Do you suffer from the Impostor Syndrome?

Imposter SyndromeEver stop for a moment, look at all that you have achieved and still feel you and your achievements are insignificant, and you don’t deserve the success? If you have, well, you are not alone.

Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg says, ‘‘There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.’’

Termed the Impostor Syndrome, it is important that this feeling be identified, for it is not merely a passing feeling of insecurity. It is something far deeper, and oftentimes, crippling.

In their paper, The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes elucidate that women who experience the impostor phenomenon believe that they are not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise, in spite of their outstanding academic and professional accomplishments.

It is, however, important to understand if what you are experiencing is merely a feeling of insecurity or a result of the Impostor Syndrome. The main distinguishing factor is that people with feelings of insecurity are unable to achieve much success and feel disappointed with themselves because of their failure to reach their goals. Those with Impostor Syndrome on the other hand, are often highly successful and have many achievements to their name, and yet feel insignificant.

Pauline Clance says, “The clinical symptoms most frequently reported are generalized anxiety, lack of self-confidence, depression, and frustration related to inability to meet self-imposed standards of achievement.”

It is vital that you recognise and treat this syndrome as it can seriously cripple your professional life and prevent you from reaching your full potential. As with all psychological issues, the diagnosis of the Impostor Syndrome is the first step towards its remedy. Below are 5 signs of the Impostor Syndrome that you should look out for:

Sign #1: You think you don’t deserve your achievement and it must have been a mistake.

The study by Clance and Imes examined university graduates who felt that they were admitted by some possible error by the admissions committee. They were also firmly convinced that their high grades were due to a wrong evaluation. Rather than attributing your achievement to your skill, you think that it must be a mistake.

Sign #2: You constantly feel that people will discover you don’t deserve the accolades and so you go out of your way to prove your worth.

Reaching out to greater heights of achievement is definitely a good thing, but if that is motivated by your fear of being “found out” as a fraud or impostor, then that only leads to a constant sense of dread and anxiety.

The Impostor Syndrome robs you of confidence and cloaks your achievement with a sense of foreboding that will gradually eat away at your self-esteem. Actress Natalie Portman at a Harvard Commencement Speech shared  “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress”, even though she had graduated from Harvard.

Sign #3: You tend to forget all that is right and zoom in on the one thing that’s wrong.

Despite achieving a goal, you stay focused on a minor mistake made along the way, which in the grand scheme of things is typically insignificant. The inability to forgive yourself of that one mistake and your constant worry in reflecting on errors rather than achievements can prove detrimental to one’s physical and mental health over time.

Sign #4: You feel your achievements aren’t worthwhile; that they aren’t enough.

You are constantly trying to live up to a standard that you have set but never seem to be able to reach. Any form of achievement that you may attain, you still feel it’s lacking, that it’s not the best and that things could have turned out much better. You underplay your achievements to others and to yourself, refusing to accept that you have achieved anything significant worth celebrating for.

Sign #5: You think that credit is only worth it if the path to achievement was extremely difficult.

You refuse to believe that talent comes to you naturally and that it might actually be easy for you to achieve success.  Drawing on professor Kay Deaux’s study, Clance and Ime’s paper show that “unlike men, who tend to own success as attributable to a quality inherent in themselves, women are more likely either to project the cause of success outward to an external cause (luck) or to a temporary internal quality (effort) that they do not equate with inherent ability”.

Minimising achievements in this manner makes you feel that you don’t really deserve the accolades.

If you see these signs in you, then you might want to measure yourself on the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS). Remember though that a self-diagnosis isn’t enough; this is just to help you recognise what you are going through.

Having said that, it is important to know that living with and conquering the Impostor Syndrome is possible. High achievers like Sheryl Sandberg and Natalie Portman have proved it. So believe in yourself; get the help you need and let the superstar that you are come through.


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Importance of Female Panellists in Recruitment

Importance of females on an interview panel“We aim for at least one woman on all selection panels even for roles where female industry participation is very low.” – Origin Energy

The above objective with the aim for at least one woman to be included on the shortlist for all roles was stated as a key sustainability goal by Origin Energy, an Australian energy company. This initiative has seen obvious success as the company has bagged the Employer of Choice for Women by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency for several years.

A study was conducted by Evaluation UK and commissioned by The Scientific Affairs Board of the Royal Society of Chemistry to “identify what it is about the culture in certain departments and/or institutions, which causes women to apply for, and accept, posts and subsequently encourages them to remain in these departments and/or institutions.” One of the proposals in the study was that at least two women should sit on the interview panel.

A paper entitled Women in male-dominated industries: A toolkit of strategies (2013) recommends a gender diverse interview panel, which includes women from non-traditional roles.

The importance of female panellists in the recruitment process cannot be overemphasised. Here’s why.

1)    Increases objective assessment

The Australian Human Rights Commission points that a diverse panel consisting of both men and women increases the likelihood of objective assessment during the selection process. An equal representation where possible, ensures that both genders are given equal consideration.

2)    Gives an insight into any gender based bias

A tenet of recruitment is to judge if the candidate is a team player and an important aspect to that is to weed out stereotypical attitudes. A candidate’s attitude and reaction towards the female panellists gives us an inkling of the gender bias that the candidate may have towards women.” says Theresa Moozhiyil, Director – HR and Finance of Categis Solutions, a German based software company.

3)    Mitigates stereotypical attitude in selection

The “think manager, think male” phenomenon is attributed lesser to females than men. This becomes especially important when recruiting candidates at the managerial level. When the panel includes women who are at the managerial level themselves, this bias is mitigated.

4)    Empathetic response

Female candidates generally respond much better to women panellists when it comes to interview questions of a more personal nature. They sense the empathy and know that their answers will not be judged unfairly or placed out of context.

5)    Communicates fair policy of the company

As important as it is for the company to select a good candidate, the willingness of the employee to work with the company is also of vital importance. The panel is the face of the company to the candidate and the message that it conveys about the culture and values of the company is of paramount importance. The inclusion of women in the panel effectively communicates the equal growth opportunities for men and women in the company.

The importance of women in the interview panel is clear, but it requires much more than ensuring that the selection of the candidate is based solely on merit and is free from gender bias. Recruitment teams should be trained to focus on fair and grounded criteria, which are well documented and standardised. This eliminates the unconscious biases which may creep in if the panel follows an informal and subjective process.

Have you personally found more benefits in having female panellists in your recruitment process?