EDUCAÇÃO E TECNOLOGIA

Do you feel like an impostor? You’re not alone!


I created this blog post along with my co-author Caroline Souza and it was a fun collaboration!

Do you think you are alone? Shall we talk a bit more about the Impostor Syndrome then? Let’s unravel some things that we believe that just happen to us.  The good news? You’re not alone!

People think that soft skills are soft but as Simon Sinek say: “there is nothing soft about them”. We talk about hard and soft skills as if they are in opposition of each other, but this is not the truth – we should think about hard skills and human skills. I need the hard skills to do my job, but I also need the human skills to be a better human being. With this in mind, we brought some question for reflection:

Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve to be where you are?
That your achievements were the results of pure luck?
That others think you are more competent than you really think you are?
Or that, at any moment, someone will unmask you?

If you answer yes for one or more of the sentences, you could have experienced the Impostor Syndrome at least once in your lifetime.

What is the Imposter Syndrome?

The study started in the 70s lead by the psychologists Suzzane Immes and Pauline Rose. They did research with 150 successful women, all the women had academic degrees and outstanding careers, and what they found out is that all of them considered themselves imposters.

The Impostor Syndrome occurs among people who are unable to internalize and accept their success, often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.

The negative effects of this syndrome are low self-esteem, isolation, insecurity and lead many people to not apply for a job position for fear of not fulfilling 100% of the requirements in a job description.  In a recent research, Discovery inc 2021 found out that 68,9% of women consider themselves as ‘their worst critic’ although the Impostor Syndrome can also affect men.

For example, Tom Hanks said in an interview that: “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?”.

What are the possible causes of the Impostor Syndrome?

The studies show at least 7 possible causes but let’s focus on 5 of them.

1.You are raised by human beings

Family members, Professors and any important adults can influence on how confident we feel, what values we believe and what success means to us. Depending on the kind of message we receive in your childhood we create ways to see the world as adults.

The lack of compliments in childhood leaves marks because as children we want and seek validation from our parents or caregivers, compliments help us to understand what is expected from us. Too much applause can also be problematic. If absolutely everything you do is seen as brilliant, you may have difficulty knowing the difference between what is good and what is great.

Another thing that can influence the way we think today is the way your parents and caregivers explained to us their mistakes and successes and ours mistakes and successes. One way for you to identify how you see the world is thinking about how do you present yourself for a stranger? How do you describe yourself?

Let’s demystify the way we see the world. Reflect about the questions bellow.

How was success defined in your family?
What did your parents expect from you?
How were the conversations about your school grades?
What does your family say about your current level of achievement?
What impact does all this have on the way you feel about your success today?

After reflecting on these influences, you may think that today as an adult you can choose what makes sense to you and reframe what was passed to you for many years. We are not here to blame our parents or caregivers, after all they gave us the best, they had but now we can choose to think another way.

2.You are a student

As a student you have your knowledge and skills tested all the time and this can generate a lot of suffering, anxiety and can make you doubt what you are capable of.

It’s very important to know that we will be eternal students because there will always be some area of our life that we will be challenging ourselves and doing something new.

One of the things that usually happen to students is the super dedication vicious cycle that start when we have a new task and then you start to fear this task because you are not sure how to deal with the unknown and you procrastinate until you realize the deadline is almost here. So, for sure you don’t want to miss the deadline and start to work hard to get the job done, this is called the super dedication, and then you deliver the project and achieve the success although you are not happy with the results and start to think you don’t deserve it.

In people who experience the impostor syndrome, this cycle can happen frequently, and they can end up internalizing that excessive effort is what led them to success rather than their own abilities to deal with new things.

Now try to remember how you reacted the last time you faced a new task or challenge and then related your experience with the super dedication vicious cycle. Next time you get stuck in this vicious cycle try to think about what is behind the procrastination? Is it fear of being successful? Is it fear to be discovered as a fraud? Or is it fear to deal with deserving good things?

3.You work in a culture that fosters insecurity

We live in a culture that values constant learning and innovation. However, it is very important to pay attention on how the organization fosters this culture, so that it does not incite competition between colleagues, or the imposter with himself, as someone who feels like an imposter may feel that “he/she never did or know enough” and thus perceive himself/herself as incapable. The culture of recognition, praise, collaboration, needs to be fostered as much as that of constant learning.

The questions below can help you to identify if you have already worked or are working in such environment:

Is asking for help considered a sign of weakness or a legitimate request?

Is admitting that you don’t know something considered a sign of incompetence or part of learning?

Does this place foster competition?

4.You work for your own

Working alone can be difficult due to an increase of professional isolation and always having a demanding boss (yourself).

Not having other people to exchange ideas and make decisions can facilitate self-criticism, without anyone to support you can lead to insecurity.

If you work by yourself or are the only one in your role the next time you feel insecure you can schedule check points with other colleagues from the same area to collect feedbacks, share ideas and open discusses with other human beings about what you are doing it will help you to increase your confidence.

5.You represent your whole social group

Clare Boothe Luce once said:

“As a woman, I need to make exceptional efforts to be successful. If I don’t get it, nobody will say: ‘She doesn’t meet the requirements. They will say ‘Women don’t meet the requirements.’”

It is important to understand that when we are leading an exceptional group (for example, Woman in IT, DAP at work, and so on) we feel more responsible for deliverables to prove that we can do more.

Now that you learned a little bit more about the Impostor Syndrome and the possible causes, we invite you to stay tunned for the next article where we are going to share the Types of Impostors and How you can take care of it.

See you soon!
Caroline and Natália