomplished can at times see their achievements as somehow a product of luck versus their own hard work. If this persists, the result is a constant, nagging doubt that somehow their intelligence, skills and unique capabilities are questionable. I’ve seen this in successful lawyers, engineers, physicians, managers and entrepreneurs.
In severe situations the woman is so convinced she’s a fraud, they sabotage their work or their next opportunity to demonstrate success. They can “play it safe” just so no one notices how little they truly know. They can also work harder and harder to overcome those feelings of inadequacy and produce outstanding outcomes that they will again attribute to just dumb luck. It’s a vicious cycle of experiencing doubt, working hard, and ignoring the success only to try harder the next time.
Do you often feel that you’re just one question away from others learning you really don’t know as much as you say you do?
The source of impostor syndrome ranges from individual patterns in a family—praising one child more than another so much that the others doubt they are equally capable—to something far more insidious. Imposter syndrome can also be the result of the larger messages given to women through mass media.
With rare exception, Latinas are often cast in less than leading roles—we apparently make credible maids, cooks, secretaries, baby sitters, or nannies. No doubt, all of those are noble jobs that have fed countless families and put children through school. But think back on the number of times a Latina has played the role of a successful lawyer, engineer, CEO or therapist in film or television. Can’t think of many, right? As a consequence, those of us who are in those roles often have that unique burden of proving that indeed we are legitimate players in those settings. It’s no surprise– Latinas have two career challenges: doing the hard work that your professional duties require and keeping the assumptions others make of us in check.
Managing the impostor syndrome starts with an awareness of that nagging doubt and sense of inadequacy and sharing those concerns with trusted friends and advisors. Ask for support and feedback on how much of this is troubling you and what if any signs exist that you are sabotaging your performance.
Another step is to identify what kind of events trigger the self doubt and take time to prepare with affirmations or reflections that help you manage your feelings of inadequacy. Next is to strategically manage your personal brand so that you have a greater degree of alignment between your role, experience and your view of yourself.
It is often the case that one of the ways we sabotage ourselves is that we might demonstrate behaviors that raise doubt about our skills—we dress down, avoid speaking up in a meeting, or diminish our executive presence. Your personal board of advisors can be helpful to insure you get the feedback and advice needed to embrace the opportunities your career affords and step into your role.
If these tips don’t help, you may want to read more about impostor syndrome and take advantage of counseling opportunities with a therapist or career coach. You can build your confidence at any stage of your career and know that it will pay off by allowing you to be more authentic, stronger, and best of all, happier. Tell me about how you build your confidence at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA™.