Are You Feeling Like a Fraud at Work? You Might Have Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome written on a paper

If you are doubting your skills, talents, or accomplishments and having a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud, you have impostor syndrome. Basically, impostor syndrome occurs when your are incapable of believing you deserve to be successful or when you feel your success does not stem from your own ability. As a result, you may start feeling like a fraud. According to study, women are more likely to experience Imposter Syndrome than men.

Statistics on Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace

A recent study conducted by KPMG revealed that a significant majority of executive women, specifically 75%, have personally encountered imposter syndrome at various stages in their careers. Furthermore, an overwhelming 85% of these women believe that imposter syndrome is a prevalent issue among female professionals in corporate America.

Interestingly, 74% of executive women also expressed the belief that their male counterparts do not grapple with feelings of self-doubt to the same extent as female leaders. Additionally, a striking 81% of these women feel that they impose greater pressure on themselves to avoid failure compared to their male counterparts.

In the United Kingdom, a study showed that 54% of women have encountered imposter syndrome, while only 38% of men have reported similar experiences. Shockingly, individuals who identify as non-binary are even more affected, with 57% expressing doubts about their abilities in the workplace.

Research conducted by NerdWallet found that a significant 78% of business leaders have grappled with imposter syndrome at some point in their professional journey. Despite the prevalence of this issue among leaders, there remains a certain stigma surrounding the topic. In fact, only 21% of leaders have openly discussed their feelings of imposter syndrome with their peers or other business professionals, while a mere 4% have chosen to keep these feelings to themselves.

Signs of Imposter Syndrome

At times, I find myself grappling with self-doubt, a common symptom of imposter syndrome. If you're unfamiliar with this phenomenon, allow me to shed some light on its most prevalent signs:
  • Self-doubt: Feeling like you're not good enough and constantly worrying about your ability to succeed.
  • Undervaluing contributions: Not giving yourself enough credit for your achievements, leading to a feeling of incompetence.
  • Attributing success to external factors: Believing that your accomplishments are due to luck or circumstances beyond your control.
  • Sabotaging self-success: Feeling like you don't deserve success and making poor decisions as a result. It can also lead to a fear of success.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations: Always feeling like your best isn't good enough and setting impossibly high standards for yourself.
  • Continuous fear of not living up to expectations: Struggling to meet your own goals and feeling like you're constantly falling short.
  • Burnout: Pushing yourself too hard to prove your worth, leading to exhaustion and a loss of passion for your work.
Imposter syndrome can manifest in various ways, such as the Perfectionist, the superwoman/man/person, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert.

Impact of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that can significantly impact your confidence levels. Those affected by this experience often find themselves doubting their abilities and feeling undeserving of their achievements. This lack of self-assurance can hinder performance and prevent you from reaching your full potential.

Additionally, imposter syndrome can lead to burnout and heightened levels of stress. The constant fear of being exposed as a fraud and the belief in one's inadequacies can have detrimental effects on mental and emotional well-being, resulting in exhaustion, anxiety, and decreased job satisfaction.

Furthermore, imposter syndrome can act as a barrier to career advancement and personal growth. If you are struggling with feelings of fraudulence, you may avoid pursuing new opportunities or taking on challenges that could propel your career forward. This avoidance can result in missed chances for professional development and hindered career progression.

However, having imposter syndrome could be the key to unlocking your potential, according to an expert

Imposter syndrome may not be enjoyable, but according to Barbara Corcoran, an American businesswoman and investor, it can actually be the key to unlocking your full potential. In a recent TikTok video, the 74-year-old real estate millionaire emphasized that you should embrace your self-doubt. "If you're grappling with imposter syndrome, consider yourself lucky," she declared. "Thank your lucky stars that you have imposter syndrome because it means you will work harder than anyone else, and it's through that hard work that you will discover your confidence."

Corcoran explained to CNBC that by consistently pushing yourself to try harder than your colleagues, you will naturally develop self-assurance. "You will start telling yourself, 'I am confident. I may not feel it, but I know I am because I have put in the effort countless times to build my confidence,'" she elaborated. So, don't shy away from imposter syndrome - embrace it as a tool for growth and self-discovery.

You Are Not Powerless in the Face of Imposter Syndrome

While understanding imposter syndrome is a good start, it's not enough to break the cycle. What you really need is action. And to take action, you need moxie - a fierce determination and drive that sets you apart. According to Harvard Business Review, moxie is not just about grit or self-control, but about pushing past your limits and conquering procrastination.

Keith D. Dorsey, a managing partner at Boyden, emphasizes that overcoming imposter syndrome and embracing your moxie requires a deep dive into your assumptions, values, and beliefs. It means taking risks, trying new things, and investing in your own growth like never before. In essence, embracing moxie propels you into a journey of transformative learning, where growth thrives in discomfort.

Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Here are some valuable strategies to help you overcome feelings of impostor syndrome:
  • Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments: Take the time to recognize the hard work and dedication that have led to your success. By acknowledging your achievements, you can boost your confidence and combat feelings of inadequacy.
  • Reach out for support from mentors or peers: Surround yourself with a strong support system of individuals who can offer guidance, encouragement, and perspective. Seeking advice and feedback from trusted mentors or peers can help you gain valuable insights and reassurance.
  • Practice self-compassion and positive self-talk: Be kind to yourself and challenge negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Cultivating self-compassion and practicing positive self-talk can help you build resilience and confidence in your abilities. Dora Kamau, a mindfulness and meditation teacher at Headspace, suggests incorporating these four affirmations into your daily routine to help shift your mental state: "I trust the timing of my life," "I believe in my purpose and my innate power to be where I am," "I am, on purpose," and “I’m doing the best that I can with what I have.”
  • Set realistic goals and expectations: Avoid setting unrealistic standards for yourself and instead focus on setting achievable goals. By setting realistic expectations, you can prevent feelings of inadequacy and maintain a healthy balance in your work and personal life.
  • Embrace challenges and view failures as opportunities for growth: Instead of fearing challenges or setbacks, see them as opportunities for learning and development. Embracing challenges and viewing failures as stepping stones to success can help you build resilience and confidence in your abilities.
According to Better Up, to overcome imposter syndrome, simply recognizing your capacity and worth is not sufficient. It is imperative that your executives, leaders, and teams also acknowledge and value your abilities. They must prioritize your mental well-being with the same level of importance as they do your physical skills and performance. Remember, true success comes from a holistic approach that nurtures both your mind and body.

You are not alone. Here are some notable people who have reportedly experienced Imposter Syndrome

In 2018, former US first lady, Michelle Obama, humbly revealed to a London school that she continues to grapple with impostor syndrome, despite her remarkable tenure as America's most influential woman and her unwavering dedication to advocating for women and girls worldwide. Mrs. Obama candidly recounted her poignant recollections of feeling like an outsider during her upbringing as a working-class girl in Chicago, driven by her relentless pursuit of academic excellence and insatiable thirst for knowledge. She poignantly acknowledged that, even now, she still experiences moments of self-doubt, as impostor syndrome remains a lingering presence in her life.

Emma Watson, one of the most adored actresses in Hollywood, has openly shared her experience with imposter syndrome. Despite her success as a comedian, actress, writer, and producer, she has admitted to struggling with feelings of inadequacy. However, she has also acknowledged that she manages these feelings effectively.

In her own words, Emma Watson describes imposter syndrome as a constant battle between extreme self-confidence and overwhelming self-doubt. She humorously expresses the inner turmoil by stating, "I vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: 'I'm a fraud! Oh God, they're on to me! I'm a fraud!'"

She goes on to explain that she tries to embrace moments of egomania and appreciate them, while also navigating through the doubts of being a fraud.

During a TED talk in 2017, Mike Cannon-Brookes, an Australian billionaire business magnate and the co-founder and co-CEO of software company Atlassian, shared insights into his personal struggles with imposter syndrome. Despite his immense success, Cannon-Brookes admitted to frequently feeling like a fraud. However, he explained how he has managed to leverage these feelings to his advantage.

Actor Tom Hanks once eloquently described the phenomenon of imposter syndrome. During an interview, Hanks candidly expressed, "No matter what we have achieved, there comes a moment when we question our own worth. We wonder when others will realize that we are not as capable as they believe, and fear losing everything we have worked for." These sentiments resonate with many individuals who struggle with imposter syndrome.

Hanks' confession sheds light on a key aspect of imposter syndrome: the underlying fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite evidence of one's skills and accomplishments. Even with accolades and success, doubts about one's abilities can persist. If you find yourself grappling with imposter syndrome, remember that you are not alone, and support is available.

Just like these accomplished individuals, you can seek assistance, challenge negative beliefs, and cultivate the confidence necessary to navigate your own path to success.
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