Women and imposter syndrome
Suffering from Imposter Syndrome (IS) is nerve-racking and energy eating. And the new Zoom culture makes it even tougher.
‘Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’ is more common in women than men.
Professor of organisational behaviour at Babson College (Wellesley, Boston and Miami) Danna Greenberg studies how work-life balance affects careers. An interesting topic during lockdown. Greenberg points out that women who suffer from IS work twice as hard in part because they are focussed on impressing management and colleagues, so their competence and capabilities get recognized. Virtual environments make it much harder to do that.
Helen is a successful executive. Her team is doing well and she is highly regarded by her colleagues and manager. During lockdown, she has been working harder than ever and she is feeling it. Tired, run-down, but also anxious and insecure. Her colleagues are talking about Zoom fatigue, but Helen knows there is a bit more to it.
Helen suffers from Imposter Syndrome: she ‘knows’ she got her success thanks to luck and extremely hard work. She ‘knows’ she is not really good at her job and therefore constantly on the lookout to cover herself for mistakes and misjudgements. Because she is scared she will be found out. And that will be the end of her career. She thinks.
During meetings, Helen is used to checking on everybody’s body language, to get feedback on her performance. Is there an irritation or impatience? Are people bored when she speaks? She gets a lot of re-assurance out of her observations.
Another thing Helen is used to, is to have little personal exchanges with most staff. Eye contact, a little nod to encourage or a smile. It gives her that sense of control and the confirmation that others are taking her seriously.
On the calls, Helen can’t hide or present distractions. She is in full view to everyone and doesn’t know who is observing her intensely and picking up on her signals. She feels very vulnerable.
It is not the usual Zoom fatigue we are talking about here. It is the constant high adrenaline level connected with the Imposter Syndrome which wears Helen out.
What to do?
The most important thing for Helen is to decrease her IS. In a normal situation, she has learned to hide it, but that has become much harder.
Any time any of us experience an imposter feeling, it is the way of thinking that determines if you develop IS or not. And it is the thinking that needs to be changed. The feeling will follow eventually
How to change your way of thinking:
- Separate facts from feelings
- Look for evidence of ‘failure’
- Look for evidence of success
- Fake it to make it
- Don’t catastrophise events
- Aim for good is good enough
- Be kind to yourself by stopping the judgment and criticism
An interesting article on Zoom fatigue and 6 ways to prevent it, read here.
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