Have you ever felt inadequate in a work environment regardless of your qualifications?
Have you ever experienced a feeling of not being good enough, even after you’ve accomplished something awesome?
Do you ever push yourself past your personal limits at work in order to prove yourself to everyone around you?
If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably all admit that we’ve answered yes to some of these questions at some point in our lives.
This personal belief that we are phonies in the work environment is called Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is not an actual diagnosis, but it’s a phenomenon coined in the 1970s that is defined as a “collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”
In other words, Imposter Syndrome is that little voice that sits on our shoulder and whispers in our ears, telling us over and over again that we aren’t good enough, that we are frauds in the workplace.
Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes created the Imposter Syndrome concept, and they even developed a short test you can take to learn if it applies to you.
In their research, Clance and Imes found that Imposter Syndrome applies more to women than to men, based on things like upbringing and societal expectations put on girls.
Since their initial research, newer studies have found that Imposter Syndrome affects 70% of all people, and that the split between gender is more even than they originally thought.
That being said, it’s important to note the inherent difficulties that women face in any type of work environment, and how these difficulties can create a level of Imposter Syndrome in our lives.
These hurdles that women face in the workplace become even bigger when we choose the path of entrepreneurship and decide to start our own businesses.
Okay, How Do I Know if I Have Imposter Syndrome?
For some of us, feeling like a fraud at work could be an obvious struggle that we’ve been dealing with for a while.
Maybe you yelled “YES!” at your computer when you read the definition of Imposter Syndrome.
For some of us though, we could have been dealing with this our whole careers without even realizing that anything is wrong.
According to clinical psychologist Ellen Hendrickson, there are three main types of “imposters”:
- The “I’m a Fake”
This one is a tough pill to swallow. Sometimes, we lando our dream job but when we are at work, we believe that someone made a mistake in hiring.
Surely they should have hired someone better, they’ll realize pretty soon that we don’t belong here. This belief that we are fake, that we don’t fit in a role, is a huge symptom of Imposter Syndrome.
This is different than just being intimidated in a new job. Sometimes we begin a job and we feel worried that we won’t succeed. That is normal and doesn’t really qualify as Imposter Syndrome.
The difference between healthy nervousness and feeling like a fraud is that if are giving into Imposter Syndrome, we will truly believe that we aren’t good enough, and that someone will soon discover that we don’t deserve to be here.
- The “I Got Lucky”
This type of imposter believes that they achieved something not because they are talented, but because they just got lucky enough.
This describes the feeling you get when you cross a huge goal off of your list, and then brush it off as just hard work or happenstance.
These types of imposters have a hard time accepting praise in the workplace, and they usually feel like they just stumbled upon their success.
This feeds into the overall belief that they’re an imposter, because it feels like everyone else is more talented and deserving.
- The “This Old Thing?”
How often have you gotten a compliment on your outfit and then quickly responded with a dismissal like “Oh this? I just found it in my closet.”
This extreme modesty is detrimental to different areas of our lives, especially in the work environment.
This type of imposter is similar to the “I got lucky” in that they both dismiss their achievements.
This type truly can’t accept compliments of any kind from bosses or fellow employees, and they eventually internalize this struggle. Pretty soon, they fully believe that they are undeserving of the praise.
If you feel like any of these types of imposters sound like you, or if you got a high score on the test developed by Clance and Imes, you could potentially have a bit of Imposter Syndrome.
So Why is it Harder for Female Entrepreneurs?
Although Imposter Syndrome affects all types of people, it can be extremely difficult for women who are running their own businesses.
According to Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance, women fall victim to Imposter Syndrome because of their family dynamic, and/or because of unfair societal expectations put on women.
The pressures of family dynamics can have a huge impact on the ways that people internalize Imposter Syndrome.
When Clance and Imes did extended research on the reasons women feel like frauds in the workplace, they found that multiple family situations in childhood could lead to people feeling like imposters.
If you grew up with parents who praised or applauded another sibling(s) over you, you might now have a hard time believing in your own success in your career.
You could possibly be internalizing your own fear of being a failure because of the way you felt growing up. If your family constantly made you feel inadequate, chances are you’re still feeling that way in the workplace.
The other reason that Clance and Imes believe women are affected more by Imposter Syndrome are the ways our society views successful females in a business environment.
According to Clance and Imes, “the successful woman is viewed as a hostile or destructive force within society,” and that “a woman’s femininity is called into question by her success.”
Now, we have to be honest with ourselves here and realize that they were doing their research in the 1970s. Thankfully, a lot has changed and tons of programs, businesses, and nonprofits have been put into place for dealing with gender imbalances in the workforce.
But even though we’ve come far as a society, we still have a far way to go. A powerful, go-getter type of woman is still seen as hostile, and women are still not taken as seriously as men in any workplace.
As women, we’ve grown up hearing messages that tell us we need to be more modest, more humble, more giving.
These messages have made us second guess our successes and given us the impression that we have to belittle our accomplishments in our careers!
This is especially true for female entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s one thing to have to fight Imposter Syndrome at our job, but what about when we are trying to sell ourselves and our business?
When we decide to become entrepreneurs, we sign up for a life of convincing other people that what we have to offer is good enough.
Imposter Syndrome can very easily sneak in to our mentality and tell us that we are frauds, that we aren’t good enough to be doing what we are doing.
Then How Do I Get Over Imposter Syndrome?
Once you’ve recognized that you might have a bit of Imposter Syndrome, you’ve already accomplished the first step in getting out of it.
Recognition is key because once you see that some parts of your mind might be holding you back, you can work to change those thoughts!
An awesome and effective way of shifting these negative thoughts in the workplace is to combat each one with a positive thought.
It might feel silly at first, but grab a journal and try recording some of the thoughts you notice yourself having when they pop into your mind. Then, you can look at the thoughts on paper, and you can come up with a positive thought that combats that negativity.
Another great way of fighting Imposter Syndrome in your work environment is by having a mentor.
Having a mentor in your same career field is helpful for a lot of reasons, but one huge reason that it can be helpful is that you can have someone there to remind you of how you’re doing.
A mentor can give you constructive feedback and real advice that will go against the lies that Imposter Syndrome sometimes feeds on. And, it never hurts to have someone successful in your field helping you with your goals!
Fighting Imposter Syndrome as a female entrepreneur is no easy task. You’ve heard it tons of times before, but we are always our worst critics.
And if we let those inner voices stop us from believing that we are worthy of accomplishing our dreams, then we’ll never be able to truly succeed and be happy in our successes.