Imposter Syndrome, self-belief, women leaders, mindset, overwhelm
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Is Imposter Syndrome Holding You Back?

In the weeks leading up to the release of my book, Reclaiming the Fire In Your Belly: A Practical Guide for Women Leaders to Navigate Overwhelm, I took time pondering about one of the foundational aspects of our work here at Women on Their Way: Mindsets. Mindsets can hold you back or propel you forward, depending on which ones you hold. In my book, I identify the most common mindsets women have that can hold them back—and some ways in which they can be reframed. 

Impostor Syndrome vs. Self-Belief

Do you ever find yourself saying or thinking, “I can’t apply for that job; I don’t have all of the qualifications,” or “I don’t know how I’ve managed to achieve what I have; I guess I’ve just been lucky”? These are classic signs of impostor syndrome, which is closely related to lack of self-belief. Impostor syndrome is a mindset that occurs when people doubt their accomplishments or feel like frauds, despite evidence of their success. If you’ve progressed and succeeded over time, it’s probably not due to “luck” or “being in the right place at the right time”—most likely, you were the one generating those opportunities.

Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta Platforms, said that women systematically underestimate their abilities, often attribute their success to external factors, and avoid applying for roles when they don’t believe they meet all the requirements. 

Impostor syndrome could stem from a fear of being or sounding arrogant. To reframe this mindset, consider that how you conduct yourself isn’t an either/or decision. You can be confident and humble. Don’t limit yourself or get trapped into believing that you can’t recognize your accomplishments. If your impostor syndrome mindset stems from lack of self-belief, positive affirmations can help you reframe: I am good enough. I believe in myself. I deserve this.

The antidote to low self-belief is to reframe the mindset, work on self-efficacy, and develop a stronger internal locus of control. 

Albert Bandura, a psychologist, coined the term "self-efficacy" in the 1970s to refer to a person's confidence in their ability to carry out the actions required to achieve a particular level of performance—in other words, their belief that anything is possible. Some people have strong self-efficacy and believe in themselves from childhood, but self-efficacy is also a skill you can develop. 

Hand in hand with self-efficacy is the concept of “locus of control,” a concept developed by psychologist Julian B. Rotter in the 1950s to describe our perceptions about the underlying main causes of events in our lives. A strong locus of control has two elements: the knowledge that you are in charge of your own destiny, however big you want to make it, and the ability to dream about what is within the realm of possibility. 

Simply put, do you believe that you control your destiny? 

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