Ever think you don’t deserve the success you’ve achieved in your career? According to Joyce Roché, author of The Empress Has No Clothes: Conquering Self-Doubt to Embrace Success, you might be suffering from impostor syndrome—the feeling that you’re a fraud and that others are more qualified.
Here, Roché discusses the condition with Managing People at Work’s Beth Braccio Hering.
MPAW: Why do people develop impostor syndrome?
Roché: Impostor syndrome is essentially social anxiety. People who suffer from it are afraid that they will not fit in and will not be accepted. This fear is most often triggered when they find themselves in groups where they are different from the majority. Women, members of minority groups and people from socioeconomic backgrounds different from their peers seem to be especially susceptible to impostor syndrome. They work very hard to demonstrate that they have the intellectual capacity and knowledge to be full contributors to the group. Yet even in the face of success, impostor syndrome distorts the way you see yourself, and you worry that somehow you don’t measure up.MPAW: How can it hurt your career?
Roché: Those who have impostor syndrome tend to be successful and are driven to prove they deserve the opportunities they have. The cycle of working hard, overpreparing and driving to demonstrate competence tends to create more opportunities and more success but not necessarily comfort. The self-doubt and need to prove you belong often leads to high levels of stress and to burnout. In addition, people who suffer from impostor syndrome often compromise their personal lives for the sake of their careers.MPAW: What three things can a manager who feels like an impostor do?
Roché: First, don’t stay silent. Find a trusted friend, a coach or a mentor, and speak about your fears. Write down how you feel to help you understand what triggers these fears. Second, do a reality check: Test whether the way you see yourself and your abilities is accurate. Make a list of your skills, qualities, experience and accomplishments, and view the list objectively. Lastly, learn to metabolize external validation. When you receive recognition or a compliment, put aside your habitual response of discounting your achievement. Just say “thank you,” and let it sink in.