Conquering Imposter Syndrome Through Resilience
Self-doubt is about as innate as the rest of our emotions, and it’s something individuals carry with them throughout their entire lives — in school, at home, and even more commonly, in the workplace.
How many times have you expected your employees to meet a situation with fervor and excitement, only to notice they’re anxious and fearful? Have there been patterns where certain employees will constantly brush off compliments they’ve been given during team meetings or annual reviews? Have you observed instances where the same employee will choose not to go up for a well-deserved promotion they’re more than qualified for time and time again?
What exactly causes this self-defeating behavior?? It’s not just bashfulness or insecurity, it’s something deeper than that; something more pervasive. This phenomenon is known as imposter syndrome, and it’s something many business professionals, especially women and women of color, have experienced throughout their careers. It’s the habit of doubting one’s abilities so much that they label themselves as a fraud. This may come as a surprise, but imposter syndrome disproportionately affects high-achieving individuals. The more these professionals accomplish, the more they feel like their entire careers are a lie; they’re consumed with the thought that one day they’ll be “found out” as frauds by their colleagues.
Michelle Obama has been very vocal about her own struggle with imposter syndrome, as has Tom Hanks. Recently, Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee also opened up about her own experience with imposter syndrome, which has been so difficult that it’s even given her panic attacks during her events.
This pressure of not feeling good enough could impact any of the people on your team. It’s important for executives and HR professionals to pay attention to warning signs of imposter syndrome.Organizations should also understand the essential effectiveness of resiliency training to help their people fight back against imposter syndrome. By equipping your workforce with resilience skills, you help employees overcome difficulties and bounce back from setbacks, even when it’s their own feelings of self-doubt hindering their growth.
Here are some resilience skills that can help people conquer imposter syndrome:
Maintain positivity. The reason why imposter syndrome is so detrimental is because it can so easily convince us to disregard everything we’ve accomplished and see ourselves as unworthy of our careers and successes. We have to help employees turn that negativity on its head by replacing it with positive thinking. Learning the habit of focusing on one’s contributions, achievements and successes is a mental discipline that can help people reframe the way they think. The sooner they can stop the negativity, the sooner they can disrupt the cycle that inevitably leads them to a darker place.
Name the insecurity. There’s so much stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. It’s our responsibility to ensure that no one on our teams ever feels shameful or embarrassed about what they’re working through. Encourage your team to be self-aware of their thought patterns and to name what’s going on. When they recognize an imposter thought (“I’m not good enough to be here” or “I hope my boss doesn’t realize I don’t know what I’m doing”), they can label it as what it is: an intrusive thought, and not based in any truth whatsoever.
Practice mindfulness. Imposter syndrome, or any mental health struggle, won’t disappear overnight. Changing your mindset and developing better thought patterns requires consistency and patience. Let’s support employees in observing what situations are especially triggering for them and show them how they can tune into their emotional states in order to make a conscious choice to refocus. Remind them to take a minute, breathe, take inventory of their thoughts, and then recalibrate their thinking.
Recognize their expertise. We should already be giving employees opportunities to flex their skills while also challenging them to learn new skill sets, but this is even more important for those who struggle with imposter syndrome. Having people mentor other workers can remind employees of their strengths. This realization helps quiet the imposter thoughts that run through their heads at work.