I recently spoke at React Advanced London meetups about impostor syndrome and I wanted to offer the main content of that talk in a different format.
Impostor Syndrome is something that affects a lot of tech employees, over half according to one study.
Here I am going to give some practical advice on tackling impostor syndrome personally and in your organisations.
Introducing Psychological Capital
Psychological Capital is a field of Psychology that came about from the positive phycology movement of the late 1990s. The term itself was coined by Fred Luthens in his 2006 book of the same name.
Isn't this a post about impostor syndrome?
I promise they are related! A study from 2015 showed that Impostor Syndrome is inversely correlated with Psychological Capital. In other words, improving Psychological Capital can help reduce experiences of Impostor Syndrome.
Psychological Capital is made of 4 parts
Hope - your willingness to plan for the future and strive toward goals.
Efficacy - belief in your ability to successfully manage tasks.
Resilience - the ability to "bounce back" following adversity or failure.
Optimism - having a positive outlook for the future.
We can explore each of these 4 areas and identify practical ways to improve them.
Using Psychological Capital to Tackle Impostor Syndrome
For the individual
As an individual, you can improve your Psychological capital by:
Setting well-defined stretch goals (to improve hope)
Finding a mentor and mastering new skills (Efficacy)
Celebrate your achievements (Efficacy)
Find allies and always look for the silver lining (Resilience)
Be positive and even practice affirmations (Optimism)
For the team
If you are looking to improve across a team or organisation, you must create an environment where individuals can explore the opportunities above. Some practical steps are:
Ensuring failure is acceptable and even encouraged as a learning opportunity
Encourage question-asking and exposing gaps in knowledge
Support individuals working towards the edge of their ability
Support formal mentorship programmes
Psychological Capital is not a silver bullet for tackling impostor syndrome and empathy plays a huge part in making sure individuals feel supported. It is, however, a powerful tool in the arsenal for fighting impostor syndrome.