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Unmasking the Imposter: Empowering Women to Lean into Success

Posted May 20, 2024

Imposter syndrome, is a widely researched phenomenon and is a common experience for professionals at varying points in their careers, affecting our self-perception and professional growth.

Picture this scenario: you have tirelessly worked towards your objectives, achieving significant milestones and securing your ideal position. Externally, everything appears perfect. However, internally, you wrestle with doubts about your competence, despite external affirmations of your capabilities. What makes this worse is that, The International Journal of Behavioural Science reveals that unfortunately, approximately 70% of individuals encounter imposter syndrome at some point, highlighting its prevalence.

A primary catalyst for imposter syndrome is often, the toxic habit of comparison. In an era dominated by social media, it is all too easy to view others curated successes and question your own accomplishments or progress. Research indicates that, historically women, in particular, were more susceptible to imposter syndrome, frequently attributing their achievements to external factors rather than recognising their own skills, efforts, and successes. That being said, more recent studies indicate that it affects both men and women nearly equally, although they may experience it differently due to social and cultural factors.

With this in mind, what can you do to combat the overwhelming and grossly unwelcome feeling that is imposter syndrome?

Acknowledging Success

As someone in their late twenties, I have come to realise the importance of consciously acknowledging and celebrating personal achievements, regardless of their scale. Each success, no matter how modest, contributes significantly to our overall growth and self-perception. Finding time in each day to acknowledge successes, can be one of the ways that you can begin to overcome imposter syndrome. I myself have struggled in the past, when it comes to talking openly about successes, as I’ve been consumed with anxiety that it would be considered ‘bragging’, when in reality, sharing successes no matter how large or small can leave you feeling both recognised and empowered.

The Power of Vulnerability

Discussing imposter syndrome can be intimidating, yet there is strength in vulnerability. I have found comfort in sharing my experiences with friends, family, and colleagues. Openness often reveals that many share similar challenges, making vulnerability an invaluable tool for fostering connections and personal development. As humans, we can often be guilty of making decisions based on assumptions. By allowing yourself to be more vulnerable, to can begin gain much more exposure and insight of others experiences and challenges.

Fostering Self-Compassion

Developing self-compassion is an ongoing endeavour. In my journey, I am learning to dispel the myth of perfection and embrace mistakes as vital learning opportunities. By nature, I can be very hard on myself, and have worked tirelessly over the last couple of years avoid feelings and urges to leave on a high, rather than embracing mistakes and using them to better myself. It’s also key to strive to extend the same kindness and understanding to myself that I would offer others.

Building a Supportive Network

Building and maintaining a supportive professional and personal network is vital in overcoming imposter syndrome. This network should include mentors, peers, and friends who can provide honest feedback, encouragement, and share their own experiences with imposter feelings. By seeing how others have navigated similar challenges, you can gain perspective on individuals experiences and feel less isolated in future struggles. Networking groups, professional associations, and social media platforms can be excellent resources for building these connections.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Developing a growth mindset, is particularly beneficial for combatting imposter syndrome. This involves shifting focus from proving competence to developing it. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and understand that effort and learning are part of the journey to mastery. By valuing growth over perfection, you can more easily recognise your progress and feel less like imposter.

Setting Realistic Expectations and Boundaries

We often face societal pressures to excel in multiple roles, which can exacerbate feelings of imposter syndrome. It’s important to set realistic expectations for oneself and establish clear boundaries. This might mean saying no to additional responsibilities when you’re already stretched thin or setting aside time for self-care and personal development. Recognising that you cannot be everything to everyone is a crucial step in overcoming imposter feelings.

Practicing Self-Affirmation

Positive Self-Talk Self-affirmation practices can be powerful tools in combating negative thoughts and imposter syndrome. This involves regularly reminding oneself of personal strengths, achievements, and unique qualities. Positive self-talk helps in reframing negative thoughts that contribute to feelings of being an imposter. Instead of thinking, “I don’t belong here,” one might reframe this as, “I was chosen for my skills and I bring a unique perspective.”

Seeking Professional Guidance

Sometimes, the most effective strategy in overcoming imposter syndrome is seeking professional guidance. This can include talking to a mentor, a career coach, or a therapist who specialises in career-related challenges. These professionals can provide personalised strategies and support to help women understand and navigate their imposter feelings.

I recognise that overcoming imposter syndrome is not a one-time event but a continuous process of self-discovery and personal development. It’s about stepping into your power, recognising your worth, and understanding that your voice and contributions are valid and needed. Through supportive networks, a growth mindset, realistic expectations, positive self-talk, and professional guidance, women can not only overcome imposter syndrome but also thrive in their personal and professional lives.

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