Understanding Women's Struggle with Imposter Syndrome & Tips to Overcome It

Understanding Women's Struggle with Imposter Syndrome & Tips to Overcome It

By: Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, Serial Entrepreneur & CEO, Great Place To Work® India | Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Yeshasvini is a globally renowned serial entrepreneur and Co-Chair of ASSOCHAM National Council on Quality and Productivity. She has an experience of more than a decade and combines deep expertise in organizational behaviour, AI, and investment management to bring analytical rigor to business transformation projects.

Over the years, Yeshasvini has led multiple projects for Fortune 100 companies and has also represented India in the Fortune Most Powerful Women program and received the Times Power Women Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship. So far the entrepreneur has invested in and accelerated 46 startups to date.

Imposter syndrome, a psychological condition that makes it difficult for individuals to internalize and acknowledge their skills and accomplishments is a common occurrence these days. When someone has imposter syndrome, they frequently feel deceitful and think that their achievement is purely the result of chance or uncontrollable circumstances rather than their own abilities or ability. This internal struggle can be especially prevalent among women and underrepresented groups in various professional settings, leading to detrimental effects on their confidence, relationships, and overall well-being.

In today's fast-paced and competitive world, individuals are constantly striving to excel in their careers or academic pursuits. As women continue to break barriers and succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields, they often find themselves facing unique challenges. Stereotypes, societal expectations, and biases can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, amplifying imposter syndrome.

Research has shown that imposter syndrome can have significant consequences on individuals' mental health and overall productivity. When constantly plagued by feelings of being an imposter, people may avoid seeking out helpful relationships or networking opportunities, fearing that they will be exposed as incompetent. This can lead to isolation and a missed chance for personal and professional growth.

Moreover, the constant internal battle can drain an individual's energy and lead to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and even depression. Individuals may undercut their own accomplishments out of fear of being found out as someone they think they are not, which can result in a vicious cycle of self-destruction and lost possibilities for development.

The Impact on Work & Life Satisfaction

In the workplace, imposter syndrome can create a toxic environment, both for the individual experiencing it and for the team as a whole. When employees doubt their abilities, they may hesitate to share their ideas or take on leadership roles, resulting in missed opportunities for innovation and growth within the organization. This lack of engagement can ultimately lead to decreased productivity and potential profit loss for the company.

For women, especially those in male-dominated industries, imposter syndrome can exacerbate the existing gender disparities. The fear of not measuring up to societal expectations and the pressure to prove themselves can be overwhelming, leading to burnout and a higher likelihood of leaving the profession altogether.

Moreover, imposter syndrome can have a profound impact on one's personal relationships. The constant struggle to maintain a façade of competence can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnect from friends and family, further contributing to feelings of inadequacy and loneliness.

Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

While overcoming Imposter Syndrome may seem like a daunting task, it is possible with patience, self-awareness, and support. Here are some tips that can help individuals, especially women, in their journey toward conquering Imposter Syndrome:

1. Acknowledge and Accept: The first step towards overcoming Imposter Syndrome is recognizing its presence. Accept that it is a common phenomenon that affects many high-achieving individuals, and it does not diminish your worth or capabilities.

2. Embrace Vulnerability: Allow yourself to be vulnerable and open about your feelings of self-doubt with trusted colleagues, friends, or mentors. Often, sharing these thoughts with others can help dispel the myth of being alone in these feelings.

3. Internalize Positive Feedback: Instead of dismissing compliments or attributing your success to luck, learn to accept and internalize positive feedback. Keep a record of achievements and compliments to remind yourself of your capabilities during moments of self-doubt.

4. Set Realistic Goals: Don't hold yourself to impossible standards. Set attainable objectives and acknowledge any progress, no matter how tiny.

5. Challenge Negative Thoughts: When negative thoughts of inadequacy arise, challenge them with evidence of your accomplishments and abilities. Focus on the times when you have succeeded and overcome challenges.

6. Seek Support and Mentorship: Be in the company of encouraging people and look for mentorship from seasoned experts who can help you through challenging periods and offer insightful advice.

7. Focus on Learning: Shift your focus from seeking perfection to continuous learning and growth. Embrace the fact that everyone makes mistakes and that failure is a part of the learning process.

8. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding that you would offer a friend facing similar challenges.

9. Professional Help: If Imposter Syndrome is significantly impacting your well-being and daily life, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide specialized support and guidance in overcoming these challenges.

Imposter Syndrome is a prevalent issue that affects many individuals, particularly women and underrepresented groups. The internal struggle can lead to adverse effects on mental health, relationships, and work performance. However, with self-awareness, support, and proactive strategies, it is possible to overcome Imposter Syndrome and unlock one's true potential. We can create an environment where people may grow and accomplish their goals without being hindered by self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy by promoting a culture of empathy and understanding across companies and society.