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Finding the Sweet Spot of Confidence - Dispelling Imposter Syndrome

August 25, 2021, by Stephanie Messier | Performance Management

Have you ever come across an employee who is truly competent but lacking confidence?  How about yourself as a leader?  You sometimes feel attacked by self-doubt because you don’t feel you have what it takes to be an outstanding leader.  You feel like an imposter for being in a leadership role in the first place.  If these are your feelings, then you are most likely experiencing Imposter Syndrome. 

Imposter Syndrome is that sense that you are not competent enough in your role, even if you have the experience and the skills; you experience self-doubt. It is essentially when competence exceeds confidence.  Some researchers have linked the syndrome with perfectionism, especially in women.  Think of people you know who feel they don’t deserve their achievements, they have issues with accepting praise for their success, or they feel inadequate despite proven accomplishment.  They are charming, intelligent, creative and successful, but still, they don’t believe it themselves.  They are blind to their own strengths. 

It takes courage to admit to feeling like an “imposter”, but this first step will help dealing with it.  If you feel you are holding yourself back, or you work with someone who seems to be struggling with Imposter Syndrome, here are some ways to address it.

Some common feelings associated with Imposter Syndrome are:

  • “I cannot fail” which brings an extreme amount of pressure and may lead to the inability to enjoy success.
  • “I feel like a hypocrite, a fake” which leads to giving the impression that they are not competent, that they don’t deserve the promotion and tend to be anxious that someone made a mistake.
  • “I was lucky” which is a clear indicator of Imposter Syndrome to indicate that external factors contributed to the luck and the right timing.

Besides taking that first step of recognizing Imposter Syndrome, minimizing the negative self talk (or mind talk) will help bring the confidence up to the same level of competence.   Other ways include:

  • Knowing that more people you know have or will experience Imposter syndrome at some point in their lifetime.  So, you are not the only one!
  • Leveraging your strengths and be truthfully aware of your weaknesses, especially those in your blind spot. 
  • Underestimating yourself and understanding your development gaps and your insecurities.

There is still a lot to understand about Imposter Syndrome, when it is beneficial or detrimental.  Knowing what it is and what it feels like, will bring you closer to get the confidence you need to match your competence. 

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