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From ‘Imposterism’ to Confidence

Updated: Apr 27, 2021


Have you ever delicately held a yellow dandelion or a white poof flower in between your fingertips to make a wish and blow the seeds into the air? I have. I have also doubted my success many times, questioning, “Did I get lucky?, “Are they just being nice to me?”, “Do I deserve this?” Finally, I came across the name for this feeling – Imposter Syndrome.

In the book, “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women,” Valerie Young describes why successful and capable people suffer from the Imposter Syndrome. This concept was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in the paper, “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women.” Young clarifies that Imposter Syndrome is a self-invented pressure often experienced by high performing and successful individuals. In their mindset, the person believes that their success is due to luck and not as a result of talent or qualifications.

As I start to pay attention to my inner critic and the voice in my head, I realize that I am constantly judging my self-worth. I am often questioning my ability to continually achieve goals even when I am in fact achieving and exceeding expectations. As I start to piece together my thoughts and feelings, sometimes it is hard to see a way out. The book got me thinking. I realized what I was doing was creating a self-invented pressure. The fraudulent feelings of insecurities are often creating a mind trap. Just when I would see a milestone in sight, I would move the bar even higher in pursuit of being and doing better, without acknowledging or owning my achievements.

While this phenomenon is experienced by both men and women, research indicates that this inner barrier coupled with bias and microaggressions that women experience, impacts women more and can prevent them from taking advantage of opportunities. Lois Wyse articulately sums this up by noting, “men are taught to apologize for their weakness, women for their strengths.” It troubles me that countless capable women are depriving themselves of opportunities by discounting their efforts and talents.

While self-doubt is a human reaction that we all experience, how we see ourselves and how we speak to ourselves has a lasting impact on our wellbeing. As I continue to explore the concept of Imposter Syndrome, I find myself wondering – now what? We owe it to ourselves to take the journey from “imposterism” to confidence. Here are my three take aways which I’m working on:

  • Pause to observe your thoughts. Validate them against facts and your lived experiences. Then, reframe your thoughts.

  • Know that you are deserving of your success and not at the mercy of others’ acknowledgement. Recall your “wow moments”. How did you feel and what was the impact on others?

  • Allow yourself to both make mistakes and own your success

Know that you don’t need to wish upon a flower. You’ve got what it takes and you are not an imposter!

Image (below): Blowing white poofs into the air to make a wish


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