The battle against the impostor syndrome

The impostor or impostor syndrome is a psychological disorder in which successful people cannot assimilate their achievements

  • 25/06/2020
  • 11:14 hrs
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The battle against the impostor syndrome
The battle against the impostor syndrome (Photo: Pexels)

Today's column has been inspired by a pitch that went viral on Twitter. The story went like this: a startup composed of three men offered the owner of a vibrator company their data service, to "finally solve the mystery of the female orgasm "(the-au-da-ci-ty). The owner of the company made the presentation public as a prime example of "mansplaining." It reminded me of one of the most significant differences between men and women in entrepreneurship: the impostor syndrome.

If you've never heard of it, I am sure when you read the meaning. You will recognize the feeling: it's a psychological disorder in which successful people are unable to assimilate their achievements and are always minimizing them or doubting how competent you are. It goes beyond a matter of self-esteem and (not so) curiously; it affects more women, according to a report by Access Commercial Finance from the United Kingdom. Two-thirds of professional women have felt it, contrary to 18% of the opposite sex. It's mainly a cultural reason. Unlike men, women tend to understand success as a result of an enormous effort or stroke of luck, instead of a skill. Failure is perceived as an apparent lack of ability. This feeling can happen both at work and personally. However, the effects are more evident from the professional side.

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How to identify impostor syndrome

Important detail: this syndrome attacks high-performance people, so outwardly you may be doing extraordinary work, but you feel it as something basic. This can influence you to lose clarity about the value of your offer, be a barrier to sell a project, deliver results, or take advantage of opportunities.

In case you have felt identified, the good news is that the effects of this syndrome can be reversed. The first step is to identify it, land the thought with reality principle, and challenge the belief.

It was revealing for me to know that this constant doubt does not necessarily reflect what is happening, and above all that we can help each other to challenge it regularly. It's about turning the sensation around, not the achievement.

Personally, one of the tools that have helped the most is keeping a kind of "reality diary," in which I can document progress, based on clear, realistic objectives. I do the exercise of dimensioning both failures and successes, once written, I begin an "editing" process starting from the question, is this so? And answering over the text with another color. From here comes the messages that help balance the feeling about a particular event in the future. It's also worth accepting that you are going to make mistakes and that each one is an invaluable new piece of knowledge. The next thing is to practice talking about what you have done well. At first, you will feel a kind of discomfort, let it pass and focus on the concrete achievements. Above all, avoid unfavorable comparisons. Yes, Reese Witherspoon has a million-dollar entertainment empire, but there was a time when, like you and me, she started a project with the same fears. Each entrepreneurial path is different. The first standard of satisfaction is the one we set ourselves, let's be generous with ourselves. Perhaps the feeling of "impostor" is not entirely gone, Michelle Obama says that this syndrome is still with her. The key is that it is not a barrier to betting on your talent, ideas, and the value you have to bring to the market.

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* Mercedes Baltazar is an internationalist dedicated to strategic communication that decided to undertake to tell news from Meraki México.

Traducción Valentina K. Yanes