Don’t “Fake It ‘Til You Make It”

Melanie Colwell

“I’m a fraud. Everyone knows it. It’s only a matter of time before I’m called out.” Sound familiar? Have similar thoughts crossed your mind, especially as it pertains to business and your career?

You’re not alone. A recent study by KPMG, a Big Four accounting organization, found that 75% of female executives across multiple industries have experienced “imposter phenomenon,” as it’s commonly called, in their careers, which often manifests itself as feelings of inadequacy and continuous doubt if they are qualified enough for their job.

The term “Imposter Phenomenon” was first coined in 1978 in an article published by two American psychologists, Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, where they defined imposter phenomenon as “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness.”

Despite external validation and achievement, many women lack internal acknowledgment of their accomplishments, often attributing their success to luck or being in the right place at the right time. They feel like a fraud, devalue their worth, and undermine their own expertise. These feelings represent a conflict between their own self-perception and how others perceive them.

Imposter phenomenon is not a syndrome. It’s not a medical disorder. It is self-doubt. It can result in highly successful and capable women questioning their seat at the table.

Award-winning author Maya Angelou spoke about her own feelings of self-doubt, saying “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”

Overcoming imposter phenomenon is not a matter of working harder to do better – that can actually be counterproductive. Instead, consider the following strategies to help resolve imposter feelings:

Make a Plan: Write down your goals. Break them down into small, manageable tasks and cross them off one at a time.

Visualize Success: Increase your confidence by visualizing the outcome you seek. By “seeing” your success, you are setting yourself up to achieve it.

Allow Grace: No one is perfect, including you. You will make mistakes. Success doesn’t require perfection. Be kind to yourself.

Celebrate Your Successes: Acknowledge your achievements when they come. Write them down and re-visit them when self-doubt kicks in.

Seek Trusted Feedback: Surround yourself with a tribe you trust that will give you honest, meaningful feedback. This can help stave off wondering what everyone else is thinking about you.

Be You: Own who you are, without changing or compromising. You’ll always be an imposter if you’re not being yourself.





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