Are You An Imposter?

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Imposter_Syndrome_slidePhoto: Image Source/REX USA; Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
We've all been there. Your boss assigns you a new, big project and you think: "Well, I'm definitely not qualified to do this, but alright." Or, maybe you've seen a job description that requires three-to-five years of experience and instantly shy away. Perhaps you even have a general fear that your coworkers will discover that you don't really know what you're doing — and you're just a moment away from being found out. This fear is called imposter syndrome and everyone's got it, from the barista to the A-lister.

The term was originally coined by Pauline Clance and Suzannes Imes in their 1978 book, The Imposter Phenomenon In High Achieving Women. It stems from the innate belief that those around you have overestimated your competency. You fear that the true reflection of your abilities is lackluster in comparison to what your coworkers think and, at any given moment, you'll be discovered as a phony. Apparently, more women suffer from this lack of self-esteem than men. Or, as the Telegraph notes, we're at least more willing to admit the problem.

According to a recent YouGov survey, women are also less likely to ask for promotions or raises, citing a lack of confidence or gender barriers as reasons for not doing so. Psychologist Mary Sherry attributes the major difference between men and women at work to a tactical approach: "Men see things as a game while women aren't even aware of the game that's being played. If an opportunity or promotion comes up, men do not seek affirmation — they'll just wing it. Women won't put themselves forward unless they can prove they can do the job." This attitude starts as far back as the sandbox. Sherry says that while boys take on a more rigorous, physical approach to playing, girls are more likely to sit in small groups to discuss the play at hand. Those playground manners translate to our present-day work habits — and it shows.

So, what can you do to shake imposter syndrome? It may sound like common sense, but the Telegraph suggests that it's more of a group effort: "Finding soulmates and allies, discovering that you’re not alone can be very reassuring. Learning to take criticism seriously, not personally, is another. And it should be remembered that everyone’s entitled to make mistakes from time to time — we need to learn from them and move on. If women can learn real confidence, raise their profile, banish fear and apply for those jobs just beyond their reach, think what a difference it will make to the working world." In other words, listen to the new Beyoncé album and remember who really runs the world. (Telegraph)