Continuing with the theme of mental health, this week, we gathered at Ideon Innovation to discuss imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological occurrence where a person believes that she is inadequate, incompetent, or a failure, even though there is proof that she is quite the opposite. One example of imposter syndrome is being highly skilled in an area of expertise, having higher education degrees and several years of experience, yet still feeling incompetent and underrating your knowledge.
It's no surprise that imposter syndrome is a concern among entrepreneurs. A study revealed that it affects 84% of entrepreneurs, especially first-time founders. Starting a business for the first time, having to develop knowledge in various areas of business, and comparing oneself to super-successful founders are all recipes for imposter syndrome.
At Wednesday's Fika, we shared our own experiences with this psychological occurrence and how we manage it. In particular, we discussed the challenges of being a young woman working in a male-dominated industry such as tech. It's easy to feel like you don't fit when you're the minority in a workplace, questioning whether you even belong there. It can be a struggle to find the confidence to speak up. You feel like you have to work two times harder than your male counterparts to prove you deserve your seat at the table.
But there are things you can do to chase off these symptoms of imposter syndrome.
Remember that we are all human at the end of the day, and even the guy with 30+ years of industry experience sitting across the boardroom table from you has felt incompetent in his profession at one time. So, don't be afraid to ask questions. Seek out a male ally or mentor in your workplace. Someone who will help make your thoughts and opinions heard and be an advocate for you and your work.
Embrace failure. Having excessively high standards for yourself and your work isn't doing you any favors. Perhaps the pressure to succeed in a male-dominated field makes women vulnerable to perfectionism: scrutinizing work for flaws instead of focusing on strengths. As Brad Feld & Ian Hathaway wrote in their book, The Startup Community Way, "If you are not failing frequently, then you are not taking enough risks. If you are not taking enough risks, then you won't advance anything meaningfully over time." So let's welcome failure with open arms!
One last piece of advice for surviving imposter syndrome is to find a strong, supportive group of women. A group that provides a safe space to share experiences and knowledge while making meaningful connections. And hey, we just happen to know a group of brilliant women entrepreneurs that meet nearly every week .😉