3 ways to tackle imposter syndrome as a woman in business

3 ways to tackle imposter syndrome as a woman in business
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The following is a guest post from founder and CEO of PepTalkHer, Meggie Palmer. Meggie founded PepTalkHer to help close the gender pay gap. And today, they’re on a mission to help supercharge your career through corporate trainings, online courses, and the PepTalkHer app. You can get started unlocking Meggie’s wisdom with this free Know Your Worth resource. In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked Meggie to pen a guest post on imposter syndrome, something that many women in business face everyday.

“Why me?”

You know that feeling….right?

The one when you feel a bit sick and anxious. When you’re nervous that you don’t belong in your job, your side hustle because you feel like a fraud. When you feel like you’re in over your head. If you can relate, you’re like 70% of the population who admit to experiencing imposter syndrome.

Here’s the good news: You’re in great company!

Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, and Emma Watson openly talk about their experience with imposter syndrome. I’m right there with you too.

It’s personal

In my former life as a foreign correspondent, I spent more than a decade working as a journalist for the likes of BBC World, CNBC, and Dateline. I won awards. I interviewed Bashar Al Assad in his palace in Damascus and Brad Pitt on the red carpet. And yet, I had plenty of occasions in my career where I found myself doing things and traveling to stories wondering, “Why me? Why didn’t they send another journalist? I can’t do this story….can I?”

Classic imposter syndrome.

Even now as a creator and entrepreneur with a successful online course business. Having built PepTalkHer to a community of 60,000 professional women globally who I help get pay raises of 10, 20, even 35% sometimes, I still hear that ugly voice rear its head, trying to cause me to doubt myself.

Back to the beginning

Imposter syndrome was first coined in the 1970s by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. Men and women both experience it, although it’s more frequent among women and other underrepresented groups.  (It’s worth noting the original research done was fairly monocultural and didn’t take into account the experiences of people of color.)

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where you doubt your skills and talents and persistently find yourself worried you’ll be exposed as a “fraud.”

Researchers found that a lot of high achievers battled to accept their success. And instead, they often attributed their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability.

Range of reasons

Ultimately, there’s a range of reason why imposter syndrome creeps in. And, what do you do if you want to remove the prevalence of these experiences, especially in the work place? More needs to be done to fix workplaces and shift the unconscious bias that play out across society.

But no matter how it creeps in, the feelings can be managed. Below, I’ll share with you my top three tips to help you tackle imposter syndrome.

How to tackle imposter syndrome

1. Retrain your brain

Confidence is like a muscle. Quick neurology lesson: Your brain is composed of a bunch of cells including neurons, which communicate with one another through synaptic connections. This sends signals from one neuron to another to get stuff done.

If certain synaptic transmissions aren’t used frequently, they may cease to exist, while those that get a regular workout get stronger. These synaptic changes occur throughout life. It’s what scientists call neural plasticity.

It’s the old use it or lose it adage. Like going to the gym. If you visit the gym once, do a set of 10 reps, then never go again, you can’t expect results. But if you train regularly and routinely, you’ll start to see positive effects. Your confidence and ability to tackle imposter syndrome is exactly the same.

Self-doubt forms in the mind.

You can be a hugely achieving individual on paper, but unless you can convince yourself on the matter, you’ll fall into the imposter syndrome trap. Don’t get disheartened if imposter syndrome doesn’t miraculously disappear in a week, a month or even a year. It needs to be continually worked on, managed, and reviewed.

2. Track your wins

By tracking your successes, you’ll have an on-hand list of every career win that is so useful to review when you need to help retrain your brain, go into a pay review meeting, apply for a new role, or have a job interview.

A few years back I created the PepTalkHer app for this exact reason. It’s a free app helping you to record your wins. Download it here. (Did I mention it’s free?)

Say you recorded one win each week, you’d have 52 successes notched up in one year. And even just recording once a month leaves you with 12 amazing achievements you can call upon when you need them.

Feeling like an imposter? Go and review your list and realize what a value-adding legend you are.

3. Be an ally

Andrea Salazar-Nuñez, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle said: “For people of color, and especially women of color, impostor syndrome is influenced by the messaging that we’ve received from day one. If you’re in a context where you’re in a minority, you’re more likely to feel like an imposter.”

Consider the data: Women of color are approximately 18% of the US population, but yet hold just 4.6% of board seats in the Fortune 500. How can we change this?

Research tells us the power of diverse teams and diverse opinions not only makes for better workplace experiences but also leads to better net profit. And so, actively building a diverse team is crucial to creating an environment where your staff and team members can feel like they belong and are seen, so they can thrive.

Putting it together

We work with Fortune 500 companies at PepTalkHer. And we know it’s a priority for most of them. So things are changing— but it takes time. Allyship is one step in the right direction.

Minda Harts, Author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table says: “I hear people say, ‘I’m an ally.’ But what are you going to do to be an ally when it counts? Success is not a solo sport. It takes people investing in you. Success requires white men and women using their privilege to bring me along with them.”

Identifying a mentor or ally who can help support you in your career journey and remind you of your successes when you’re experiencing an imposter syndrome spiral can be crucial to shifting your mindset towards focusing on your success, value, and the contribution you do make.

Do you want more from Meggie? Join her live workshop during our free virtual event March 22-24, 2022. Reserve your spot at The Creator Experience: A Teachable Summit.

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