Submitted by: Dawn Beyer

Have you ever experienced “imposter syndrome” or felt like you don’t have the knowledge for your role? 

Oh, yes!

First, what is Imposter syndrome? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Imposter Syndrome is a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success.

When I first became a Fellow I had this feeling in every engagement with other Fellows and when I became a Senior Fellow, the feeling intensified. Fellows are considered our best technical talent in the corporation. They are technical leaders that solve our most difficult challenges; develop disruptive technical solutions; serve as technical ambassadors for the corporation for key customers, technical societies, and government agencies; they drive innovation; generate intellectual property; develop and share technical strategy; and most importantly mentor, advance knowledge continuity, and guide career development across the engineering community. There are approximately 60,000 Engineers, Scientists, and Technologist within Lockheed Martin–only .75% of which are Fellows and only .15% are Senior Fellows. The competition in this program is fierce, the expectations are high, and the capacity for failure is low—how can anyone not experience imposter syndrome when engaging and collaborating with Fellows?

How did you handle it?

The imposter syndrome feeling often put me in situations where I didn’t have control of my emotions. Although no one saw what I felt, the feeling of believing your abilities and accomplishments are never quite enough is very draining and distracting! Hearing others tell me “I deserve to be here and that I earned it” didn’t help either—very nice to hear but didn’t change how I felt. Eventually, the feelings became exasperating and exhausting–depleted my energy and restricted my participation! So, I took time to dissect my “negative” emotions and realized these were the same “positive” emotions I felt under other circumstances that helped me in the past. I realized that “imposter syndrome” heightened my situational awareness, encouraged preparedness, induced mindfulness, grew my admiration and respect for the brilliance of others, and realize the learning opportunity.

So, I moved on and say to others, don’t resist the “imposter syndrome” feeling but embrace it! Know why you’re feeling the way you do, dissect your feelings, and look for the positive in every experience!

There’s a great article by Courtney Ackerman called, “What are Positive and Negative Emotions and Do We Need Both?” Some excerpts from the article:

  • “Negative emotions are an inevitable part of life and something that we need to experience in order to have a full, rich life.”
  • “Negative emotions serve evolutionary purposes, encouraging us to act in ways that boost our chances of survival and help us grow and develop as people.”
  • “As vital as it is for us to learn how to boost our positive emotions and to take advantage of the opportunities they bring, it’s just as vital to learning how to adapt from negative emotions and cope with them effectively.”
  • “When we are able to accept, embrace, and exploit both our positive and our negative emotions, we give ourselves the best chance to live a balanced, meaningful life.”