• Linda R. Taliaferro

Navigating Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is troublingly common in America, and it's especially a problem for women. Even I get imposter syndrome sometimes, and I'm someone who successfully coaches people to overcome their own negative self-talk.

Do you know the feeling I'm talking about? It's that voice in your head that insists that you're somehow not as good as the evidence shows, that you've fooled everyone into promoting you and you're going to be discovered at any moment.

What makes imposter syndrome so difficult to treat is that it can't be overcome by looking at evidence. You could be the top sales performer in your division, or a successful director who has been promoted multiple times, and even though all evidence points to you being excellent, you still doubt yourself.

For women of color, it affects us even more, because on top of our own negative voices we face societal judgements and discrimination. But what's the actual cause of imposter syndrome and how do we treat it?

Representation is crucial.

A 2020 study found that just 3.2% of senior leadership positions were held by Black professionals. That study came out last year. Last. Year.

When you don't see yourself represented in leadership positions, it's much harder to visualize yourself there. After all, you're directly seeing evidence that nobody who looks like you has done it before. That's massively discouraging.

If that's your situation, I'd encourage you to reach out to people of color in other organizations who did make it. They don't have to be in your company to be an inspiration to you, and if you hit it off, you may end up asking them to mentor you. Find someone who looks like you in a position you aspire to, and look up to them.

You can't outwork the problem.

Imposter syndrome often has us working ourselves as hard as we can, hoping that if we're just perfect enough at our jobs, somehow we'll "be good enough" to deserve that promotion. We need to overcome this mentality and recognize that while good work is a requirement, we also need to leverage social connections and relationships to help us advance. You're part of a team, so making friends and helping people out will not only help you feel connected and welcome in your office, it will also help reassure you that you are part of a team, you're valued, and people like you. Social belonging is powerful. Use it to your advantage.

Quit comparing yourself to others.

My final tip is a simple one: don't use someone else’s success as proof that you're not good enough. People flexing on Instagram or even posting about promotions on LinkedIn can sometimes send our imposter syndrome into a massive flare up. But remember that you also deserve credit. You also deserve praise for what you've done. Someone else's success doesn't diminish your own accomplishments or make your success less likely. Exercise your confidence and be strong in your own sense of self worth, rather than letting someone else's good news bring you down.

If you need guidance to overcome your imposter syndrome, I may be able to help. Click here to put a consultation with me on your calendar, and let's get started.

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