Do you ever find yourself at work feeling like you don’t belong? Like no matter how much you achieve, you still feel like a fraud?
If this resonates with you, you might be experiencing imposter syndrome. It’s that persistent feeling of self-doubt or inadequacy – the idea that you don’t deserve a seat at the table or that you’ll never be good enough. It affects so many women, whether they’re at the top of their career or just starting out.
In 2016, I was offered a part of a leadership team working in Nashville. I was thrilled – this could be a big step in my career! – yet I found myself doubting my abilities and wondering if I had what it took to do the job. On paper, I looked great, so why was I questioning myself? Why did I have these looming thoughts? Imposter syndrome is associated with feeling like a failure or fake, like your accomplishments are undeserved.
So, my Theta sisters, how do we combat it? How do we unlock our greatest potential without letting imposter syndrome get in the way?
Step 1: Identify Imposter Syndrome. The first step is to simply acknowledge your feelings of doubt rather than fight them. By understanding and accepting how you’re feeling, you’re allowing yourself to let go of these ideas and creating the opportunity to reframe your thoughts. Instead of questioning, “Am I qualified to be here? Can I do this?” start reassuring yourself, “I’ve worked hard to get here. Yes, I can do this.” Making positive affirmations like these can make a world of difference.
Step 2: Apply the Expansive Power Pose. While searching for ways to combat imposter syndrome, I came across social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TED Talk. She introduced me to the idea of the expansive power pose. When our bodies take up more space, our brain has an actual physical response. Making broad gestures, like standing tall with your chest and hands on your hips, can help reconfigure the mind to be more assertive and less reactive to stress. Studies show that practicing an expansive power pose for even as little as two minutes can boost our confidence.
I started to apply a power stance to my everyday life – during meetings, while flying, while sitting in the car – and I noticed a shift in how I approached things. By physically pretending with my body that I was fully self-assured, I was mentally fighting off imposter syndrome.
Step 3: Surround Yourself with Peers Who Support You. Sometimes when we deal with self-doubt, we think we’re the only ones feeling this way. This thought process can be isolating and make everything seem even more overwhelming. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
We get ahead by building each other up. Surround yourself with peers who will lift you and remind you of how talented you are. As a Theta sister, I’ve found ThetaConnect to be such a positive support system. The ThetaConnect community is all about helping other women rise. It’s vital to have a circle of people who inspire, support, and remind you of how talented you are. I’ve found that having a strong network of peers is one of the most crucial things when dealing with imposter syndrome.
Step 4: Take It Step by Step. Every time we take on a new challenge, we may come across imposter syndrome, and that’s okay! Often when I achieve new goals, I can’t help but hear that little voice of doubt asking, “What if this time I can’t deliver?” When I first started DevelopHer, I noticed that even some of the most established women had a similar feeling. Seeing how common this thinking was is what partially inspired me to write The DevelopHer Playbook.
When we’re overwhelmed with what’s in front of us, rather than figuring out the entire journey, start by taking the first step. Once you achieve the first task, move on to the next. Try making a list of everything that needs to get done, and as you complete each step, you can cross it off. Seeing your progress in front of you can help remove some of the pressure that many professional women put on themselves. Using this method has helped me thrive at work.
Step 5: Be Courageous. About a year or two after getting into tech, someone told me I was very courageous. It looked like I was fearlessly stepping forward and seizing opportunities - but the truth is - I was still afraid! I just didn’t let the fear of failure stop me from pursuing my goals. And you shouldn’t either. When I find myself with new opportunities, I apply a sort of cost-benefit analysis in my head. If the stakes are low and the downside isn’t that bad - I’m all in. And that comes back to being courageous. Courage isn’t the absence of fear but rather the act of moving forward and taking action despite the fear.
The feelings of self-doubt may come back from time to time as you reach new challenges. When they do, remember to own your accomplishments. Remind yourself that you are good at what you do and that you’ve worked hard to get where you are. Reach out to your network for encouragement and use the tools provided here to conquer that doubt and be the best version of you.