Overcoming imposter syndrome | Inquirer Business

Overcoming imposter syndrome

(First of two parts)

“In today’s professional landscape, women have made significant strides in leadership roles,” says the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). However, they continue to face unique challenges and barriers, including the pervasive issue of imposter syndrome—an internalized belief of being a fraud or undeserving of success, despite evident accomplishment. It can manifest as persistent self-doubt, fear of failure, and a constant need for validation.

“Imposter syndrome disproportionately affects women in leadership positions, hindering their ability to fully embrace their capabilities and advance in their careers. It undermines confidence, stifles ambition, and perpetuates a culture of self-limitation. Overcoming imposter syndrome is crucial for women leaders to unlock their full potential and contribute effectively to their organizations and society.”


Last week, I joined Connected Women AI’s Gina Romero and Mansmith and Fielders’ Chiqui Escareal-Go in a Zoom forum organized by the Professional Women of AmCham for women leaders. I suggested the following ways to manage imposter syndrome.


Acknowledge facts and embrace achievements

My former student L, now in medical school, says, “I don’t deserve to be a doctor. I just memorized the textbooks to do well on the National Medical Admissions Test (NMAT), but the pandemic affected my learning. In clinical work now, I don’t know what I am doing.”

“The pandemic adversely affected everyone’s learning,” I reply, “and all of us need to work more effectively to acquire needed skills. Be patient. Give yourself more time to master clinical work, under the guidance of your professors. But look at the facts. You did very well on NMAT, and your grades in med school are also good, so do not discount these. Think back to where you were at the start of med school. Despite the pandemic, you managed to learn and grow, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” L says, “but maybe not enough. I am about to graduate, and I am not sure I can be a real doctor.”

“Talk to your professors, and ask for points for improvement,” I say. “But remember that you worked hard to get to where you are, and you deserve to fulfill your potential of being a doctor.”

Avoid perfectionist tendencies and talk to those who can empathize

“I was our high school valedictorian,” says my freshman student S. “I did not study math much and got perfect scores. Now in college, everyone is a top student. They know topics our teachers never taught us in school. Even if I study math every day, I barely get 75 percent in the test. I don’t know why I got accepted into this school or this course.”

“Math education in our country is way below the global standard, due to various reasons,” I say. “Students come to college ill-equipped to handle math. But through hard work, you manage to do well—75 percent is above the prepandemic average. Continue practicing exercises daily. That’s the only way to master math.”


“My parents are not happy that I am no longer Number 1,” says S.

“Tell your parents to let go of perfectionism,” I say. “Rather than grades, prioritize growth. How much have you learned in this course?”

“OMG, I am learning so many things,” says S. “I enjoy class, but I am worried that I don’t deserve to be here.”

“Several of your classmates also feel inadequate about their math background,” I continue. “The reference point has changed. You all were at the top of your respective schools before, but now you are in a prestigious university with lots of similarly able peers.”

“My high school friends and I are in different colleges and majors, and now my grades are lower than theirs,” says S. “I feel depressed when we compare grades on social media.”

“Share your struggles with peers who are in a similar situation, rather than those who cannot empathize,” I say. “Open up to your batchmates now, and support rather than tear each other down. Rather than sapping your confidence, rejoice that you can learn with the best.”

(To be concluded next week)

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Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected].

TAGS: All in the Family

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