Let’s be honest – those that say they’ve never known “Imposter Syndrome” are lying. Whether you experience these feelings regularly or not, we’ve all been there. Yet for me, “Imposter Syndrome” has contributed to my professional success in tech PR. At the same time, I think the term should disappear entirely. Post-blog, I will remove this word from my vocabulary, and passionately challenge those who say it exists.
Defining Imposter Syndrome
To understand “Imposter Syndrome,” we must first identify its general meaning and impact. According to Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey at Harvard Business Review, “‘Imposter Syndrome’ is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.” For more context and insight into the term and its flawed foundation, see their piece.
Imposter Syndrome in Practice
I’ve held “Imposter Syndrome” closely throughout my entire professional career – from when I was proofreading newsletters, to managing email campaigns, to communicating with clients, to managing a team. It’s always been there. It also reared its head as I settled into my new role in ad tech PR. Because of my client-side background and dedication to my work, I’ve moved up quickly in a high-growth environment. It’s a new and ever-changing role, and I find myself occasionally not accepting how far I’ve come in such a short period of time. And – for those wondering – specializing in a male-dominated field like ad tech does not help.
Let yourself feel things in the workplace. Don’t lump them into a diagnosis.
Upon further reflection (and after reading Ruchika and Jodi-Ann’s piece) I realized how demeaning the term is. It not only implies a disorder, but also a fraudulent act, and I treated it as such. I was giving it the power to take over my thoughts rather than allowing myself the joy of just doing a good job. But, while recognizing the impact of the term itself, I can’t help but notice the positives. Uncertainty offers the motivation to exceed the expectations I’ve set for myself, cultivate supportive environments for others, and develop a managerial style that is open and transparent.
Yes – people have feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, and self-doubt in the workplace as well as in social situations. But, rather than trying to coin a term for these feelings of insecurity, let’s advocate for discussion about them. Ask your employees how they’re feeling, what areas they’re not as confident in, and share your own uncertainties. In turn, managers will better understand the needs of their employees, employees will feel heard and supported, and everyone will recognize the value of vulnerability.