“What am I doing here? How did I get here? I do not belong here, these people are way too smart.” These thoughts crossed my mind shortly after I started my first job after college. I realized that I was the youngest and also the first international student and African female to work as a scientist in one of the best forensic toxicology laboratories in the world.
Studies show that 70% of millennials fail to internalize their success, often attributing their accomplishments to luck rather than ability. Perhaps it is because our parents always compared us to our neighbors down the street, our friends or maybe some of professors never believed in our dreams. This problem is compounded by our use of social media, which makes it seem like everyone is doing pretty amazing things and you are not OR you feel like you’ve failed at too many things. With many millennials, personal accomplishments raise internal doubts: you feel like you aren’t smart, talented or experienced enough, when compared to your other colleagues. You feel lucky and believe that one day you could run out of luck. In monotheistic religions this phenomenon called ‘grace’ and in psychology, it is called ‘Imposter’s Syndrome’ or Impostors Syndrome. To avoid being invidious, we will focus on the latter today.
Imposter syndrome is very common amongst millennials. Myself included. Women suffer from this, more so than men. Studies also show that millennials are most likely to experience imposter syndrome not only because of technological advancements within their lifetime, or because of societal pressures or social media comparisons, but also because of their parents. Imposters feel like they might be unqualified for a job/task and fear that their ‘fraudulent ways’ will be exposed through failures. Imposters fear failure and would do any and everything within their means to succeed and avoid failure.
I have realized from experience, that what matters is not whether we occasionally fear failing because failure is inevitable. It is whether we give those fears, the power to keep us from taking the actions needed to achieve our goals and highest aspirations.
Below are some ways to tackle Imposter Syndrome:
1) Focus on the value you bring; not on attaining perfection:
You don’t have to attain perfection to be a valuable asset to a firm, or to share something with the world that enriches people’s lives in some way. Enjoy the moments, set realistic goals that challenge you. Remember life is a journey, not a race you don’t have to accomplish everything NOW.
2) Reflect and own your success and consider failures learning opportunities:
All those caffeine-fueled nights, networking events, stalking and messaging mentors on LinkedIn, conferences, self-paid flights or chasing CEO’s and VP’s to ‘have a word’ are not freebies. The aforementioned, in addition to working hard got you where you are. There are so many people who graduated with honors but are working for those who are graduated with ‘turn-up cum laude’. The key in life is not only working hard, but also working smart. Remember, failure is inevitable. Do not be too hard on yourself. Learn from your mistakes.
3) Stop comparing yourself to others:
Please for the sake of God and man do not this. Everyone is trying to figure out this journey called life. A lot of people, who claim to have it together, honestly do not because life is highly unpredictable. Comparisons are also often biased and rarely helpful. You will be surprised to find out how many people are struggling just like you .Too often we compare our weaknesses to the strengths of others. When you find yourself doing that, remember that everyone’s journey in life is different, and you are in competition with no one but yourself.
4) Keep exposing yourself:
In an attempt to play safe and avoid being found out, please don’t hide in your comfort zone. A lot of people sabotage success, by settling for less than they deserve. A tiny voice in our head
urges us to steer away from situations that might expose our inadequacy and unworthiness but stick to what we are good at. Please, do not let fear prevent you from reaching your fullest potential. Constantly surround yourself with people who challenge you. Take up tasks and new ventures that will get you out of your comfort zone. In due time, you will thank yourself for this.
What other tips have helped you tackle imposter syndrome in the workplace?