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  • Debbie Schwake

Overcoming the Drag of Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

"Realize that perfection is a myth. Strive for good enough and keep improving." -Avneesh Sharma


Feelings of inadequacy. Self-doubt. Assuming you're a fraud. Fear of being shamed online. These are all symptoms of impostor syndrome. And each of these is very real to the point of debilitating.

If you've experienced these feelings about your knowledge or career, you're not alone — up to 75% of female executives from all industries fall, victim, according to KPMG.

It doesn't matter how much external success you've experienced or how much praise you receive. As a woman in a leadership position, impostor syndrome is alarmingly common.

I feel it all the time. I second guess if I should post something that demonstrates my knowledge because I fear that someone with more experience will consider me a fraud.

The term 'impostor syndrome' was coined in 1978, but the concept itself has undoubtedly been around long before that. Most likely, every woman throughout history has been in a position where she doesn't feel worthy or deserving enough to fill a seat at the table.

She avoids speaking up because she's convinced that she doesn't know what she's talking about - even if she graduated from an ivy league with a degree in the field. No matter the situation, a woman is much more likely than a man to criticize herself.

"Women tend to judge their performance as worse than they objectively are, while men judge their own as better," said Valerie Young, an educator and the author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.


Changing your self-talk

If you feel like an impostor, you aren't the only one. Luckily, there are ways to overcome this fraudulent, devaluing experience. Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin wrote a handbook to help you overcome imposter syndrome called "Own Your Greatness: Overcome Imposter Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt and Succeed in Life."


In her book, Dr. Orbé-Austin outlines the steps first to identify the underlying cause that contributes to your feelings. She then systematically walks you through the steps necessary to change how you think about yourself, seek support from your circle, and overcome your feelings.


The book "Own Your Greatness: Overcome Imposter Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt and Succeed in Life" will help you conquer self-doubt, realize your true worth, and enjoy your success.


The way you speak to yourself has a significant impact on self-image. One tactic is to recognize when you're putting yourself down. For example, if you're questioning your worth in a professional situation, think - would I talk to my best friend like this? My daughter? If the answer is no, then you shouldn't talk to yourself this way either. Encourage yourself like you would your best friend or your child.

Hyping yourself up in the mirror every morning with a list of your admirable qualities will send you into the day with your feet planted firmly. Saying your name aloud can also have an impact on your self-worth. Try saying, "Anna is amazing. Anna can accomplish anything she puts her mind to." You'll be surprised at how affirming it sounds (and feels) coming from your mouth.

Own your accomplishments instead of downplaying them. As women, we worry a lot about being seen as braggadocious or arrogant. Men often speak more confidently about their achievements. This is evident when you read the bios of women versus men on LinkedIn. Be proud of what you've done to get where you are today. Don't fall into cliches such as luck or good fortune. You put in the work to get where you're standing right at this moment.

While owning your accomplishments, own your qualifications, too. As Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin recommends, ask yourself if you obtained your credentials or knowledge fraudulently. No? Then why do you question your worth? Make a list of ways in which you're qualified for the position you're in. Once you get used to that, make a list of things that make you more experienced than the average person.

The image you keep in your head should never be one of failure. Instead, picture success, no matter what the situation may be. Whether it's getting through a speech without forgetting any key points or securing a promotion, visualize the result you want. Instead of being afraid of what you can't do, look forward to (and prepare for) what you can.

It's hard to admit that impostor syndrome exists, let alone admit that we suffer from it. Instead of giving the syndrome power, take back control and own it. "Name it to tame it. I named mine Lindsey," said Junette Caloroso - and she had a point. Skirting away from something - anything - and refusing to name it only gives it power. What works better is staring that impostor syndrome right in the face and refusing to let it win.


You might not overcome the feelings of inadequacy or fraudulence right away. Impostor syndrome won't disappear overnight. Your goal is to take steps and develop methods to change your self-talk and feel more confident. While at first you may only reach a feeling of adequate, but little by little, you'll get closer to feeling like you're right where you belong (remember, visualize it!)


The host of the podcast "Hello Monday," Jessi Hempel, says, "I can't even say [imposter syndrome] without having a slight physical reaction of disgust because it took years for me to overcome it." Years. It took her years to overcome. It might take some women months, some weeks, some decades, but the timeline isn't essential. What's important is realizing that, as women and leaders, we deserve a seat at the table and are perfectly qualified to use the voice we were given. We've earned it.


You've earned it.


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