#Covid-19 and confidence: How to manage imposter syndrome while working from home
"Women and underrepresented groups are more likely to be questioned regularly."
Imposter syndrome doesn't just happen in the workplace - it happens outside of it too.
The phenomenon, which is likely to affect the vast majority of women at least once in their lives, involves feelings of doubt about a person's own abilities, often based on nothing.
This constant fear that you are a fraud and are going to be 'found out' tends to affect women and people of colour far more severely than men, causing dips in confidence, self-doubt, and negatively affecting performances in the workplace.
A recent study conducted for trading company IG found that 87 percent of leading female CEOs and business women have experienced imposter syndrome, with 70 percent stating they feel like they are not taken seriously in the workplace.
University of Leeds' psychologist Dr Andrea Utley says that imposter syndrome tends to be reinforced by the negative and often sexist experiences that many women have in the workplace.
These experiences can also manifest themselves while an employee is working from home. In some cases, they could even be exacerbated due to the often isolating nature of not being in an office, and a physical distance from a lot of positive reinforcement that might have been supplied elsewhere.
"Working practices tend to reinforce the above – for example, the gender pay gap sends a message that men are valued more than women," says Dr Utley.
"There is also a tendency for those experiencing ‘imposter syndrome’ to put their success down to luck or good timing rather than skill or hard work.
"Women tend to do this more than men, as women and underrepresented groups are more likely to be questioned regularly by others like ‘Are you sure that is right?’"
"[Or] negative assumptions made about their abilities such as ‘It’s very technical - maybe we should ask Tom?’, which subsequently limits the roles they are given and lowers their confidence."
So, what's the best way to tackle imposter syndrome when working from home and to nurture confidence during such uncertain times?
Dr Utley has compiled a comprehensive list of ways that employees feeling dips in confidence can first: cope with how they're feeling, and second: do something about it.
Individual coping techniques
- Acknowledge that imposter syndrome is real
- Admit when you make errors, but deal with the facts
- Focus on the progress, not just the outcome
- Identify and re-adjust when you become overly self critical
- Focus on what is in your control
- Keep a list of your achievements, skills, and regularly update your CV
- Set weekly and monthly goals
- Act confident, even if you're not feeling it
"By reducing the numbers of people who experience imposter syndrome," she says, "we strengthen the talent pool and grow the potential of businesses and develop individuals to their full potential."
Last year, performance coach Aoife O'Brien told Her that in order to combat imposter syndrome, women should adhere to the 'ABC' method.
'A' is acknowledging that you have imposter syndrome and recognising that the thoughts you're experiencing are simply "a story you're telling yourself."
'B' is finding belief inside of yourself, and 'C' is a call to action or, in other words, "making something happen."
"These can be empowering and reinforce the belief that you deserve to be there," she said.
"It can even be courageous to sometimes have that conversation with your boss. Ask for some straightforward feedback, ask them to explain what you do well, or what achievements you have.
"Or if you don’t feel like you can ask your boss, ask your friend. Ask what you’re good at, what makes you unique and different from everybody else."