Today is International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day has become a date to celebrate how far women have come but we know there’s a lot more work to be done.
As women we must take steps to push for opportunities in the workplace and seize them when presented. We just can’t sit back and wait to be served. Sometimes we must create our opportunities. Yet some women feel daunted as they pursue senior roles and climb the corporate ladder. They feel uncomfortable, unprepared, and unqualified. Our minds are so hardwired to focus on the negative and to hold on a belief that isn’t true. This limiting belief prevents us from ascending in our careers and living life to our full potential.
When presented with a big project, assignment, or role, we sometimes feel like we don’t know what we are doing. We feel unsure of our skills, like we’re faking it. This mindset of self-inflicted self-doubt despite our accomplishments has a name- the impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud”.
Impostorism expert Dr Valerie Young says a promotion, starting a business, or landing a new role can all trigger low self-esteem. Her research also suggests women are more likely to experience feelings of job ineptitude than men because they internalise setbacks as a failure in their ability, rather than considering external factors.
If you have experienced impostor syndrome you are not alone. An estimated 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives (International Journal of Behavioural Science). Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” Despite winning three Grammys and being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, she still questioned her success.
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, also felt like a fraud. In her bestseller, Lean In, she noted that for women, feeling like a fraud is a symptom of a greater problem. We constantly underestimate ourselves. Numerous studies across industries “show that women often judge their performance worse than it actually is, while men judge their performance as better than it actually is.”
Now that we know there is a name for this “thing” we feel, and we are not alone, we can focus on combating that fear, so it will not control our actions and limit our potential.
Here are some tips:
Call It Out
The first step to overcoming impostor syndrome is to acknowledge it, understand what your triggers are and put it in perspective. The very naming of the impostor syndrome is to start to take back control. If you understand it is a response to a situation, then you will understand that, with practise, you can control your response.
Call Yourself Out
Tune in to your internal conversations, call yourself out when you’re having that negative chatter in your head. Learn to turn off your negative self-script and develop a new script that will be a rational positive voice, that will help you build your confidence. It helps to have a mantra reminding yourself that you’ve worked hard and you’re more than enough.
Stop The Comparisons
Author Iyanla Vanzant believes that “comparison is an act of violence against the self.” While we might read biographies and admire our role models and even our colleagues, remember you aren’t here to live another person’s life. You have your own path to create. Everyone has different talents and is on a different journey. Respect and own your authentic experience.
Claim Your Success
Women tend to attribute their success to external factors – we got lucky, or someone helped us. Women do this more often than men who are more likely to attribute their successes to a combination of internal factors, such as sheer hard work or talent. As women we need to claim our success. A simple exercise of journaling or making a list of your accomplishments, your qualifications, and successful projects, will remind you and serve as evidence that it can’t be luck.
The impostor syndrome hinders women from taking that step into leadership and executive roles. It prevents you from living the life you desire and deserve. As we lead the crusade for women to take their seat in the boardroom, we must prepare ourselves to create and grasp the opportunity.
On this International Women’s Day, let this day be a reminder that you have what it takes. You are more powerful than you know. Stand in your power. You are more than enough.
Charlene Pedro is a leading HR Consultant, Corporate Trainer and Personal Development Trainer & Coach who solves people and performance problems through human resource management solutions, customised employee engagement and leadership development programmes. She also supports women in living fulfilling lives by building mindset and their confidence and achieving their goals through personal development programmes.