The Sales Industry is notoriously cutthroat. Let's face it - monthly, quarterly, and annually, you are being compared to others and how each of you stack up against your sales quota. Deep inside, I'm sure you've compared yourself to others, maybe saying "I wish I was so and so - they hit quota every month."
Have you ever felt this way?
When I received an invitation from Arianna Huffington to blog for The Huffington Post, I was sure someone had made a mistake. My thoughts were:
"The sample article I sent was a one-off. It didn't represent the way I really write."
"They must be desperate for new bloggers."
"I bet they just accept anyone who's bold enough to reach out directly to Arianna."
These are the thoughts that were running through my head after receiving the good news. Instead of feeling proud, confident, and successful, I felt like an imposter. Like I had somehow managed to fool the folks at HuffPost.
I felt that any minute, someone was going to come and rightfully claim this treasure I'd found as their own.
It wasn't until 2014 that I stumbled across an article about Imposter Syndrome. When I began reading, I felt understood. My professional insecurities finally had a name, and more importantly, it didn't necessarily mean I was insane.
The effects of imposter syndrome are far-reaching and don't just tamper with your career--unchecked, they can lead to depression, relationship difficulties, and out of control anxieties. Some really qualified people have even left their lucrative careers because they couldn't shake the feeling that they had somehow slipped into an exclusive club they didn't deserve membership to.
Women are more susceptible to struggling with imposter syndrome. And in a cutthroat industry like sales, it's easy to feel that you are just not good enough.
Here are 4 signs you might be living with imposter syndrome:
1. You're a perfectionist.
Like to have everything exactly as it should be? That's probably helped you in your career so far. But studies show that being a perfectionist dramatically increases your chances of struggling with imposter syndrome.
Natually, when you only accept the best, you'll feel that you fall short quite often. None of us can attain the perfection we idealize. To someone with imposter syndrome, that translates to feeling that we aren't good enough, smart enough, organized enough, knowledgable enough.
At the heart of this is faulty comparison--we're comparing our performance and abilities to an idealized, imaginary "perfect" person who is doing everything right. Reality check: Everyone feels inadequate sometimes. Let your work performance speak for itself.
2. You're a woman who's worked in sales.
If you're a woman working in the sales industry, chances are, you're high-achieving. You live for reaching goals and career milestones. And you probably feel like an imposter when you feel you've missed the mark.
More women than men struggle with imposter syndrome, and Debra Walton of Thomson Reuters says women in sales have a few extra challenges to overcome. Many feel overshadowed by similarly-qualified men because they aren't included in male-centric, informal work culture and client-entertainment activities, like a round of golf on the weekend or a few beers after work.
For a woman who is used to excelling at her job, being the subject of gender bias and excluded from activities with male colleagues, executives, or clients generates a lot of negative thoughts.
Feeling like an unqualified outsider--"over your skis"--can be a sign you're living with imposter syndrome.
3. You're a high self-monitor and people-pleaser.
If you tend to choose your words and actions based on who you're surrounded by, you're likely a high self-monitor.
This is a term psychologists use to describe people who watch the reactions of others to judge what is most socially tactful in any given situation.
They place the apparent success of social interactions as more valuable than principle alone (unlike low self-monitors).
An example: Your client says she can't stand country music. You enjoy it.
High self-monitor: Although you disagree, admitting that seems like it would hurt the dynamic you're developing with her. You join in and agree with her. Soon, the two of you are laughing and "bonding" over your shared opinion of country music. You might know the truth about your opinion, but what she sees is a kind, agreeable person who seems to have a lot in common with her.
Low self-monitor: You are honest and tell her you really like the genre. She is perceivably a bit uncomfortable after admitting she dislikes it so much, so you change the subject and try to move on. You may have been true to yourself, (principle is very important to low self-monitors), but you also may have done so at the expense of your social dynamic with this client.
Note: This is not to encourage dishonesty--simply to show an extreme example of how high self-monitors view social interactions versus their low self-monitoring counterparts.
High self-monitors are more likely to struggle with imposter syndrome because they may feel they are so good at pretending and acting (AKA "fooling others"), their actual value or substance gets lost somewhere along the way.
4. You often mistrust the opinions of those closest to you.
Think back to childhood and your relationship with your parents. Did your mom or dad often praise you when you felt it wasn't really warranted? Did they expect the best from you, and refuse to notice, or flat-out deny, times when you failed?
It sounds like a supportive atmosphere, but in reality, it breeds feelings of inadequacy and mistrust.
You felt you did terribly at your basketball game, but mom and dad insisted you were the star of the team. Suddenly, the praise from mom and dad has less value. You start to mistrust it and begin second-guessing yourself. This continues into adulthood and unchecked, can be a breeding ground for the feelings that make up imposter syndrome.Not every perfectionist, saleswoman, high self-monitor, and skeptic struggles with imposter syndrome, but if you meet any of these criteria, you may be at a higher risk.
It's important to stay in tune with your feelings about your performance at work and try to objectively evaluate them--it's also been suggested that finding a mentor can be hugely beneficial for anyone dealing with imposter syndrome. An experienced sounding board can help you identify if your feelings are unfounded or if you're genuinely out of your professional comfort zone.
In the meantime, it's safe to say that if you're reading this, you're much more capable than you think you are. You already have the professional ability to do your job. Now you can focus on learning to work through your doubts.