Minimize Imposter Syndrome

In recent years, I’ve heard many clients – sitting at all levels of organizations – say, “I feel like I have imposter syndrome.” The feeling that their success was a result of luck (or by accident) rather than skills, knowledge, or experience.

At first, I thought this phenomenon was a result of someone’s upbringing.

For example, Asian professionals who have been raised with the value of being humble and not bragging about achievements might be more inclined to not fully own their success.

But that’s inaccurate.

There are many complexities and reasons someone might experience imposter syndrome.

The concept of “Imposter Syndrome” was coined by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes in 1978.

Research shows there are many causes: college students and women may experience it more, or the phenomenon could be tied to one’s personality, and interestingly, imposter syndrome may be tied to high-achievers.

From my perspective, the explanations above make sense because:

  • As a woman, you are under pressure to compete to earn your spot in organizational settings.
  • As a university student, you compete against your peers to stand out. 
  • From a personality standpoint, if you grew up in an environment where you didn’t get enough acknowledgment, the result can negatively impact your self-concept.
  • The idea that imposter syndrome is tied to high-achievers sounds positive at first. But this is not the case. High-achievers tend to focus on the next big thing: project, promotion, or other key events. The constant craving to achieve more can lead to stress and burnout. 

Here’s my solution to overcoming imposter syndrome. 

First, stop assuming you have imposter syndrome and assess yourself. Dr. Clance developed the Clance IP Assessment that can be found here. As you read through the questions on the quiz, you’ll gain greater insights into what it feels like to have imposter syndrome.

Next, if your assessment results show you are experiencing high levels of imposter syndrome, look for ways to support yourself:

  1. Speak to a trusted colleague or friend about your feelings and do a “gut check.” This is an important step. Comparing how you view yourself and others’ perceptions of you will be an eye-opening experience.
  2. Talk to a therapist if it seems that the feelings are rooted in your childhood experiences.  
  3. Work with a coach to help you define goals and concrete steps to correct yourself when you experience imposter syndrome.

The takeaway is, don’t assume you have an ailment without first assessing yourself. And after that, work to find the remedy and cure.

To learn more, you’ll see a list of articles available on Dr. Clance’s site.

I hope this is helpful!