Break the bias is the theme for the 2022 International Women's Day. But how do you do it? And what about Imposter Syndrome's secret role?
This is something I've been researching for the past few years. And the 2022 Imposter Syndrome Research Study builds on what we learned with the 2019 study, adding in analysis of the impact of the pandemic.
The research has also highlighted the hidden role of Imposter Syndrome in bias.
"Why does she come to me for reassurance on each and every decision she has to make?"
"Her idea was great! Why didn't she speak up about it in the meeting?"
"I simply don't get why she didn't go for that promotion. It was perfect for her. And I even put in a good word. It's so frustrating."
Recognise any of these with your team members?
They've all got a common thread.
They're warning signs of Imposter Syndrome - the secret fear that others will 'find us out' and somehow realise we're not good enough, that we're frauds, that we don't belong.
And it's easy to imagine how such behaviours will make it harder for someone to break the bias - they stack up against them to become a secret, self-imposed glass ceiling.
I often hear experts on social media say that we shouldn't 'let' Imposter Syndrome get in our way. But that just heaps self-blame onto the shame, because that's not actually how it works.
It isn't a conscious choice. We don't 'let' Imposter Syndrome sabotage our dreams. It's an auto-pilot response.
When we've wired the body and the brain with Imposter Syndrome-supporting thoughts and fears, we're near-constantly living in the fight-flight-freeze response. The body gets flooded with adrenalin and cortisol. Everything feels like a threat; a danger.
And this means that the primal part of the brain makes our biggest decisions for us.
It processes information ever so slightly sooner than the pre-frontal cortex (where your great ideas come from). This is the reason why we jerk back from crossing a road, only to realise we narrowly avoided a car we hadn't (consciously) spotted.
So it's a really useful biological function.
When it comes to Imposter Syndrome, this part of the brain perceives threats from the outside world to do with being 'found out' or judged, and it holds us back, just as it did on the pavement.
But this time it uses things like not speaking up with our best ideas, like backing down when challenged, like not wanting to make decisions for fear of the repercussions of a mistake, like doing whatever it takes not to be visible.
This is all running at an unconscious level, which is why the classic coping strategies that flood google when you search for Imposter Syndrome advice don't work.
The coping strategies are run by the cognitive part of the brain... which doesn't get the information to kick off the coping strategies until the 'keep me safe' primal part has already started to self-sabotage.
So you're constantly playing catch-up.
It causes anxiety.
And it's one of three hidden drivers behind the Gender Pay Gap.
That's why, to break the bias we need to include supporting people to truly set themselves free from Imposter Syndrome.
Those running it describe it as crippling. They say they live in dread of being found out. They feel shame and blame themselves for not being good enough.
It doesn't have to be that way.
What Do We Really Need To Break The Bias?
Find out why Imposter Syndrome doesn't have to be like this - and how to sort it - in my masterclass on how to break the bias. You can register for your ticket here.
And here's a podcast episode I did on how to break the bias that you might find interesting, about the three pillars to break the bias:
Want to talk about how Imposter Syndrome might be impacting you as an individual, or your teams and organisation? Here's where to find out how we could work together. And for in-house work, here's where to book a call with me.
I've spent 18 years specialising in this, so that you don't have to.