Identity threat – dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Posted around 11 months ago •

January 23, 2023 

A recent study by KPMG found that 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers.

But what is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the persistent inability to believe one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills”.

Unfortunately, imposter syndrome is all too common within the workplace, regardless of gender, though in environments where there’s a gender imbalance or where there are those that identity as a minority, is more prevalent.

With imposter syndrome, you may have feelings of self-doubt, moments of trying to sabotage your own success or berate your own performance. It is a real and debilitating condition which can affect work performance and mental health. But there are ways of overcoming it.

It’s important for you to build confidence in yourself and your abilities, talk to someone, challenge your negative thoughts and focus on the process, not the outcome.

Though the responsibility isn’t just on an individual. There is also a responsibility for businesses to create an environment that fosters a variety of leadership styles, where racial, ethnic, and gender identities are respected and appreciated.

With so few people vocalising their experiences or imposter syndrome, it comes with a hidden cost, leading to symptoms of burnout, feelings of inadequacy and lack of satisfaction at work.

One of the key causes of imposter syndrome is a feeling of under-representation. It’s important to have a robust diversity and inclusion strategy in place, to help you inform your company culture and values.

Imposter syndrome is a narrative that has persisted over decades, especially prevalent in biased and harmful cultures. Leaders must create a culture that addresses systemic bias and racism, helping to alleviate the experiences that people, particularly women, have with imposter syndrome.

As a country, we need to create more female role models and recognise their achievements. This is why I am a supporter of events such as the Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards which Pertemps has been proud to support for several years.  

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