CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Success and Leadership - Imposter Syndrome: How To Overcome It, Not Worry About It

Success and Leadership

Imposter Syndrome: How To Overcome It, Not Worry About It

Divya Parekh

There are differences between men and women. While this might not be a shattering observation, let’s concentrate on how the differences affect how women approach their careers and show up as leaders. It’s a fact more women than men enroll in college. Still, there is a significant difference in the number of men who head up or manage businesses. Books and documentaries detail how this phenomenon continues in companies. Let’s look at a tiny piece of the picture and an area where a woman can take ownership of how she approaches her career. 

Impostor syndrome (IS) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context. 

That definition comes from the “verywellmind” website. We will ignore the perfectionism detail for now. Instead, we will look at the reality that too many women tackle their profession, career, and aspiration covered by a fog of imposter syndrome.

Many men also suffer from looking at themselves as not being as good as others think they are. However, something about most men allows them to cover up their self-doubt and plunge better ahead, anyway. Call it ego or fear, but most men push on despite any self-esteem issues they might have. 

Most women internalize their self-doubts, affecting how they approach their work. When a person believes they are not as good as how others see them, it has a bearing on planning, performance, and execution. But even more importantly, it can hold a woman back from doing what she wants to do. It can get in the way of leading her company, managing her department, owning her own business, and creating impact.

Let’s look at three ways to combat this imposter syndrome. First, while it might sound trivial that you need “to believe in yourself,” it comes down to that. We need to understand some practices to bring reality to the self-realization effort.  

Mindfulness—This is not a buzzword to be cast aside. Mindfulness is looking at a situation objectively and without judgment. In this case, it is taking a good look at yourself in the mirror about who you are. This is the time to cast aside ego and false humility. To reach your full potential, you have to know what you are working with and test your strengths and weaknesses. Think of it as assessing a potential partner in your business and what they can bring to the table. Of course, you will never find the “perfect” partner, but that’s okay—nobody is perfect!

That includes us. Yet, we all have talents and passions that we own. It is time to look at what you are good at and what you think you can improve with practice or training. You also have to look at your shortcomings. Not everybody can glance at a spreadsheet and determine a company’s financial strength. If that’s you, it’s okay to lean on others. 


Know Your Elephant—Sometimes, it comes down to things we don’t like to do. You might not want to admit it to others, but it is the “elephant in the room.” Whenever you face that elephant charging at you, you either have to figure out how to attack it head-on or how to sidestep it. Let’s look at two real-life examples concerning a big fear on many people’s list—public speaking.

Sarah is a highly successful biotech executive who’d rather face down a horde of invaders than stand up in front of a room giving a speech. So, she dealt with her fear by letting others become the company’s voice when such speeches were necessary at conferences, for investors, and others. Alternatively,  she worked painstakingly with a producer and director to create videos of her to broadcast at events or on social media. A ten-minute video might take eight hours to produce, but it was worth the effort for Sarah.

Julia had the same issue in an investment firm. As a result, she took some speechmaking courses at the local college. This effort led to joining an Improv comedy group because a teacher told her that would be a great help to her. As a result, she now effortlessly gets up to speak. Also, she has a sideline of performing with an Improv troupe on weekends and making people laugh!

Know When to Take a Breath—This might mean taking an actual breath, as in breathing exercise during meditation. When you incorporate mindfulness in your life, you know your elephants. You will know when self-doubt is creeping in, and imposter syndrome is taking root. When you know that is happening to you, the best thing to do is take a step back. Depending on how much time you have, it might be a 15-minute walk with your favorite music blasting in your ears.

On the other hand, it could be calling it a day and doing something fun. Donna is a hard worker who struggles not to turn into a workaholic. However, she says when she experiences dreams about work, it is time to take a couple of days off.

Nobody can go 100 miles an hour all the time. Fatigue—physical, mental, and emotional—will all set into a person. At such a time, we are most vulnerable to thinking we aren’t hacking it or aren’t good enough. So, like a piece of tech equipment, shut off periodically and turn back on to reboot when you go into imposter distress and give yourself a break!

Authored by Divya Parekh.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Success and Leadership - Imposter Syndrome: How To Overcome It, Not Worry About It
Divya Parekh
Divya Parekh is the CEO of an award-winning, client-first business growth agency with 15 years of experience in helping businesses grow. She has authored over ten books, including Leadership and Influence, Critical Thinking, Candid Critique, Appreciative Inquiry, Emotional Intelligence, Stress Management, and The Entrepreneur’s Garden. Some of the organizations she has worked with include 20 Fortune 500 companies and five Fortune 50 companies. Divya Parekh is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.