In this special masterclass offered by 50inTech, Laura Lesueur talks about how to combat imposter syndrome, sharpen your motivation and grow your feeling of inner empowerment.
Social media and Event Manager at 50inTech
Laura Lesueur (31) is a recent mother, former sales director of a tech scale up, and the CEO of Legendaily. She is also the creator and host of the podcast “Les Ambitieuses”, which asks different successful women what being ambitious means to them.
Did you know that while women account for 60% of master degrees, only occupy 17% of C-level positions? Did you know they only occupy 38% of all management roles? Or maybe you’ve heard this one: on average, women apply for a job if they believe they have at least 95% of the required competencies, while men tend to apply if they have 60% of them.
In other words, women are often more educated and at least as competent as their male counterparts, but they still end up lower in the company hierarchy. And that has a direct effect on the way they perceive their own credibility, legitimacy, self-confidence and ambition—both at home and in the workplace.
That’s why it’s time to talk about imposter syndrome—the feeling of not being as competent as others perceive us to be. What is it caused by, how do we identify it, and most importantly: how do we fight it?
“I don’t like to call it a syndrome,” says Laura Lesueur. “I prefer to call it the impostor feeling because, in the end, it is just a feeling—it's not something you’re stuck with all your life.”
It can be summed as the feeling that you’ve achieved what you’ve achieved because of luck, or because people simply haven't yet discovered your weaknesses. You basically feel like a fraud, and are worried someone will discover the real you. You are always attributing your achievements to external circumstances—to everything else but yourself.
Sound familiar? That’s because imposter syndrome is extremely common: a whopping 70% of “high potential” potential have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. And you may be tempted to think that the more you advance in your career, the more confident you will get. But actually it's the opposite. The more you get promoted, the more likely you are to be held accountable—and thus, to be “exposed”.
There are tons of reasons why we may feel this way: the way we’ve been raised, the media, a comment by a teacher when we were small that made us feel insecure. Whatever the source, it is important to get rid of imposter syndrome because it is the source of much insecurity, chronic dissatisfaction and forces us to set our own limits.
Often, this imposter feeling can also be a gateway to what’s known as the “good pupil” syndrome—the feeling that you have to be perfect, to show that you are not afraid, and to prove that you deserve to be where you are.
But the problem with perfection is that it’s an illusion. It doesn't exist. So you will never reach it. And in your attempt to reach it, you will lose a lot of time and energy. It can also limit your advancement because, if you wait for things to be perfect, you’ll basically never act. According to Lesueur, “Many women know perfectly well that we are our own worst enemies, while we should really learn how to be our own best friends.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done. So what are some ways in which we can actually combat imposter syndrome?
It’s not easy. It won’t be done in a day. But, with regular practice and discipline, we can overcome the feeling of imposter syndrome and create a sense of alignment between how you see yourself and how others see you. This is so important because you are stuck with yourself for the rest of your life, so you better feel comfortable in your own shoes.
Picture a bag with two different pockets that you’re going to fill with things. In the first pocket you’re going to put three accomplishments that you're most proud of. They can be professional or personal—raising your kids, building your relationship, your commitment to a friend, the way you dealt with a difficult situation at work.
Write them down and save them somewhere, for instance in a folder on your computer called “confidence backpack”. Be as precise as possible: write down what you are proud of and why in a few sentences.
Ask well-intentioned people around you why they trust, or why they have trusted you. It can be your partner, a friend, a relative, your former manager—whoever you want. Now, send this person an email or message them on LinkedIn so that you can keep a written proof of their reply. Worried about how to approach them? You can frame your message in the following way:
Hi, I'm doing some end of the year introspection. Could you please tell me for which qualities you hired me, or why you like working with me? What did you appreciate the most during our relationship?
Having a written record of their reply to you is very important, because you’re going to come back to this folder many times in the future and read these messages before a presentation, a difficult negotiation, or whatever the challenge may be (tip: reading them out loud will help your brain register the message better, making it more powerful!)
There’s one very simple rule, but if you act on it it’s a real game changer: If you want to change your life, start by changing your thoughts.
At the root of the imposter syndrome is what’s known as the “belief cycle.” Thoughts generate feelings, and these feelings generate actions. The result of your life is the sum of your actions. And while you cannot control everything, you can always control the way you react to what life throws at you.
The cycle is complete. Your initial belief has created your reality.
But by practicing Positive Affirmation every day, you can break this negative cycle. The method is simple: every day, preferably in the morning, you say certain positive statements about yourself out loud. Here are some examples, though of course, you have to make them yours.
“I deserve to be where I am.”
“I even deserve more.”
“I have all the resources and abilities to accomplish my biggest dreams.”
“I'm not lucky, I'm talented, and I inspire people around me.”
With repetition, your mindset and your belief will begin to change. Of course, the key to all this is consistency. So even if you're skeptical, keep it up!
Education has taught women to be polite, to be discreet, to be good girls. Hence many women enter the workplace thinking that if they do everything perfectly and please their manager, they will be rewarded. But the truth is that rules have changed, and we cannot keep applying what we did at home or at school in the workplace.
Do things your own way, and do them well, but stop wondering: will it be good enough? If you wait for things to be perfect, you will never do anything. The perfect example is job applications, where women wait until they have 95% of the competencies before applying while men apply at 60%.
The impostor feeling is like a circle: the less you judge, the less you will fear rejection. The more you will trust people, the more you will trust in yourself. So train yourself to be less judgmental with other people.
Once you get rid of the impostor feeling, go further—learn how to be your best advocate. That means being able to talk about yourself and your achievements positively, and without hesitating or feeling uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to stand out and shine. Remember: it's not bragging if it's based on facts.
So how to do so?
a) First, simply check out your LinkedIn profile and ask yourself: does this show my best accomplishments and successes? Do they stand out to a random visitor? If yes, great job. Otherwise, go work on it.
b) Building your personal elevator pitch will really help you to boost your self-confidence. You may already have one for your job, but not yet for yourself. Write down what makes you special, what you have to offer, and rehearse it. It will be extremely useful in life, both in your career as well as outside the workplace.
Here’s a simple structure for you to follow:
There are many things in life we can't control. Take the recent Covid-19 pandemic, for example. But there are many, many things within our reach that we can control. And we should focus our time and energy, which are the two most precious things we have, on those areas. It’s about directing our attitude, thoughts, and beliefs every morning towards the decisions we make.
This content was created based on a talk during our Bootcamp What I Really Really Want in 2020.
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