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Conquering the impostor syndrome to claim the joy, zest, and power of your success


Read Joyce's interview on CareerPioneer and learn how to conquer the impostor syndrome
By | Feb 08, 2014

If you could speak to your 30-year-old self with the knowledge you have today, what would you say?

That was the question that led Joyce Roche to write a deeply personal memoir entitled, The Empress Has No Clothes: Conquering Self-Doubt to Embrace Success (BK Business).

What would she have told her younger self? That she had earned her spot and deserved success, she says.

Back then -as a young professional moving up the corporate ladder, oftentimes in predominantly male environments or as one of a handful of people of color — Roche constantly felt like an outsider. 

In fact, she felt like a fraud.

“I wasn’t enjoying the journey,” she said in a phone interview with The Career Pioneer.

As she explains, there was a little voice in the back of her head constantly nipping away at her self-esteem as she moved up in her career. And no matter how successful she’d become, it was ever-present.

However, she noticed something. That voice usually reared its ugly head when she moved into a new role, one that required increased responsibility or a different skillset, she explains.

It would say she’d “stumble this time.” Or “they’re going to find out that you’re not as smart as we thought.” Or that “she couldn’t cut it,” she says.

That insecurity led her to work “crazy hours” and over-prepare for everything, she adds.

The letter that struck a cord with everyone.
When a letter she wrote, detailing what she later discovers is the Impostor Syndrome, appeared in O Magazine, she received tons of letters and emails from other professionals who shared her story.

That’s when she knew she had to write the book — to help the new generation of workers.

In it, not only does she tell her own story in memoir format, but she shares details from interviews with several other prominent business leaders who had experienced similar feelings as they ascended up the ranks.

As conducted research for the book, she found there are three common “triggers” to the Impostor Syndrome: Race, economic status and gender.

What exactly is the Impostor Syndrome?
The phenomena was first coined in 1978 by researchers, Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes as the “imposter phenomena” after studying 150 highly successful women. Despite their success, these women had held the belief that they were inadequate for the job, and feared they would eventually be found out.

Ms. Roche described the imposter syndrome as fear and self-doubt that causes you to question your abilities, even in the face of success.

Those who are struck with the syndrome constantly feel the need to prove themselves to others or internally validate that they deserve to be where their are.

Outwardly, you may appear confident and composed, but on the inside you’re facing “gripping fear,” she says. 

People who have it typically work long hours, are considered a workaholic, and tend to over prepare for tasks.

In some cases, such people end up compromising their personal life, becoming singularly focused on accomplishing something that it overshadows other parts of their life, she says.

A fear of failure and concerns about fitting in is also characteristic of the Impostor Syndrome.

“What’s happening internally is that you’re comparing yourself to a new group of people you’re engaged with,” Ms. Roche says.