Know How to Identify This and Get Beyond It

There can be something almost shameful in admitting to having imposter syndrome.

Maybe that has a bit to to with its origins. Professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes at Georgia State University came up with the idea in 1978 when studying high-achieving women. They posited that these successful professionals had a hard time internalizing their success.

For a long time, this seemed to be a “woman’s issue.” The truth is that 70% of people (of all sexes) report experiencing imposter syndrome.

Here’s a closer look at the neuroscience behind this and what we can do about it.

Knowing you have more than one kind of confidence — that “general self confidence” remains stable and “task-specific self confidence” rises and falls — is useful when sorting through what’s happening with you.
The next time you feel sure you’re in over your head, and your confidence seems shaky, remember these three tactics:
  • Be aware of your emotions and what’s happening in your body, so you can identify imposter syndrome faster
  • Remind yourself of a similar situation where you were successful
  • Visualize the best possible outcome, drill down to the details, and then repeat (a lot)
You can help your people do this, too. The best leaders are seen as authentic. If you notice someone is struggling, try admitting that this has happened to you. Share what you’ve done to recover your perspective and confidence. Then remind them of the successes you’ve seen them achieve.
Both of you will be better for the experience.