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6 tips on how to overcome imposter syndrome

By Adrienne Diamond-Hughes

No one belongs here more than you.

This is a phrase I tell myself every day before I walk into my 83% male office. Also the title of a sweet book written by the creative genius Miranda July.

Still, no matter how many times I repeat that mantra, I never seem to genuinely believe it.

Women of the world, near and far: we are all plagued by The Imposter Syndrome.

Good Q.

What is imposter syndrome? 

Imposter Syndrome is a concept that describes a high-achiever who lives under the constant weight of feeling like a fraud and is unable to assume responsibility for her hard-earned and well-deserved triumphs. Durr.

Think of these scenarios:

• Brilliant girl gets into top law school and thinks: “This must be some kind of mistake. They probably put my application in the wrong pile.”

• A well-deserving expert in her field gets promoted. Instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment for all the hard work that got her there, she feels guilty and asks herself: “Wow, how did I manage to trick them into this?” 

• A female founder sells her business with a 35X return and credits luck, timing, and the help of her mentors as being the driving force behind her success.

Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, women are more likely to credit external factors for their success. We feel undeserving. We feel like it's simply a matter of time until we're exposed for who we really are – incompetent dumbos with zero skills or capabilities.

Disclaimer: While both men and women experience Imposter Syndrome, research shows that it is more pronounced, prevalent, and thus, limiting amongst women.

Here’s how you can continue to fight the bullshit feeling that you're unsuited for your success:

1. Realize that you ?? are  ?? not ?? alone 

We must acknowledge that this voice inside our head is batshit crazy, unfounded and yet, completely common. What really helped me was talking to older and much more accomplished women about feeling like a fraud. For example, I have a female pal who was at the top of her class in the best law school in the country, clerked for our nation’s highest court, and got a masters degree from a world renowned college. Yet, she still feels like she is not quite suited for the success that she has.

That she somehow fooled the multiple professors that gave her the only A in the class or that she scammed the multiple law firms that were aggressively recruiting her.

That was a serious reality check for me. I admire and respect her so much and she, more than anyone I know, is perfectly deserving of her success. The fact that she feels like an imposter, when she so clearly isn’t one, made me realize that maybe, just maybe, I am not one either…

Good ole Sheryl Sandberg delves deep into this topic in her wonderful book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (a definite must read for any woman and man). She shares a few stats on how the whole female population feels the same way my pal and I do:

• “Assessments of students in a surgery rotation found that when asked to evaluate themselves, the female students gave themselves lower scores than the male students despite faculty evaluations that showed the women outperformed the men.” 

• “A survey of several thousand potential political candidates revealed that despite having comparable credentials, the men were about 60% more likely to think that they were ‘very qualified’ to run for political office.” 

• “A study of close to one thousand Harvard law students found that in almost every category of skills relevant to practicing law, women gave themselves lower scores than men.”

Now, imagine how this is compounded when working in a male-dominated field – where a woman’s competency is even more likely to be called into question, trivialized, or at worst, completely ignored.

2. Be bold, be proud, and most importantly, be present  

We need to quiet the harsh inner critic telling us that we do not belong. Fight that voice inside your head that constantly tells you that you can’t and shouldn’t be included in a meeting. Break down the fallacies it imposes.

3. Communicate directly and with confidence 

No more “I just wanted to let you know…” or “I thought it might be a good idea if…”. Get rid of the “ifs”, "justs", "maybes" and "buts".

Before you send an email, read it over and eliminate the minimizing language. Cut that shit right out. State your intent clearly without thinking about whether or not you will step on anyone’s toes.

4. You don’t always need to ask for permission

Take risks, it’s okay to act before you're 100% sure. Sometimes. The truth is, so long as you are well-intentioned, the right boss or colleague will value your initiative and ownership, whether you think it’s your place to act or not. Doing more than what is in your job description is a clear path to a promotion, bb.

5. Be mindful of your body language 

Speak in an unhurried manner, project your voice, and pause when you feel like it. People do want to hear what you have to say, so don’t rush through it.

Sit up straight, uncross those arms, plant your feet on the ground and sit back… no one is going to take your chair away from you.

Greet people assertively, smile and keep your body relaxed, but you damn well best make sure that handshake is #firm #as #fuck.

6. Be kind to yourself 

It’s okay to make mistakes. Both men and women do it all the time. We need to accept our imperfections and idiosyncrasies, learn from them and carry those lessons forward.

Let’s cut the self-sabotage cycle and instead, focus that energy on fast-tracking our career and helping each other take over the world. The future is female.

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