4 June 2019
Faker to Fabulous – The Imposter Phenomenon: An intense feeling of intellectual phoniness despite successes (Clance, 1985)
Terri Simpkin’s talk on the Imposter Phenomenon (IP) was a really entertaining and enlightening event with lots of interaction and questions from the audience. Through her research and personal experience Terri has a unique insight into IP and also came equipped with solid practical advice on how to recognise it and combat it. The first things we learnt were the things it isn’t – it’s not a “syndrome”, it’s not “just self-doubt” and it’s not gender specific. But it is common, misunderstood and paradoxical. We were amazed by the statistic that 70% of us will experience the Imposter Phenomenon at some point in our lives to varying degrees and by the dawning realisation that it has real social and workplace implications, and therefore leadership considerations. IP drives self-handicapping behaviours and by spotting the behaviours in ourselves or others, we can start to unleash that latent potential that is being held back by self-imposed bonds.
There are many factors that may contribute to IP behaviour but some blame can definitely be laid at the door of the stories we tell ourselves, the things we say to make sense of the world and our place in it. Tackling these is a really good place to start – for ourselves Terri encouraged us to examine our inner narrative, do our stories serve a useful purpose or are they paralysing us? If the latter, then we need to work on changing our habits to stop repeating harmful thought patterns; we must examine the facts around our successes to allow ourselves to own our successes, and finally we should find a mentor who can help us see through the paradoxes. Similarly as leaders, we should encourage the same in others when we see them exhibiting IP through their language and behaviour, and be mindful to use objective and evidence based language in our feedback to them. Finally we must consider whether the workplace processes, culture and environments are perpetuating IP behaviour and take steps to address.