What is Imposter Syndrome? How can you overcome it?

Recently Breanne Casteel and I mentioned the effects of Imposter Syndrome on Agora Insights' Blueprints for Success. For those who haven't heard of it yet, Imposter Syndrome (IS) is a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud." This imposter phenomenon (Clance & Imes 1978) is not exclusive to any particular field and can affect professionals across various industries, including business analysts and business architects. Understanding imposter syndrome and its impact is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment and fostering professional growth.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

This syndrome refers to feelings of inadequacy that persist despite being successful. Individuals with imposter syndrome often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than ability. They fear that others will eventually unmask them as incompetent. This condition is characterized by chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of competence.

Take a look at this four minute animation by Elizabeth Cox on Imposter Syndrome and how to combat it. She mentions two famous people who doubted themselves despite their incredible success. 

How does it Impact Business Analysts and Architects?

Business analysts and architects are professionals who must constantly adapt to new information, technologies, and business needs. They are often in positions where they have to provide expert advice and make decisions that can have significant consequences for their organizations. The pressure to perform and the complex nature of their work can make them particularly susceptible to IS. They might feel that they are not truly qualified for the roles they are in or that they are not performing to the expected standard, even when they are doing well.

How it Affects us at Work

The effects of IS in the workplace can be profound. It can lead to anxiety, stress, and a lack of confidence, which in turn can impede decision-making and leadership abilities. For business analysts and architects, this might result in overworking to compensate for perceived inadequacies, procrastination due to fear of failure, or avoidance of seeking new opportunities for advancement. The overall impact can be a decrease in productivity, job satisfaction, and potentially the stifling of innovation and growth within a team or organization.

The effects of imposter syndrome in these roles can be profound:

  1. Decreased Confidence: Business architects and analysts might feel that they are not truly qualified for their positions, leading to decreased confidence in their abilities. This lack of confidence can make them hesitant to contribute ideas or take the lead on projects, potentially stifling innovation and progress.
  2. Overworking: To compensate for feeling like an imposter, professionals may work longer hours and take on more projects than necessary to prove their worth. This can lead to burnout and reduced productivity over time.
  3. Fear of Failure: The fear of being "found out" can lead to a paralyzing fear of failure. Business architects and analysts may become risk-averse, preferring to stick with tried and true methods rather than exploring new and potentially more effective solutions.
  4. Difficulty Accepting Praise: When they do succeed, individuals with imposter syndrome often have trouble accepting praise or recognizing their own achievements. They may attribute success to external factors such as luck or timing, rather than their own skill and hard work.
  5. Stunted Growth: Imposter syndrome can prevent professionals from seeking out new learning opportunities or challenging assignments that would lead to personal and professional growth.

How I Managed my Feelings of Imposter Syndrome 

Understanding Language and Structure

In the initial stages of my career, grappling with imposter syndrome was particularly challenging when it came to grasping the specialized language and expectations within the IT industry. The sector evolved rapidly, and staying abreast of the latest terminology and concepts was crucial. There were instances where my understanding was correct, but I struggled to articulate my thoughts with the appropriate terminology. Utilizing a structured body of knowledge is instrumental in bridging this gap, as it equips you with the necessary vocabulary and context, thereby boosting your confidence. This scenario is not unique. Many professionals in fields such as law or medicine also face the challenge of keeping up with ever-evolving professional jargon and standards.

Speaking with Others

Engaging in dialogue with colleagues is vital. It's important to seek clarification when needed and to be transparent about the limits of your knowledge. What you'll often find is that this level of candor is not only appreciated but can actually enhance the respect you receive from your peers. This approach is akin to practices in fields like academic research, where scholars regularly consult with peers to refine their understanding and acknowledge the collaborative nature of knowledge.

Accepting Knowledge Limits and Making Plans to Improve

As a trainer, I recognize that my expertise has boundaries. However, I'm eager to share the knowledge I do possess. The willingness to exchange information in a supportive setting is highly valued by most people. Whenever I encounter new concepts, I'm committed to understanding them thoroughly. This proactive learning approach is shared by professionals in many sectors, including business architecture and analysis, where continuous learning is a fundamental part of staying relevant and effective in one's role.

Recognizing Your Expertise

My journey with artificial intelligence has revealed that I possess more expertise than I initially realized, particularly within a specific area of the field. This realization was enlightening, as it underscored how job titles and complex terminology can sometimes be misleading. It's essential to investigate and verify information, a process made easier by the wealth of resources available online. This method of validation is not only applicable in IT but in various fields where expertise is often obscured by industry jargon.

Measuring Your Knowledge

Understanding where your knowledge stands can be empowering. Through business analysis and architecture courses, as offered by Agora Insights Ltd for example, professionals often use frameworks and certifications to assess their level of expertise. Similar to my experience with AI, these benchmarks help in understanding one's proficiency and in identifying areas for improvement.

Understanding Confidence

Confidence in one's knowledge and abilities is an essential component of any professional position. It is important to consider not only what you know but also how you apply and communicate that knowledge. Confidence stems from not only understanding the theoretical aspects but also from practical understanding, listening, and application, including the ability to communicate complex concepts to clients and colleagues in an understandable manner. 

Mary Daphne from Columbia University, Ed.M. shares her Top Strategies for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome At Work in this eight minute video.

Now that we know what imposter syndrome is, how it affects us at work and some of the strategies we can follow to come out of it, here's an added bonus on 

Thinking our way out of Imposter Syndrome by Dr Valerie Young Global Thought Leader on this topic and international speaker had this to say on one of her TED talks. 


My personal experience has shown that understanding industry-specific language, consulting with others, accepting and addressing knowledge gaps, and using benchmarks to measure expertise are effective ways to build confidence and combat imposter syndrome. It's important for professionals to recognize their value, seek out growth opportunities, and remember that their contributions are essential to the success of their teams and organizations.

Business architecture and analysis are dynamic fields that require ongoing learning and adaptation. By acknowledging imposter syndrome and actively working to mitigate its effects, professionals in these roles can ensure they remain productive, innovative, and satisfied in their careers. It's crucial for individuals and organizations to foster an environment that supports learning and open communication, which can help diminish the impact of imposter syndrome and promote a more confident and capable workforce.

Need more resources on this phenomenon? 

  • Dr. Valerie Young - Since 1982 internationally-recognized expert on impostor syndrome and co-founder of Impostor Syndrome Institute, Dr. Valerie Young has delivered her Rethinking Impostor Syndrome™ program to hundreds of major corporations and universities around the world. 
  • Dr. Valerie Young's Book: The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome. An internationally-recognized expert on this phenomenon, author and co-founder of the Imposter Syndrome Instiute, Dr. Valerie Young, has much to share on IS.
  • What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? - Elizabeth Cox on TEDEd
  • Article by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey - Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome - This phenomenon, or doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud, is a diagnosis often given to women.
  • Top Strategies For Overcoming Imposter Syndrome At Work  - Mary Daphne, in her Explearning Communication Series, shares her top strategies for overcoming this phenomenon in this 8 minute podcast. 
  • What is imposter syndrome? Definition, symptoms, and overcoming it - By Amal Saymeh 

Feel free to share in our Blueprints for Success Podcast hosted by Deirdre Caren or comment with any questions!

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Don't forget that Agora Insights Ltd offers great pathways to learning!

Post sponsored by Agora Insights Ltd 

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