Imposter syndrome – an introduction for the working Dad

Here’s a common workplace scenario you might just resonate with…

David leaned back in his chair, staring blankly at the glowing screen in front of him. Around him, the office buzzed with the sound of keyboards and soft conversations. He had just come out of a team meeting where he had presented a new project proposal. While everyone seemed impressed and his boss had given him an approving nod, a nagging voice in his head whispered, “You just got lucky with this one.”

As he scrolled through his emails, David couldn’t shake off the feeling of being a fraud. He thought about his colleagues—many of whom were younger, single, and without kids. They seemed more energetic, more dedicated. They stayed late, came in on weekends, and always seemed up to date with the latest trends in the industry. David, on the other hand, rushed home every evening to spend time with his kids and help with homework, missing the informal after-hours that often led to creative breakthroughs.

Maybe I don’t really belong here,” he thought, his heart sinking. “Maybe if they knew how I struggled to juggle everything, they’d see I’m not up to par.” The fear of being exposed as an imposter loomed large, overshadowing his actual achievements and the unique perspective he brought as a working dad.

Or perhaps more recognisable at home, like this??

After a long day at work, Michael pushed through the front door, his face breaking into a practised smile as his two young children, Ella and Max, rushed towards him, their energy seeming to contrast starkly with his own fatigue. “Daddy!” they cheered, each grabbing a hand.

“Hey, champs!” Michael responded, his voice bright but his mind racing. Inside, he felt overwhelmed. Dinner needed to be made, homework had to be checked, and he couldn’t shake off the looming deadline from work that was still on his mind.

As he moved to the kitchen to start dinner, Ella tugged at his sleeve, “Can you help me with my math homework, Daddy?” Max chimed in, “And can you play Lego with me after?” Michael nodded, feeling the weight of their expectations. He wanted to be the perfect dad, fully present and engaging, but inside, he was calculating how he could squeeze in an hour of work before bed.

Putting on a brave face, he juggled cooking and answering Ella’s questions about fractions, all the while keeping an ear out for Max’s play in the living room. Despite the chaos, he masked his stress with a calm demeanour, afraid to let on that he was struggling to keep up with the demands of both his work and his family life. The balancing act was exhausting, yet he felt it was essential to hide his struggles to maintain the facade of a capable and loving father.

If you resonate with the workplace example, read this

In the office, David’s inner narrative of feeling like he just “got lucky” with his project proposal and the notion that he was not as dedicated as his younger colleagues highlights a classic manifestation of Imposter Syndrome. This psychological pattern, where despite evident success, individuals doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as a fraud, can be particularly intense in environments where performance and productivity are highly visible and constantly evaluated. David’s struggle to see his worth and the fear of being deemed inadequate are symptomatic of Imposter Syndrome, where the fear is not just of failing, but of being seen as an imposter in one’s professional role.

Perhaps you connected more with the home life scenario? Then read here…

At home, Michael’s efforts to juggle parenting responsibilities with a demanding job while maintaining a facade of control and happiness is another reflection of Imposter Syndrome, but in the realm of personal and family life. His internal battle with feeling overwhelmed yet unwilling to show it for fear of seeming inadequate as a parent echoes the core elements of Imposter Syndrome. It’s about more than just struggling to keep up; it’s about the profound fear of being judged and found lacking, not just by colleagues but by his own children. Michael’s situation illustrates how Imposter Syndrome can extend beyond professional environments, influencing personal identities and roles, such as parenthood.

Both scenarios encapsulate the pervasive nature of Imposter Syndrome, affecting not just one’s professional life but also personal and familial interactions. They underline the importance of recognizing these feelings to address and manage the syndrome effectively, ensuring it does not undermine one’s sense of accomplishment and self-worth in various aspects of life.

For more, perhaps you’ll find benefit on understanding more around the balance between ambition and contentment.

Introducing the concept of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Key elements include:

  • Stigma: There’s often a reluctance to discuss feelings of imposter syndrome due to the fear of being seen as a fraud or not belonging, contributing to the stigma around it.
  • Guilt: You might feel guilty for achieving success or worry that you’re taking opportunities away from others who are “more deserving.”
  • Internalising Failure: Tendency to internalize failure or mistakes, attributing them to personal inadequacy rather than external factors or normal learning processes.

How might imposter syndrome show up at home and at work?

Imposter Syndrome can manifest in various ways, impacting both professional and personal life. For a working dad, these feelings can permeate both spheres, often intertwining and exacerbating each other. Here’s how Imposter Syndrome might show up:

Imposter syndrome at home

  1. Feeling Inadequate as a Parent: Doubting your abilities to support and raise your children effectively, fearing that you’re not doing enough or that others are judging your parenting skills.
  2. Struggling with Work-Life Balance: Feeling like you’re failing at being present and engaging with your family due to work commitments, leading to guilt and the belief that you’re not a good father or partner.
  3. Comparing to Other Parents: Believing that other dads are more involved, more knowledgeable, or simply better at balancing the demands of work and family life.
  4. Perfectionism in Parenting: Setting unrealistically high standards for yourself as a parent and feeling like an imposter when you inevitably fall short of these ideals.

Imposter syndrome at work

  1. Doubting Professional Competence: Feeling like you’ve fooled your colleagues and superiors into thinking you’re more skilled or capable than you believe yourself to be, despite evidence of your accomplishments.
  2. Fear of Exposure: Worrying that you’ll be ‘found out’ for not knowing enough or for not being as competent as a father should be in managing work and family responsibilities.
  3. Reluctance to Pursue Opportunities: Hesitating to apply for promotions, take on new projects, or speak up in meetings due to fear of failure or being exposed as a fraud.
  4. Attributing Success to External Factors: Believing your achievements at work are due to luck, timing, or because tasks were easy, rather than your own hard work and abilities.

Managing and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: Recognize and accept your feelings of inadequacy as a common experience rather than a factual reflection of your abilities.
  2. Share Your Feelings: Talk about your feelings with trusted friends, family, or mentors. Knowing you’re not alone can be incredibly reassuring.
  3. Assess Your Abilities: Write down your accomplishments and the skills you’ve used to achieve them. Seeing them listed can help counter feelings of fraudulence.
  4. Stop the Comparison Game: Try to stop comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides. Everyone has their struggles and weaknesses.
  5. Reframe Your Thoughts: Practice mindfulness and challenge negative thoughts. Instead of telling yourself “I don’t belong here,” try “It’s normal not to know everything in this situation.”
  6. Seek Support: Professional counselling or coaching can provide strategies to deal with these feelings effectively.
  7. Set Realistic Goals: Focus on setting achievable goals and celebrate small wins along the way.

A Practical Framework for Everyday Use

  1. Daily Reflection: Spend a few minutes each day reflecting on what you achieved, even if it’s small. This can help shift your focus from what you think you didn’t do well to what you actually accomplished.
  2. Mindfulness and Positive Affirmations: Practice mindfulness to stay present and use positive affirmations to reinforce your self-worth and capabilities.
  3. Educate Yourself: Learn about Imposter Syndrome. Understanding it can demystify your feelings and help you see them more objectively.
  4. Seek Feedback: Constructive feedback can help you understand your strengths and areas for improvement, providing a more balanced perspective on your abilities.

Remember, feeling like an imposter at times is common, especially among high achievers. However, recognising and addressing these feelings is key to personal and professional development.

 There may be some value for you in a better understanding of blame vs responsibility. Check it out on the Dads In Business blog.

Further resources for exploring imposter syndrome

The Imposter Syndrome Remedy” by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., and Mark S. Lowenthal, Psy.D.

This book provides practical strategies to overcome self-doubt and embrace your accomplishments. It offers insights into why people experience Imposter Syndrome and how to move past it.

Impostor Syndrome: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success” by Harold Hillman

This book provides a comprehensive look at Imposter Syndrome, offering insights into the psychological patterns that contribute to the feelings of being a fraud. Harold Hillman combines personal anecdotes with practical advice, making it relatable for anyone, including men and dads, who struggle with these feelings. Hillman’s strategies are aimed at helping readers embrace their accomplishments and develop a more confident sense of self in both personal and professional contexts. This book is a great resource for understanding and overcoming the doubts that impede success.

Supporting Men & Dads in the workplace

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Supporting Men & Dads in the workplace

Download our free guide to help employers create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for men and dads.