29 min 49 sec

Imposter Syndrome

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‘Am I a phony?

’A question some of us ask ourselves while pretending to be on top of it all.

It is said that imposter syndrome is common among high-achievers. Some studies even show that during their careers, women have a higher tendency of feeling like an imposter.

But is it really that bad? Are there many others out there who have it? And is there anything you can do about it?

Debkanya: 0:10

Hello. Welcome. It's Tydy Tea Time. How is everyone doing today? Good. Good. Excited about today's topic?

Soumya: 0:21


Debkanya: 0:22

So very quickly to everyone who's joining us today we are talking about imposter syndrome. This is definitely not a new topic or a trending one. But I I think it's an important topic to talk about. I'm not going to get into definitions. Instead, what I'm going to do is I want to ask each one of you what imposter syndrome means to you. What do you think it is? Pooja I'd like to start with you.

Pooja: 0:47

I feel like I've both personally and professionally dealt with imposter syndrome. Not that I knew what it was for a very long time. I just thought it was something that I was dealing with. The idea of feeling like I'm just not doing enough for my company, feeling like I'm not skilled enough to take on a new task or something like that. You know, Something even as simple as that or starting a new job, oh am I, is this the right place for me? Like all of these doubts and these like lack of ability that just like clouds my mind. I think I've been facing it for quite some time. It has gotten a lot better, I would say in the last two, three years. But it took a lot of inward thinking to, to learn how to just manage those emotions, cause I think we all face it in different points in our lives and at different levels yeah.

Debkanya: 1:50

Great. Soumya, how about you?

Soumya: 1:52

Yeah, I think same here. I've faced a lot of it as a child and growing up in college. I really remember one instance when I was chosen as the school captain for one of the teams, and I knew it that I wasn't the person who was supposed to be the school captain. I, I knew of people who I thought were far better off who are probably better at holding that position than I was. I remember discussing it with my father and my father saying, there must be a reason why you were chosen, right? But I wasn't convinced. I thought my father was just being kind to me. Same thing in college again. I think it comes with holding positions for me. I was chosen to be the student council head, which was again, an elected position, and I didn't see why I would be elected because I came from a small town at that time. I lacked confidence. So why am I being in this position? Over time, yes, I still do have those moments, but I think it's far and fewer. So I feel for me, imposter syndrome is thinking that there's someone else out there who probably can do a better job than me in this particular position.

Debkanya: 3:03

What about you, Kiran?

Kiran: 3:07

I haven't given much thought to Imposter Syndrome at all. It sounds very cocky and but that's not the intention. It's just that, I think I first really did some research about imposter syndrome when you guys decided what the topic for today's conversation is gonna be. Till then, I haven't even given it a thought. But having understood what it is I think through my experience and through the years of working with multiple people, I can now understand some people that I worked with who I think might have been facing the imposter syndrome issue for themselves. Yeah, it's more second party realization rather than for me.

Debkanya: 3:51

Okay. Fair enough. Great. I'll talk about imposter syndrome for myself. I think this is something again it's so funny, right? Because there's this whole idea that imposter syndrome affects or afflicts women more than men. And somehow over here I mean, it's unfair because you're the only male here in this conversation. So it's really unfair and it's not really any way

Kiran: 4:16

like, you know,

Debkanya: 4:16

it's not a yardstick or anything. All women have admitted to feeling some form of imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. I have too. I think it for me personally, it's come from having done so many different things in my career and different types of jobs and going into different sectors, completely new sectors unrelated from each other, and each time having to be like, "oh God, I don't know anything about this. Oh shit, what am I doing here?" You know, it's this whole feeling of I have to figure this out, but maybe someone else would've done a better job". I think Pooja, you said that right? And that is exactly what you know it means to me as well. But while I was researching imposter syndrome, there was one definition or description of imposter syndrome that really stood out for me, and I like it for. The so imposter syndrome by itself has such a negative connotation, right? first of all, imposter. The word itself is like really bad -fraud, fake, phony, all these words are so negative. And then syndrome by itself sounds like a disease. There's a, there's another article that I will point everyone to at the end of this. We will leave some links here so you can read up more about it if you're interested. But there's one description that I really liked was this and I'm gonna read it out. It's by this woman called Tiwalola Ogunlesi and she said Imposter syndrome is just temporary memory loss where you have forgotten all the amazing things about you. And I think that is really special, because I think that's what it is, right? Where you keep dismissing everything that you've done, your abilities, your capabilities, and say,

Kiran: 5:53


Debkanya: 5:54

useless", right? That's what Imposter Syndrome is. And I think that's the thing. It's so negative and yet it's always women usually that are considered to be afflicted. Why do you think that is? Is it because, men don't genuinely don't feel like imposters?

Kiran: 6:12

I can't speak for all men, but I think in, in my case now I'm running on 20 years of sales and consulting, it would be very tough for me to do a sales job if I had imposter syndrome, right? Because as a sales guy, you need to exude confidence. You need to be able to really think on your feet and believe that what you're saying is or rather you should be in a position where you are so convincing that the other person believes everything that you're saying. From a sales and consulting perspective, that kind of becomes really important. So in my case and in my perspective, I feel that's the reason why I haven't felt imposter syndrome, because if I did, then I wouldn't be an efficient sales guy. It's, uh...

Pooja: 7:03

What about before your sales journey?

Kiran: 7:07

you know, if I look back and I really try and make meaning of my school days then yeah, I was always kind of, never the cool kid and never in the cool circles and you would always believe that there are others who are doing a better job of putting themselves out there and those kind of things. Those days, there weren't that many responsibilities in school. But that may be something that I felt at that point. I don't know if that's imposter syndrome, but yeah not after that. I think I've I've very strongly believed in myself.

Debkanya: 7:46

That's good for you.

Soumya: 7:48

I think to what Kiran said, the last part, right? You believe in yourself. I feel like the entire imposter syndrome really happens within you. Externally, a lot of these people who have imposter syndrome are high achievers. They are people holding great positions. They're doing excellent. So for for say, an external audience looking at them, they're really doing great, but it's more like an in internal struggle. And uh, to add to what Debbie asked in terms of is it something that's only with women? I think there are two sides to it. I feel like a lot of research around imposter syndrome has happened keeping women as the participants for the research. Less for men. And I think when it comes to things like this where you need to express your internal struggles, I think men are far less forthcoming with their experiences than women right? That could be a situation where the data probably is skewed right now in terms of the research that we are looking at, and it's not just women who experience this. But that said, because women also are a community who have experienced bias, who've probably heard that we are not good enough more often. Maybe we also internalize that and when we go out there in the workplace, we feel like, oh, maybe I'm not good enough.

Debkanya: 9:10

Yeah. I mean, In fact, that's the original study, right? That actually created this whole idea of the imposter phenomenon which was done by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, where this was way back by the way, 1978 was when the first study was done, and they did it only with women. And the findings were that most of these women claimed or said that they felt feelings of inadequacy or doubted their own abilities. And that made the headlines. And these, the, these two psychologists and went on to do other studies with mixed groups and men. But unfortunately, those findings did not get as much attention as the first headline, which is, women suffer from imposter phenomenon.

Kiran: 9:50

But if we kinda, uh, peel the onion. Why does this exist? Is it because women are not given enough opportunities to prove themselves over a period of time or what is that reason?

Debkanya: 10:05

Firstly, it's come out very clearly that it is a myth that it's women who suffer from it.

Kiran: 10:11

Okay. So let's take the gender equation out.

Debkanya: 10:15


Kiran: 10:15

But if I were to ask any one of you who said that you'll have felt imposter syndrome at some point in your work careers, is it because of the pressure of not having enough opportunities and therefore you feel that you're judged more or what, what's happening?

Soumya: 10:34

I think the environment does have a role to play in this, right? If you look at self-esteem, right? My self-esteem is let's accept it. We are social animals. What someone else thinks of me does affect me. Yeah. So if I'm in an environment where I'm constantly being criticized, no matter how strong I feel about myself there, there would be situations where I will have moments of self doubt. And that can be really crippling. That can be crippling in terms of my performance and the way I'm performing at work as well. And a lack of role models sometimes to see and learn from people like me who have been there. Maybe that's very few for women or maybe people of color or the communities that we see less of in the workplace right now. Maybe that could also be a reason. Not having those people who are like, "oh my God, that's my inspiration. She's my inspiration."

Kiran: 11:29

Are those are those your reasons? Instead of being generic, are those your reasons?

Soumya: 11:34

These are definitely my reasons for sure. But I have also read about it and I think I resonated with what I read, so it comes from that.

Kiran: 11:43

Okay, cool. Debbie, Pooja?

Pooja: 11:46

I don't think it's a I mean, it's not a lack of opportunity thing. It's, for me, it is an internal issue that I deal with, but I again, plays along the lines of self-worth. Things like that.

Kiran: 12:00

But in your case then, it's not to do with gender. It's not that you're looking at it that I'm a woman and therefore there's...

Pooja: 12:10

No, I'm not associating that with the fact that I am a woman.

Debkanya: 12:16

Yeah, but you know, That's the thing, again, I'll say it, and there's enough research to show that it's it's the case is that it's not about gender. Also there are external factors that place women or anyone who belongs to a minority community. I think that's what it also comes from because you are automatically working that much harder to prove your worth. You are working that much harder to make space for yourself. You're working that much harder to get people around you to include you. That feeling of belonging doesn't come naturally as it would to say the highest common denominator in any workplace, right? Yeah. I think so therefore, that is the factor because you're already struggling with a lot of extraneous factors, and that plays into your internal dialogue of, oh gosh, I have to prove myself. I'm not good enough. I'm different from everyone else. I have to work harder to fit in. So all of these things play into it as well. But the funny thing is specifically speaking of men versus women. So women are more, again, In most cases generalizing a little bit, but women are in general more emotionally available and therefore more communicative. Men are not. So to your point when you said and this is true in your case surely, but there are a lot of men who overcompensate for feelings of imposter syndrome by showing extra bluster. So there's more confidence, there's more noise, there's more machoism, there's more like in your face. So how do you even see the difference? Not even talk about it or acknowledge that it's a thing because it's a weakness.

Kiran: 13:50

Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything in the workplace that lends itself to people feeling more imposter syndrome? So I guess the corollary, or the other way to ask that question is, what does the workplace need to do in order to reduce someone's imposter syndrome feeling?

Soumya: 14:12

I think I have an example for that. I think I, I don't know if Debbie you remember, but in December last year, I reached out to you for a conversation and I think the thing that I told her was, I don't feel like I'm doing enough. Am I doing enough with Tydy? That kind of conversation that I had with her and, cause we had a really honest conversation around that and because I knew I could reach out to her to have that conversation made a lot of difference to me. And I think to have that person, or to have that environment available, to have an open discussion around this matters a lot. And I think that's been my experience and it's helped.

Kiran: 14:52

Nice. So at Tydy we have an open culture. We have open positions as well. So if you're looking for a change, please make sure you look at the open positions in our organization.

Debkanya: 15:03

But she's talking about the marketing team. I don't know about the rest. It's true though. Having a great supportive environment I think makes a huge difference. This lady called Dr. Valerie Young. She's she's basically the co-founder of the Imposter Syndrome Institute. There's a place like that. So she's basically said that let's take the imposter syndrome out of therapy. Because normally it's spoken about as a form of where you need to change your inner dialogue. You need to work on yourself, right? And your feelings of inadequacy, but actually should be more about education. And therefore the workplace fits in beautifully, right? How do you make it educational? The fact that like more than 80 to 75 to 80% working professionals, men, women have said they better at some point in their career. So that means it affects a lot of people and that means it is definitely affecting your bottom line somewhere. Soumya, you said it right? It affects performance. It affects your ability to make decisions. It affects your ability to connect with people. It make, it affects so many things on so many levels. So then how, I think when you take it into the realm of education, then you can say, okay, let's talk about it in the workplace. Let's create mentorship. You don't agree with something?

Kiran: 16:21

No. I think does it affect the bottom line? Because Soumya said something which was that most of the people who suffer from it are also top performers.

Debkanya: 16:31

So that's what happens. I mean, at least whatever little research I did is this can eat away at you over time, if not addressed right? So it's something that keeps building within and the higher you grow so you will notice a lot of women, senior women leaders drop out of the workplace after a point. Because they say that they're burnt out. Burning out is also, I'm not saying it is the result of feeling Imposter syndrome, but it is one of them wherein, because you're constantly beating yourself up internally, you're working extra to prove something to someone, or you just can't take it anymore because of the emotional toll it's taking on your life, which then seeps into your personal life and everything else. So definitely affects the bottom line

Soumya: 17:20

When you're setting the standard of achievement, I think when we are experiencing, I don't wanna say when we suffer from imposter syndrome, I don't want it to be like a disease. It's an experience that we have and I think it changes. It's not a linear thing where either you are only having that or you come out of it and don't ever experience it again. So I think it's an experience. So from that perspective I think we tend to set a very high standard for ourselves in terms of, this is what I have to achieve. And that's probably 200% for someone who sees us. But for us it's still not a hundred percent. And that can burn you out, right? Because you are trying too hard to maybe with your work, maybe with even in your relationships to be there for the people around you. That is something that's a challenge in terms of, I think the standards we set for ourselves.

Pooja: 18:14

When you were saying the whole burnout thing, there is a type of imposter that, I think it's called the Superhero or something.

Debkanya: 18:22


Kiran: 18:23

But what I'm hearing from this is if it's at the workplace, the manager's role becomes super important in helping people cope with this to get rid of that imposter syndrome feeling. Because the manager's the only one who has that connect with the individual and can potentially build confidence or talk about a path to build confidence from a workplace perspective. It does arise from the productivity and from what you're delivering to the organization. Any thoughts on what managers should potentially do in order to help people at the workplace?

Pooja: 19:05

I was thinking of our hashtag make work a better place. But like Soumya said, it's building an environment of transparency. At Tydy, we're still a smaller organization. I'm still able to come to my managers a lot more easily. And in that space it has been really helpful to just have. safe space to be able to have any kind of conversation without judgment or without feeling put down. I guess in larger organizations that system needs to be refined a lot more to include more maybe regular feedback. Do more one-on-ones with your employees. There is a lot of stuff that can improve in terms of personal relationships that you're building.

Soumya: 19:58

I've been toying around with this thought for a very long time, and I think there should be new managers within every team. One is a person who's taking care of the KPIs, like what the team should achieve, and one is taking care of the team itself, who is probably more I'd say emotionally attuned to their employees and can tackle all of these issues.

Kiran: 20:21

But that's your HRBP, that's your HR business partner in all organizations.

Soumya: 20:25

But your HRBP is still looking after a larger group. I think this can really happen only when you're focusing on fewer. It's really hard to tune into a lot of people at the same time. And I think every team, and even if that position is not that of a manager there should be that one person who can take care of this. It's really hard, I feel, personally, because I've tried being a manager myself, and I think it's really hard to cope with both the KPIs that the team has to achieve and also taking care of your team. Separating out those two roles can be very useful. I've, I've been toying around with this thought for a really long time.

Debkanya: 21:04

It almost sounds like you want a good cop, bad cop kinda thing. One person will shout at you about the numbers. The other one will say, it's okay. I'm here for you.

Soumya: 21:15

Oh, no I don't think it's an idea of taking out accountability from the entire situation and being like, Hey, the pressure is not just coming from your manager, that manager who's trying to get things done, right? Yeah. Which you can do from any angle.

Kiran: 21:28

But then many organizations are now providing you counseling and uh, psychologists on call.... Does that help? Is that the same thing?

Debkanya: 21:38

No, but that's the whole thing, right? It's not necessarily about therapy. That's my feeling. Like sure, of course. A lot of it is internal. It is an internal dialogue issue, not issue, but it is an internal dialogue that needs to change. Because we all tell ourselves, we all tell ourselves stories about ourselves. And I think a large part of our imposter syndrome is also believing that story so much that, oh, I'm like this. And whatever the external world might tell me that I might be getting praise for whatever, but I don't accept it because my story is that I'm not worth it, right. That is the internal dialogue that needs to change and can change through therapy, for example. But then the external and other factors that this is more common than you know, that the cure is to have like what we were discussing. having supportive managers, having a supportive environment, a place where you can be yourself, a place where you feel valued. A place that is rewarding you fairly, acknowledging your achievements over and over again. I think those things are outside of the therapy session, right?

Kiran: 22:46

So in an organization when you're onboarding a new manager someone just becomes a manager. With the promotion or whatever it may be. There needs to be something that helps them understand how to work with their teams, understand, Even not just the professional side, but the emotional side of people and be able to kind of deal with that.

Debkanya: 23:10

Absolutely, a hundred percent.

Soumya: 23:12

Yeah, I think the entire emotion, the employee wellbeing, the mental health aspect has to be, has to have a holistic approach. I can't go for a yoga meditation session and come back to heavy workload and a team that I find difficult to work with. So I think from that sense, what Debbie says makes sense, right? You go to therapy, you have maybe a counselor that you go to and you are working on your internal feelings, you're introspecting, you're reflecting. But at the same time, you get to come back to a space which facilitates this journey that you're trying to take to get out of this Imposter syndrome or whatever you're feeling.

Pooja: 23:48

There is also an angle that I was reading about is if, given that imposter syndrome, when we talk about it, we attach a little bit of a negative connotation to it. But what if it is okay? Because we all go through it like we said. So instead of like basically trying to remove that stigma around imposter syndrome and what if it is, and this is just a food for thought, open-ended question. What if having imposter syndrome is a good thing or it's not good is not the right way to put it, but having a certain amount of imposter syndrome will that push you. So I was reading an article where there is apparently a psychologist that or in psychology there is a law called the Yerkes Dodson Law. Okay. Okay. So basically it's just a graph with a bell curve. So the graph shows your performance and your stress levels. Yeah. Okay. So you have two ax es and the bell curve essentially shows that at your lowest point, you are when you are least motivated and there's least pressure, your performance is lower. And then the studies that this Yerkes Dodson have done to come up with this law says that when you're at that optimal peak is when you know you do your best and you're most achieving. So what if your imposter syndrome pushes you, it motivates you to stay at that optimum level because the other two extremes are either are not as good.

Kiran: 25:34

I think that optimal level is not sustainable for a long time because then you get into burnout territory.

Debkanya: 25:40

But imagine living with that kind of self-doubt constantly to be able to achieve anything.

Pooja: 25:45

Was saying it's just accepting that you have it and it's okay.

Debkanya: 25:49

No, it makes sense. It makes sense. Yeah. But then I'm wondering that's the thing, right? The flip side to that would be

Kiran: 25:55


Debkanya: 25:55

an environment where people are accepting of their shortcomings. It's okay to not be an expert. It's okay to not have the answers. It's okay to make mistakes. And imagine then what we can do, because it's about being able to, think outside of your inner fears, or maybe it's an idealistic place that we can never really be because you can't really cut off your internal angst from everything else outside and how you perform, right? Kiran, to you, you said that you've never thought about imposter syndrome before because it's not something that's bothered you. Maybe when you were younger, but definitely not as a professional. You said you, you can see it in other people. Like what do you think, like how do you feel? Do, do you see it as a weakness in other people? How do you perceive it? I'm just curious.

Kiran: 26:46

So if I'm being absolutely blunt, it's not a weakness. As an external looking at someone else it feels unnecessary and you're like trying to shake that person and say you know, just don't do this So it's that feeling of frustration I guess, where you don't understand why they're feeling the way they do. And probably. I have not spent time talking to each person at length about it. It's just that feeling of frustration I don't know why you need to be in this position. I think it's more that.

Debkanya: 27:22

I think that's actually quite wonderful because that brings us to the end of this conversation. And I think one of the things that I wanted to end on and Pooja, Soumya, Kiran if you wanted to add something, please do, but it's if anyone does feel that the, they're experiencing imposter syndrome I think one of the things that someone's told me once is talk to yourself the way you would talk to a dear friend. What would you tell a friend if they came to you saying that This is what I'm feeling, and start with being fair and kind to yourself.. Talk to yourself as a friend. And I think that's just the beginning of helping yourself come out of it, I suppose.

Kiran: 27:59

Yeah.. Good, Good thought. Yeah.

Pooja: 28:03

I was saying for me, I think it's like the way I try to not go down that path is just saying that there will always be somebody that's better. They will always be somebody, and the most probably is for the role that I'm, or tomorrow if I leave Tydy, and there is somebody else that joins, the fear of, oh, is that person, of course there's gonna be somebody that's better than me. So then building that narrative in my head then sort of reduces, it diminishes a lot more. That's how I, so far that has worked for me.

Soumya: 28:38

Yeah. I think for me it is realizing that this is not a feeling that you shouldn't feel like you can work through it. Do things despite, and then how do you work your way through it and knowing that, hey, I'm not alone. Maybe we don't have a lot of conversations around this, but if there's like a 70% number that, Debbie you stated, who experience this, this is far more universal and this is very human. So I think in, on one hand, I'm not okay with this being pathologized by being a syndrome. I think it's a very human experience and we all go through it. No, let's not say we all go through it. Kiran's already stated that, but a lot of us go through it. That puts me in a place of ease knowing that okay, I'm not alone in this.

Debkanya: 29:22

I really enjoyed today's conversation. Thank you everybody, and uh, here's to being better friends to ourselves.. Thank you so much for joining us. That's all from all of us today. We'll be back again next week. Bye bye.

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