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The Hidden Upside Of Impostor Syndrome

  • 17th Jan'22

If you don’t trust yourself, then who else will? Others will add only an unwanted layer of pressure to your mind. The effects of impostor syndrome may lead you to feel that your achievements are undeserved. 

It may lead you to think of it as a fraud perceived by harmful experiences. This can affect your goals and stop you from leading towards a successful path. If you’re thinking unworthy of your accomplishments, it’s not healthy. 

Basima Tewfik, assistant professor of Work and Organization Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reports on the negative consequences of self-doubt. The impostor behavioral changes will only add self-doubt and spoil your jobs.

“I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.” - John Steinbeck.

Don’t lean into the feelings of being unworthy; you must try to overcome them. However, if someone experiencing impostor syndrome puts in a little extra effort, they can surely outperform non-imposters. This means that people don’t motivate themselves; rather they resist with self-doubt. If they’re able to find the hidden upside of impostor syndrome, then success is attainable. 


The Impostor Cycle

According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, around 70% of people suffer from impostor thoughts at work. Specifically, workplace pressure is more evident these days. People are affected by workplace impostor thoughts due to various issues at some point in their lives. 

Oftentimes people suffering from impostor syndrome are lacking because of their perfectionist attitude, and they’re very conscious about it. People will strive to be better in everything they do. And these perfectionist goals will impact their mind and lead to stress. 

However, those suffering from impostor syndrome feel disappointed, overwhelmed, and overgeneralized with thoughts of failures. Therefore, they can't take negative feedback at work and forbid themselves to accept it. 

They always have anxiety about underperforming tasks, which leads to over-prepare for small things like presentations. Even if they perform well, people will be more stressed in this process. For instance, those with impostor syndrome tend to take more pressure in accomplishing even small tasks. 

Generally, employees with impostor syndrome won’t give credit for achievements to themselves. But they will attribute their success to luck.


Competency Of Impostors 

“What's talent but the ability to get away with something?” - Tennessee Williams

To solve the self-doubts of impostor syndrome at work, you need to first identify its benefits of it. The main concept of impostor syndrome is that it brings a gap between individuals. Also, people will lack to define their competence at the workplace. 

This competency gap prevailing in individuals' minds will affect the quality of work. It will also restrict people from standing among colleagues.

Tewfik worked with many supervisors who wanted to observe and analyze the interpersonal skills of their employees. These impostor thoughts and experiences will only induce self-doubt among individuals. 

Colleagues and managers were able to describe team members with impostor syndrome more at work. Employees suffering from impostor syndrome tend to experience self-doubt in everything they do. So, it becomes easy for non-imposters to identify them. 

In her final experiment, Tewfik observed a group of job seekers in a pre-interview “coffee chat” with a hiring manager. In this session, she found that people tried everything to impress the hiring manager. 

They showed themselves as a qualified person for the position to gain the opportunity. In this study, non-imposter peers asked more engaging questions and delivered answers for it.


Embracing Self-doubt

Impostor syndrome is not new but it has been studied for decades where only few implications are successful. Tewfik revealed her newest findings, which were embraced widely.

According to Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania., “Her research is setting a new ground that highlights impostor thoughts as a source of fuel.” Also, he notes that impostor syndrome motivates people to work harder and smart to acquire essential skills.

To overcome impostor thoughts, he also recommends people to believe themselves firstly. If people start to believe in their vision, then it will be easy to circumvent the impostor feelings. To reach real goals, people need to overcome their fear of being an impostor in the workplace. 

Experts believe that some people have a chronic belief in fraud, which manifests in their thoughts. In the moments where you get thoughts of impostor syndrome, remember this quote from Scott Galloway,“ I have something to prove,” so you’re not complacency.

And these negative thoughts will only induce stress, fear and shatter your self-confidence. Therefore, Tewfik’s research revealed that self-doubts are very normal for humans. So it’s nothing to be ashamed to hold back, instead keep moving forward. 


Do You Have Feelings of Impostor Syndrome?

“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!’ . . . Just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” - Tina Fey

According to Scott Galloway, an entrepreneur and professor of marketing at New York University, the best way to handle impostor thoughts is to acquire new skills. This will help people to avoid negative emotional components and move forward. 

Focus on your competence gap with your peers and try things to build better relationships. You will attract the best opportunities and perform even better at work than your peers.

When getting impostor thoughts, you need to realize that you’re best in what you do. Also, it’s important to realize your strengths and have the mindset to learn.


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Shellye Archambeau is determined to help you with all possible strategies to climb the ladder of success. She values your feedback. Do mention them in the comment section below.

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