WEST Wisdom Blog

Imposter syndrome: 3 oxymorons that will destroy it now

Posted by Diana K. Anderson on Sep 25, 2019 8:11:00 AM
Find me on:

anderson-braydon-wOHH-NUTvVc-unsplash-3000x1500-72#1Even the origin of imposter syndrome highlights its inherent contradiction

Imposter syndrome was originally identified by on Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes’ 5-year study that describes its 150 subjects as ‘high achieving women’ with ‘outstanding academic and professional accomplishments’. The only way for imposter syndrome to present is the context of its inherent contradiction.


Clance and Imes explain that despite ‘ample object evidence of superior intellectual functioning’, these ‘highly successful women…PhDs…respected professionals…students recognized for their academic excellence’ self-identified as intellectual frauds. Imposter syndrome is described as an ‘internal experience of intellectual phonies.’ This replaces the ‘internal sense of success’ that one would expect of a high-achievement individual.


#2Feeling like you’re an imposter most likely indicates that you aren’t

Let’s unpack this. Imposter syndrome is denial of one’s success in the face of substantial objective evidence to the contrary. People often describe the experience as feeling like they have ‘fooled’ people into perceiving their skills and expertise.


So, in that moment when you wonder if you’re an imposter, perhaps you should consider the progression of interactions that brought you to this moment. Did you just show up one day and tell people that you were the best candidate without supplying references? Was it one moment of dumb luck or a single transaction that got you here? Probably not. Being perceived as an expert generally requires years and the consensus of numerous other experts.


So, to extrapolate, you cannot logically question the legitimacy of your expertise without questioning the intelligence of a whole lot of other experts. It’s either that, or you must be extremely intelligent. After all, you had to continuously and consistently fool how many people for how many years to get to this point?


#3Imposter syndrome often surfaces in moments of external recognition

When is imposter syndrome is most likely to creep in to even the most confident person’s inner monologue? Being recognized for one’s achievements can seem like a handwritten invitation for imposter syndrome. Just before you speak at a conference. Graduation day. When your boss tells you about your promotion. Entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, founders and C-suite executives all grapple with imposter syndrome—often as a direct response to the market validating their efforts with commercial success.   


How to overcome imposter syndrome

The reason everyone is talking about overcoming imposter syndrome is because everyone suffers from it at some point(s). Everyone. Imposter syndrome is part of the human experience. And like much of the human experience, we can explore, explain and influence it through neuroscience and psychology.


It’s important to understand imposter syndrome and how to mitigate it on a personal level. Now, consider the exponential impact of the former and the latter at the organizational level. Join WEST on October 17th for a seminar with Michelle Greer Galloway that will explore the science of imposter syndrome and practical strategies for individuals and organizations to break out it.


Click here to learn more about all the upcoming WEST events.


Topics: Women in STEM, Confidence, Challenges, Career Development, Own It, Empowerment, PhD, #WESTevent, #WESTorg, Women in Business, Be Fearless, Be Brave, Imposter Syndrome, Competence

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all