Reflection Friday: Imposter Syndrome or Just Evolving?

February 24, 2023   |   Lesli Mones

We frequently hear senior women mention imposter syndrome—and not just senior women, but senior senior women, women at the very top of their game. 

A recent study by KPMG found this to be true: 75% of executive women report having personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their career.

Imposter syndrome is the internal psychological experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life; doubting your skills, talents, or accomplishments, and grappling with a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. 

It’s a topic more and more people are talking about, and while we know the feeling is common and natural, we have a little bone to pick with the concept of imposter syndrome. We think it may be overapplied, used to describe feelings that are, well, natural, and expected. Because in many instances, when we inquire into the issue, we see situations in which women are: 

  • Outside their comfort zone, working in a new context, situation, or culture
  • An expert in their field and grappling with more and more layers of complexity
  • Advancing their scope and taking on new challenges

When you’re doing something new, at the limits of your knowledge and experience, doubting yourself is completely natural. In fact, not feeling like a bit of an ‘imposter’ might mean that you’re not pushing yourself to the boundaries of your capacity.

When you’re truly at the boundaries of what you know, you should feel unsure, anxious, and even stupid again. You’re starting over. 

But you’re NOT a beginner, and you’re certainly not an imposter.

It’s easy to personalize feelings of uncertainty and make it a negative story about yourself, rather than recognizing just how much you’re pushing the envelope.


Reflection Questions

If you feel imposter syndrome—unsure or uncertain about your skills—use your evolve mindset and reflect on: 

  • What’s changed in your situation? Have you taken on more responsibilities or accepted a new challenge? Are you trying to solve a new or bigger problem? 
  • Normalize your feelings. Realize the feelings that you’re having are natural feelings to have as you move from the known to the unknown world.
  • Relax into not knowing. Relax into wrestling with difficult problems, feeling de-skilled, and having to ask for help.
  • Ask yourself, what is the core thing I need to learn here, and what inner and outer resources do I have at my disposal to help me move through it? 

At the end of the day, if you didn’t care about your career or success, you wouldn’t have any fears or doubts—and we know that if you’re reading a Leaderlab blog post, then mediocrity has no place in your life. So, use your fears as fuel as you sit outside of your comfort zone to learn, grow, and make positive changes in your life. 

You are where you are for a reason! You’ve got this.