How Impostor Syndrome Holds Women Back in Their Careers

do I have imposter syndrome

Impostor syndrome is a loose definition of doubting your abilities and feeling like you’re a fraud. It almost always affects high-achieving people who find it hard to accept their accomplishments. Many people can identify with self-doubt and questions, such as ‘why do I feel like a fraud?’ Even though they are trained and educated for their position, they find it hard to break free of doubting their worthiness. Even though anyone can struggle with imposter syndrome, it effects certain groups more than others and research shows individuals from underrepresented populations are more likely to experience this syndrome.

Who is More Likely to Experience Impostor Syndrome

Women, and especially women of color as well as those from the LBGTQ community are most at risk of suffering from the syndrome. If you suffer from systemic oppression or are told your whole life that you are less-than or not deserving of success and then achieve things, you’re more likely to hear that long-lasting narrative in your head.

Corporate culture accelerates the syndrome, especially for women. There has been some progress made with representation in the boardroom, but the numbers are far from equal. Additionally, women of color are almost non-existent on corporate boards holding only 3% of the C-Suite roles.

This lack of role models for women has a significant impact on making you feel like you don’t have the opportunity or support to belong in the corporate environment. This feeling of not believing you belong where you are leads you to develop the syndrome.

What Factors Lead to Impostor Syndrome?

Lack of physical representation is only part of what feeds into the syndrome. Prevalent racism and sexiest stereotypes can also result in doubt. You may have heard some common derogatory untruths like women do not make good leaders because they are emotional, or women are not good at science and math. Statements like this can make you doubt yourself and feel unworthy of achievements.

Impostor Syndrome Holds Back Career Moves

Stress and self-doubt can hold you back from achieving professional success. Feeling inadequate or unworthy can prevent you from seeking better opportunities because you are afraid of being exposed as a fraud. This syndrome could also impact your management style, resulting in your methods not being effective due to micro-management.

Even if you understand the source of your syndrome, it can be hard to shake. Talking about it with your peers and especially with other people from marginalized communities can go a long way towards validating how you are feeling. The validation of your feelings can help you understand the syndrome exists, but is not real.

Once validated and you begin to tell yourself the syndrome is not true or real, you can quiet that inner critic within you, and look instead at your strengths. People tend to over-focus on the negatives when experiencing the syndrome. They pay attention only to the deficiencies and failures. When you silence the negative self-talk, you make room to start hearing and giving yourself credit for accomplishments.

Build Confidence and Beat the Impostor Syndrome

There are four practical strategies to help build your confidence and beat the syndrome.

  • Go for it Embrace  your experience with all the good, bad, and ugly. Realizing taking the risk is better than regret, and you can live with the consequences of taking a chance. This realization is better than spending your entire life wondering what if.
  • Embrace failure – This might sound counterintuitive, but permitting yourself to fail enables you to succeed. You can do incredible things if you’re willing to try. Succeed or fail, you still come out stronger for it.
  • Learn to ask for help – Most people don’t, or won’t, ask for help. In your quest to be Miss. Independent, you might worry it makes you look weak or incompetent but everyone who’s ever succeeded at anything has received help along the way from relatives, friends, mentors and more. 
  • Believe in yourself – Once you begin to build your confidence and believe in yourself, imposter syndrome will have less power over you. 

Where to Learn More About Fighting the Syndrome and Achieving Your Goals

Raise Women is a mentorship program for women of color in media and tech. Talk to us today if you’re struggling with impostor syndrome and we’ll show you how to overcome those feelings and go all-in on achieving the success you deserve!

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