Most people within the technology industry have had moments in the workplace when they feel out of place, unsure or lost in a room full of professionals. But when does this become more than just “new job jitters” and something entirely more serious? Imposter syndrome is when these feelings turn into a consistent pattern, causing people to doubt their skills and see themselves as a fraud.
Over 40 years of research in psychology and sociology domains have shown that every demographic can suffer from imposter syndrome. The concept was first introduced in the late 1970’s with a focus on high-achieving women. But today, almost 70 percent of people, regardless of age, gender or race, will suffer from one aspect of it during their career. Textbook imposter syndrome means you consistently doubt your capabilities, accomplishments and achievements. There’s a voice in your head asking, “What gives you the right to be here? Why should anyone listen to you?”
Sound familiar? Much like a personal adviser, this voice inside of you may be trying to help you. But instead, it ends up doing you more harm than good. You cannot not let this voice dictate your actions or career path. Simply acknowledge the voice and do what needs to be done regardless. Everyone and every workplace circumstance is different, but research and best practices from leaders who have overcome imposter syndrome have found that certain mentality shifts can help professionals cope and overcome this self-inflicted barrier to optimal workplace success.
Let Your Guard Down
Professionals in environments that require advanced degrees such as the technology and healthcare industries can often feel intimidated by co-workers and superiors, knowing they are working alongside people who have likely undergone at least half a decade of educational and technical training in the field. In fact, more than half of employees working in the technology industry believe they are imposters.
Remember: we are all human. Do not be afraid to let others see the real you and get to know your co-workers as people, as opposed to colleagues. When you let your guard down and share your real feelings or opinion, you give others a chance to connect with you and come out of their own shell. Remember that you secured this position and salary because hiring teams felt you were qualified and deserved it; there is no need to feel inferior to those around you.
Fight Your Perfectionist Tendencies
Studies show that perfectionism among young people increased significantly in the last few decades. Working hard and being committed to your work is important. However, becoming obsessed with perfection to secure validation from peers and colleagues is unhealthy and unsustainable. Do not let the search for perfection limit your courage to go after new opportunities. Data has shown that women will only apply to a job if they know they are 100 percent qualified for it, while men will apply when they meet 60 percent of required qualifications. Push yourself to act before you think you are ready, because you likely already are. After all, the harshest critic you will encounter is yourself.
Embrace Your Mistakes
Give yourself a break. Find opportunities to grow from mistakes instead of fearing them. Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Our society’s seductive praise and admiration for the “natural genius” is harmful and destructive. Most people do not become experts on a subject matter overnight. Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” explains that if you believe that your qualities are unchangeable — the fixed mindset — you will want to prove yourself correct over and over rather than learning from your mistakes. We are all a work in progress– especially those of us who work in the technology industry where constant and lifelong learning is an essential aspect of the job.
Regardless of when or how you overcome imposter syndrome, what matters is that you take the steps to do so. It is becoming increasingly common in the workplace, and while women and all under-represented minorities may be more susceptible to it, the syndrome is gender blind. Even successful, otherwise confident celebrities and CEOs like Gwyneth Paltrow are victims of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is never going to go away. It is a permanent part of your subconscious and the only way to make peace is to acknowledge it and move on. Those constant internal debates to shut it down won’t help. Have faith in your abilities and know your worth, because everyone else in your life already does.