UNDERSTANDING IMPOSTOR SYNDROME
“David, I love your work. You are really good at what you do. I’m impressed! And I’m proud of how much you have grown. Wow!” Essien exclaimed. “Thank you Essien, it’s just the result of sleepless nights, nothing more. Besides, I had help from a few colleagues”, David responded indifferently.
Earlier that day, David had hoped Essien would love the work. He had put in a lot of effort to give the best deliverable possible to Essien, and from Essien’s response, he definitely achieved his goal. He gave his best and surely wowed Essien. However, he felt he didn’t deserve the accolades because he thought “I am not that good”, so, there was no iota of excitement in his voice. For someone who had done so much, his reaction was too cold. Yes! He got help from a few friends. And, yes, he spent sleepless nights trying to achieve the goal, but impostor syndrome deprived him of the feeling of fulfillment and success. Research shows 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their career. (Source: Steven Cavazos https://lnkd.in/gTkKUpA6)
Causes Of Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome is an internal experience of feeling you are not as good or as competent as people say you are. It can affect anyone, regardless of their position, status, or level of skill. Needless to say that this only engenders negative feelings, such as self-doubt, lack of self-confidence, self-sabotage, low self-esteem, poor leadership and management skills, restricted innovation and creativity, anxiety, and, ultimately, affects mental health.
A physical strain affects one mentally, likewise an emotional strain. Somehow, everything that happens to an average human finds its way to one’s mental faculty. When people find it difficult to recognize the competence people see in them, their mental health is at stake. Consequently, they begin to do less or do much more than they should, just to live up to the compliments they receive and avoid being “figured out as untalented or inexperienced”. The sad part is, no matter how much they are willing to work hard, they always attribute their success to one person or one thing, rather than commending their own effort and recognizing their competence.
Have you ever seen a colleague curl back into their shell when commended for a great work? Did you see him or her inadvertently downplay their achievements, avoid feedback, turn down new positions or opportunities that could set them up for growth because s/he considered himself or herself unworthy? Ever wondered why he or she overworked to the point of exhaustion, in the name of proving himself or herself? Or find it difficult to receive compliments because s/he is afraid of hearing something unpleasant?
Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
No one deserves to feel this way. Not you, not me, not anyone else. You should feel fulfilled when you are commended for a job well done. You should feel a rush of happiness for achieving a goal. You deserve to take on that new position because you worked hard for it.
You should seek feedback without hesitation because they help you grow and become a better version of who you are. You deserve to enjoy every bit of your journey as you progress in your career. But Seun can’t help it. Seun wants to feel this rush of emotion that comes with being commended but it’s difficult. We can help David by creating a working environment where everyone is encouraged to be their full authentic self, create effective listening and communication policies, help people figure out their strengths and weaknesses and constantly educate them on how to overcome their weaknesses and improve their strengths.
Inclusion in the workplace has a huge impact on reducing imposter syndrome. By making people feel valued and respected, they unleash their full potential, feel accepted, feel unique and appreciated, feel more satisfied with their job and ultimately have a healthy mental health. We can choose to talk about all the possible ways to help but we would do more by acting.
David is not just a character. Seun could be my colleague, or your colleague. David could be I or you or anyone on your team.
David could be my team lead or your team lead. Whoever it is, they deserve butterflies in their stomach when they think about their job, career, growth and we can help them achieve that, if we choose to.
And there’s probably a David in you, reading this now. This is me telling you that you have paid your dues, and you deserve accolades. When you receive such accolades, nothing, absolutely nothing, should deprive you of basking in the excitement.