The connection between overachievers and imposter syndrome

The connection between overachievers and imposter syndrome

Can successful overachievers experience imposter syndrome?

This one is easy to answer.

YES.

And not only do they experience it, but successful women are actually more likely to experience imposter syndrome.

It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I mean, if someone is successful on the outside, shouldn’t they feel like a success on the inside?

Rationally yes, but there are a million other things going on. Before I jump into them, let’s get clear on what imposter syndrome is. Part of it is self-explanatory – it’s feeling like a fraud or imposter. But the crux of imposter syndrome is assessing your skills, qualifications, and experiences as worse than they actually are. So even though you are high-achieving and successful, you don’t always see yourself that way.

Also – imposter syndrome is something you experience, not something you have. Some people experience it every day. Others never experience it. Most of us are somewhere in between – you’re feeling fine and then you have to walk into a room with a big-wig client and the imposter syndrome comes flooding in. Suddenly feel like you have no business being there, you’re not really an expert, and why would they hire you anyway?!?

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?!?

It’s complex, but here are some of the top reasons why successful women experience imposter syndrome:

  • Our culture places a high value on achievement. Do more, accomplish more, achieve more! This can quickly translate internally to feeling like you’re never enough. If you’re family reinforced this, it can be even stronger for you.
  • Little girls are praised for being perfect and following the rules from a young age. So when we break out of expectations to share a bold idea or take a different path in our career, it’s common to feel like a fraud. Like it or not, women still aren’t taught to break the rule or take up space. It’s evolving, but definitely there.
  • The culture at your work or school demanded perfection. People were called out publicly when they made a mistake. Eight people have to review and edit your PowerPoint before it’s shown. This kind of culture exacerbates imposter syndrome. Even if you’re in a great work culture now or even own your business, the effects of perfectionism and public shaming can last a lifetime.
  • We see the work behind the outcome – other people only see the great result. We see the holes, the errors, and all the effort and so we think of the end result as worse than it actually is.

There you have it. All the reasons it’s completely normal for you to be experiencing imposter syndrome.

You are not alone.

But don’t let these reasons become an excuse to hold yourself back. You can experience imposter syndrome – and take action anyway. Look for the evidence of your success and brilliance. Start to see in yourself what others see in you. Lean into your strengths and use them to create impact. Know your why and be pulled forward by inspiration and purpose.

You’ve got this.

P.S. Men experience imposter syndrome too. The research differs and it’s a spectrum for everyone, but women tend to experience it twice as strongly as men overall.

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with high achieving women to get out of their own way so they can have the life they want while making a big impact with their business. Click here to learn more about coaching.

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