I learned of the imposter syndrome early in my career at a women’s professional meeting, and through the years I’ve come to understand that the imposter syndrome is not just for women anymore. Way back when, the speaker on the podium described the phenomenon she said many women experience, and I immediately recognized the inner voice I constantly heard telling me, “You don’t belong here, and the minute they discover that you don’t deserve to be here, they’ll shame you and kick you out. Save yourself the embarrassment and shrink down so no one notices you… or just leave now!”
Listening in a large crowd of women nodding their heads, I felt seen and experienced a sense of validation. But I also suddenly felt vulnerable and exposed. Because, while I was relieved I’d discovered that this feeling had a name, it also became something I felt helpless to change. I chalked it up to something I’d have to learn to live with as a woman in professional circles.
Over the years I came to find that almost every woman I met, actively participating in the workforce or not, experienced some form of the imposter syndrome. It didn’t always stop us from succeeding, but it took its toll on us all psychologically, causing unnecessary levels of stress and anxiety, particularly when operating in our stretch zones.
Photo by Gama. Films
Imposter Syndrome: A Feature (Not a Bug) of the Human Psyche
While I’ve come to see the imposter as a friend and ally, helping us navigate the discomfort of our stretch zones, until very recently I considered it largely a function of the female psyche.
So imagine my surprise when I began to hear men admit to encountering this voice of doubt! Both privately and publicly, I’ve begun to notice men owning up to the imposter syndrome in articles, podcasts and personal conversations, and it’s now clear to me that the imposter syndrome is not just for women.
Overall I think men jumping on the imposter bandwagon is great because it means:
- The imposter is a feature of the human psyche and that women are not more “broken” than men
- Men seem to experience it differently, and in so doing demonstrate strategies to overcome it
- Men are beginning to role model new levels of vulnerability, which can take the shame out feeling less confident for women and for other men
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