Imposter Syndrome: You Thought You Understood it, but Have You?
Almost everyone has experienced it or will at some point in their life. Looking at the data, it's clear that feelings of being an imposter, or how we perceive ourselves in certain aspects of our lives, are ubiquitous. According to KPMG (2022), 75% of executive women in the US experience imposter syndrome. The International Journal of Behavioral Science estimates that at least 70% of us will grapple with it at some juncture in our lives.
These numbers indicate that imposter syndrome is not an anomaly; it's a prevalent and systematic global trend that affects individuals across various demographics. Whether you're a man, woman, black, white, Asian, or non-binary, the likelihood of experiencing it is very high.
Imposter syndrome is not selective in its targets. It can manifest in various aspects of one's life, such as how you wish to present your sexuality, your professional accomplishments, or your aspirations. It tends to latch onto the most uncertain facets of your life, where your perception of what should be doesn't align with your perceived reality.
As outlined in numerous medical journals, including the National Library of Medicine, imposter syndrome is characterized by behaviors and a need for perfectionism, a sense of being superhuman, a fear of failure and success, and a denial of competence and capability. It's crucial to emphasize that this is a perceived belief held by an individual that they are fraudulent in one or more areas of their life.
Additionally, attaching personality traits to feedback that shapes one's identity, as well as our snippet-based way of perceiving life, are often overlooked elements in the literature, yet they play a significant role in experiencing imposter syndrome.
When I was around 27 years old, I became the youngest and only female member to join the shadow cabinet set up by Business Center Club in Poland.
As the Minister of the Labor Market, my role involved analyzing data and forecasting labor market trends, with a keen focus on social changes and their impact. My imposter syndrome was in full swing.
Initially, I found myself comparing my achievements to those around me, including individuals I considered my mentors. I saw their life accomplishments, and mine seemed, at best, mediocre. Furthermore, it was a male-dominated environment, and many of my shadow cabinet colleagues were unaccustomed to women having a voice beyond that of a middle-class manager or secretary. Here I was, at 27, grappling with an extreme fear of failure, plagued by thoughts like, "What if I make an incorrect prediction? What if I lack the knowledge to speak confidently about social changes? What if I make them uncomfortable? I'm only 27, they have years of experience that I don't. What if I fail?" These fears became intertwined with my identity.
What happened to me is what happens to all of us; my "fortune teller ant" found her voice in my head. What I missed, as I didn't know the remedy for imposter syndrome at that time, was to first stop projecting into the future. No one holds the power, and even if I made an inaccurate forecast (which I did, and I'm still here), I would be able to rectify it and learn from it.
Next, I failed to ask myself, "I'm not good enough according to whom and compared to what?" Most of us don't halt our brains from generating false and senseless thoughts, triggering a cascade of biological reactions and chemicals. This can be prevented if we allow ourselves to be imperfect and take imperfect actions.
Another oversight my brain made was that someone in the decision-making circle deemed me knowledgeable and competent enough to hold my position. If this were happening now, I would say, "Borrow my glasses until you see what I see." My brain completely overlooked that there were people who believed I was qualified for the role, individuals with wisdom, knowledge, and experience who saw me as sufficient for the position.
Imposter syndrome erects barriers, erodes self-esteem, stifles decision-making, and holds us captive to our imaginary "shoulds." If I could speak to my younger self, I would ask myself these questions: According to whom? Compared to what? What would it look like if you were good enough?
I'm a brain coach with extensive experience in the highest levels of government and business in Europe. I've served as an adjunct at one of Poland's premier schools for over 15 years. I've coached CEOs and top-level executives through career changes and transitions for more than a decade. For the past three years, I've focused exclusively on brain coaching. Using neuroscience and neuro-psychology techniques taught by Dr. Amen and Ph.D. Joseph McClendon III, I'm equipped to rewire your brain. I'm your final stop before considering medication for ADHD, depression, anxiety, trauma, and PTSD, and your first stop if you're seeking to overcome them.
In as little as 3-6 months, I can help you break free from imposter syndrome, anger, procrastination, hesitation, fear of success, fear of failure, self-doubt, self-loathing, or people-pleasing.
I would love to work with you in a group setting, 1-1 or engage your audience in a key note that will be memorable and thought provoking.