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Impostor Syndrome or Plain Old Upbringing

Updated: Jan 26

What prevents women from achieving their full potential?

‘Be humble, don’t talk about your successes’.  Most Indian women have grown up in an environment where you did not publicize your accomplishments. Over time, women start to believe that their successes aren’t that significant.

Clinical psychologist Dr.  Pauline Clance first coined imposter syndrome. It is a set of symptoms such as difficulties in internalizing one’s own success and abilities, constantly doubting oneself for no apparent reason, chronic anxiety, and a sweeping feeling of discomfort. If this is you, then you may want to spend the next couple of minutes internalizing how it may be affecting you.

Firstly, this isn’t just an Indian syndrome. Women all over the world see signs of it such as career growth, mental health, and low productivity. It’s the lack of confidence established in childhood and then reinforced at the workplace. This self-doubt is the core of the impostor syndrome and is often mistaken for lack of competence at the workplace.

As much as we don’t talk about our successes, we also bottle-up our insecurities. As we go through our work life feeling under-confident, overlooked, or anxious about how we are perceived by colleagues and the management.

The pervasiveness of this syndrome amongst women leaders across countries and industries is shocking. It takes plenty of grit, ambition, and resilience to battle biases, exclusion, lack of women role models, isolation and still succeed.

But the picture is not all that dismal! A few companies are aware and are prioritizing changes. Small changes go a long way e.g. more meals out than informal drinks; engaging women in informal catchups and many more small, simple steps.

Some helpful tips for those of you who connected with this. There are some simple steps that you can take. 

  1. Find seasoned mentors who can be your bouncing boards to alleviate doubt and under-confidence.

  2. With over 70% women worldwide experiencing the imposter syndrome, you can create informal groups with other women from diverse industries and roles. As they don’t belong to your company, it becomes easier for an impartial opinion and lifelong advocates.

  3. Make a list of your accomplishments to boost your confidence

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