I'm not good enough.
I don't know as much as everyone else.
What if someone asks me a question and I don't know the answer?
These are some of the beliefs and fears that characterize imposter syndrome. According to Amy Oplinger, Salesforce MVP and Cleveland Women in Tech community group leader, imposter syndrome is “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence."
Many people suffer from imposter syndrome, said Oplinger, speaking at a Dreamforce 2018 session. And that includes herself, she said: She described being assigned to a project and literally hiding in an office building so that the other people on the project wouldn't discover how little she knew.
Oplinger outlined the common behaviors that characterize responses to imposter syndrome:
- Overpreparation, holding back talents and opinions, maintaining a low profile
- Procrastination, not finishing projects, and self-sabotage (or the tendency to)
- Remembering failures over successes
These behaviors aren't rare. Most people experience imposter syndrome at one time or another, Oplinger said. That was the one thing attendees should take away from the session, she urged: the knowledge of how many other people feel the same way they do.
The effects of imposter syndrome include anxiety, the fear of failure, a fear of success, perfectionism and a lack of confidence. And those are just the effects on the person who has it. The syndrome also affects other people, as “imposters" project their own negative feelings onto their co-workers, cause their co-workers to feel pressure to mimic the imposter's perfectionist ways, and lead their managers to lose confidence in them.
Oplinger offered a few tips on how to overcome, or at least manage imposter syndrome:
- Acknowledge your feelings.
- Share your feelings—remember, most of your co-workers feel the same way.
- Focus on facts. For example, keep a log of your successes or of compliments on your work and review them occasionally to remind yourself that you do know what you're doing.
- Challenge your own beliefs.