Have you ever felt that your achievement today was just a stroke of luck? Maybe you felt unworthy of a given position? Some of you might live through with feeling that you are not as great as or as brilliant as others think. The condition in which a person doubts their abilities and thinks they do not deserve their achievements because they feel that everything is achieved through luck is known as Impostor Syndrome.

If you ever experienced those feelings, you’re not alone. A great actress like Natalie Portman, who graduated from Harvard, also had experienced this condition. In her Harvard Commencement Speech, Portman mentioned that day was like when she first came to Harvard as a freshman in 1999. She used to feel like she wasn’t smart enough to be there and had the burden of proving that she wasn’t just a dumb actress.

According to the article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of the US population experienced a condition often referred to as Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. Another article mentioned that 25% – 30% of high achiever people experience impostor syndrome. In Indonesia, the data of people with impostor syndrome is still hard to obtain due to a lack of this condition awareness.

Impostor Syndrome in the Work Environment

The impostor syndrome term was used for the first time in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Despite the fact that there is no definite cause for impostor syndrome, several factors can trigger it in the work environment, namely:

  1. New challenges or opportunities

New jobs, roles, responsibilities, or promotions can trigger impostor syndrome. It usually happens when we shouldered high expectations and creates a feeling of fear of not being able to meet those expectations.

  1. Discrimination

Discrimination at the workplace can create unhealthy competition and feelings of having to be better all the time. It can also escalate the need to prove one’s abilities are better than others.

  1. Labeling

Labelling someone as a high performer or top achiever at the workplace can lead them to have an unreasonable high-performance standard. It will inflict a feeling that they’re not allowed to make mistakes or errors.


How Can Impostor Syndrome Affect Your Career?

Those who experience impostor syndrome are often trapped in the impostor cycle. This cycle begins with the idea that every job must be done perfectly without any help from others. Perfectionism and anxiety about poor results can lead to responses such as delaying work. Another possible response is excessive preparation and taking a long time to complete given tasks.

When they can’t achieve the goals that have been set, they will feel overwhelmed, disappointed, and see it as a big failure. Meanwhile, if the goals set are successful, they will attribute it to luck rather than a result of their hard work and abilities. The cycle that arises can even cause them to avoid receiving praise and positive feedback for their achievements.

Impostor syndrome can harm someone’s career because they spend more time proving their competence. This, of course, is tiring and counterproductive. The negative impact, which might occur, is the loss of career opportunities because they continue to feel unworthy, even though they have sufficient competency.


How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

To reduce the negative impact of impostor syndrome, these several things can be done:

  1. Realize that nothing is perfect

Start learning not to strive on getting perfect results and instead realize that everyone doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t mean lowering the quality but focusing more on small continuous improvement. Don’t forget to reward yourself for not giving up on your goals.

  1. Know yourself, acknowledge your strengths and abilities

Give yourself time to write down your skills and efforts that have been done whenever there is doubt about the success that you achieve. By recognizing this, we can change our perspective that success is the result of hard work and not just luck.

  1. Focus on what can be learned rather than results/performance

Impostor syndrome tends to give rise to the feeling that the mistake made was a failure. To deal with this, develop a positive mindset that can help you reduce anxiety about results. Think that mistakes are a learning process that will add to your experience and skills in the future.

Overcoming impostor syndrome is not easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If one day you face a new challenge outside your comfort zone at work, realize that many people have experienced the same thing and it can be overcome. Stop focusing on the possibility of failure and think of it as a learning opportunity that can give you new skills that no one else has. Happy growing!


Content Contributor:
Wahyu Murcahyati
Head of Financial Analysis & Treasury