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Mayes Wilson & Associates

The upside of imposter syndrome

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC |

This week I want to return to the topic of Imposter Syndrome. It’s usually thought of as negative, but recent research shows there may be an upside.

Basima Tewfik, assistant professor of Work and Organization Studies at MIT, found that some behaviors exhibited by imposters can actually help them outperform their overconfident peers.

[In case you missed it, here’s my first blog on imposterism, where I explain what the syndrome is and how leaders can change the work culture so that it has less chance to take hold.]

I’ve had coaching clients say things like:

“I’m too young for this job.”

“How can I do this? I don’t have nearly as much experience as they do.”

Drawing on such comments, and also on Dr. Tewfik’s research, I have come up with my own list of the upside of imposter syndrome.

5 ways imposter thoughts can be helpful

  1. Embrace the uncertainty – if you are questioning a decision or course of action, take the time to gather more information, it may help you make an even better decision
  2. Take thoughts of “I’m not good enough” and see them as a source of humility. Being overconfident is not necessarily the best attitude in the workplace or in life.
  3. Use any hesitation to interrogate your gut instincts. Maybe the patterns you typically rely on will not serve you in the present situation.
  4. Instead of focusing on being the “expert” all the time, think of yourself as a lifelong learner.
  5. Remember there is a difference between doubting yourself and doubting your ideas or thoughts in a particular situation.

Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome at some time. Notice when your imposter syndrome “voice” is active and apply the tools from these blogs. You are worthy and capable.

If you’d like more information on how these actions can help, coaching to address Imposter Syndrome, or other challenges you are experiencing, give me a call, I’m here to help!

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