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02 February 2014

Do you suffer from 'Impostor Syndrome'?

According to Wikipedia, 'Imposter Syndrome', also called 'Fraud Syndrome' is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, people with this syndrome are convinced that they do not deserve the success that they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing or as a result of deceiving others into thinking that they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

Based on their perception of control over their environment, the people are categorized into two groups. People with 'Internal Locus of Control' (ILC), have the ability to internalize their success and externalize their failures. They have confidence in their competence and they know that if they put in a well directed effort, they will achieve success in the end. The children with internal locus of control will attribute their success to 'Hours of work' that they put in.

Failure, for a person with 'Internal Locus of Control' is to do with the environment. They do not beat themselves over their failures. Since  they know that they can get success by putting in hard work, any failure will be attributed to the fact that 'they did not put in enough hard work'. This means that their perception that 'If I put in effort, I will succeed' is retained intact.

On the other hand, People with 'External Locus of Control' (ELC) will externalize their successes and internalize their failures. Any success, for them, is due to external factors like luck, like weak opposition or lack of competition. On the other hand, they are hard on themselves for their failures. Any failure, for them, is directly due to their incompetence or lack of their ability. They blame themselves for their failures and credit others for their successes. 

In her book, 'Lean In', Sheryl Sandberg proposes that, most often, women suffer from Imposter Syndrome. In a weird way, they blame themselves for their successes. They have internalized the notion that they are not as competent as men. So if they attain success, it must be due to some external factors like luck, destiny etc rather than their hardwork.

Not only women, even men suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I can tell from my example. Throughout my career, I have ran away from taking responsibility fearing that I am not competent. One of the best examples that I can give is when I felt that I was incompetent to take up the role of the Project Manager in ERP Implementation. That was till I worked under an average Project Manager and the customer opined that 'This project would have turned differently if Ramaswamy were the Project Manager'. In my career, I have shied away from being a 'Shift In Charge' because I felt that I could not play the role, I have shied away from being a PM (as discussed above), I have shied away from People Management....

All due to 'Impostor Syndrome'.

How do you overcome this?

One of the suggested approaches is to Write. Writing clarifies your thought process and brings out your contribution out in front. Writing will also demand that you put facts on the paper and not your emotions and your interpretations of the facts. That is very powerful. 

What should you write?

Write your CV. Build a story around your CV. Focus and highlight your achievements, however small they are. Remember, in your perception, they may be small achievements (since you suffer from 'Imposter Syndrome') but for others who are reviewing your CV, they will appear as what they are, important accomplishments.

So go ahead. Start preparing your CV now. Show the world the stuff that you are made of.

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