Imposter Syndrome – Part II: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Self-Sabotage in Your Career

"One consequence of this mental health condition is that women stop occupying spaces that could fit them" (El País).

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If you feel incapable and diminished, read this article and share your opinion with us.
If you feel incapable and diminished, read this article and share your opinion with us.

In this article, you will:

  • Get to know 4 ways not to fall into the trap of being an imposter of your own career.
  • Assess whether the phenomenon of self-sabotage is being misused to blame women for oppressive jobs.
  • Learn how to identify a toxic and sabotaging work environment.

As we talked about in our last article, the Impostor Syndrome is a psychological effect of self-deprecation and non-appropriation of one’s own qualities and successes. It mainly affects women in their professional environments, and hinders promotions, salary increases, career transitions or new jobs for women around the world.

Today, in Part II of our conversation about the Imposter Syndrome, we are going to suggest 4 ways to protect you from this obstacle in building your career path. Furthermore, we will talk about how to pay attention to external sabotage, that is, the danger of taking the blame for your lack of trust due to oppressive and harmful actions.

4 actions to avoid falling into the trap called Imposter Syndrome

The Imposter Syndrome is considered a self-limitation that specially women impose on themselves, to the point of inhibiting their free expression and action, whether at work, in the academic world or in arts. When their confidence is damaged by self-deprecating thoughts and the constant belief that they are a fraud, women recognize themselves as little qualified to take on new positions and opportunities, not occupying spaces that could have been theirs.

As a way to reverse this behavior that weakens women, let’s now list some actions to prevent this syndrome from becoming the keynote of your professional life.

  1. Form partnerships with other women

When we find allies for our projects or work ideas, we can count on their support and constructive criticism. These partnerships tend to be safe environments for mutual encouragement, strengthening qualities and developing points of improvement. Another offshoot of the partnership would be Mentoring and we recently talked about this subject in this article in portuguese (later today we will publish a version in English in this platform as well).

2. Practice self-knowledge

Knowing ourselves allows us to go deeper into our strengths as well as our weaknesses and fears. Meditation, therapy, yoga and other self-reflection techniques provide more confidence and emotional stability, shielding us from possible situations of doubt about our own capacity and making us safer to deal with everyday challenges

3. Exercise

The practice of individual or collective physical exercises generates a broader awareness of how we act when we are subjected to challenges and the role of our perseverance. Training daily for a goal, facing situations of doubt and discouragement, losing and winning, make us better prepared for the failures and victories of the professional environment. Exercise is also an excellent way to maintain physical and mental well-being

4. Be ready

Arming ourselves with knowledge and information to deal with difficult and challenging situations makes us safer to face heated debates, presentations to a new audience or even our bosses at the time of requesting a raise. Study your interlocutor and the topic you will address and get preparation ahead; the probability of failure tends to be significantly lower once we do this.

However, no matter how much we practice these actions, we may be in a work environment that does not do its part, that is, it condones arbitrariness, persecution and injustice. We will talk a little more about this situation in the next section.

When sabotage comes from outside

In the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome“, writers and speakers Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey question the Impostor Syndrome as the sole reason for women’s lack of confidence.

According to them:

What is underexplored is why the Imposter Syndrome exists in the first place, and what role workspace systems play in fostering and exacerbating this syndrome in women.

From this point of view, the Imposter Syndrome blames women in their own oppressive environments. It does not consider the weight of racism, xenophobia, class bias and other categories of prejudice. Thus, the oppression of women that occurs in work environments tends to be alleviated and falls on their victims, which makes the burden even greater for women professionals.

The authors of the HBR article add that this syndrome puts our vision for the “correction” of women at work rather than the correction of women’s work. It’s as if decades and more decades of male and white sovereignty in the office were surpassed only through female willpower and engagement.

How to identify toxic environments and saboteurs?

As a way to be more aware of what is happening in your work environment and if you are somehow being sabotaged in your professional progress, it is important to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is peer pressure for results equal for both men and women?
  • Does individualism and competition in your team is valued before collective cooperation?
  • Are there other women who complain about having to leave aside other spheres of their sociability, such as family and rest, in order to stand out professionally?
  • In your company, does the discourse on the quality of the work environment differ from the practice?
  • In your day-to-day work, are oppressive and discriminating leaders given due guidance and punishment, even if they do have good results in the company?
  • Do you feel unheard in your work environment?

When answering “yes” to some of these questions, assess the extent to which your professional development is not being hampered by companies that do not pay attention to the individualities of their professionals and do not strive to promote a more egalitarian environment. Like individuals, institutions must constantly evolve, incorporating an increasingly plural and inclusive leadership style.

If something bothers you and there is little room for change in your work, perhaps it is time to think about your professional situation and act towards your values. It may be that the problem is not with you after all.

Let’s chat about this…

Have you ever been in a sabotaging work environment? How was your experience? Or did you happen to experience a certain episode of self-sabotage? Have you ever been able to face a situation of this nature?

Share with us in the comments. Talking more about this topic is one of the ways to raise awareness about the problem and begin to break free from its shackles.

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Co-authored with Sandra Milena Acosta

Sandra has worked for more than 12 years in the strategic planning and risk management of global financial institutions. Master in Economics from UFPR, graduated in Economics from UNICAMP and post-graduated in Digital Marketing from Kellogg Executive Education, she recently went through a career transition and is now a Writer of Chronicles, Children’s Literature and Poems. All of her work is available on her Instagram page (@sandramtca) and on Medium.

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