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Here’s How Imposter Syndrome Is Hurting Your Salary—And What to Do About It

If you’ve been on any social media platforms lately, you know it’s Women’s History Month. I’m sure you’ve seen the list of companies praising women for all the hard work, and effort we put in. With that said, it’s the perfect time to take a look at the lingering salary gap that continues to affect women—especially Black women—in the U.S. While we know that racism and sexism hold women back from making the money we deserve, one factor that’s sometimes overlooked is the widespread nature of imposter syndrome.

So, let’s take a closer look at what imposter syndrome is and how it might be hurting your salary potential this year. Take a few moments to think about your last experience with imposter syndrome and if lack of self-confidence had any effect on your salary outcome.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

What is imposter syndrome?

First, a definition. According to Healthline, imposter syndrome “involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments.” In other words, you’re surrounded by proof that you’re doing a good job and deserve the responsibilities you’ve been given or the praise you’ve received, but you still have a hard time believing it. Sound familiar?

Imposter syndrome affects almost everyone at one time or another but persisting feelings that you don’t deserve your success or can’t trust your ability to perform might be a sign of a larger problem to unpack.

How can imposter syndrome affect salary negotiation?

Imposter syndrome is a sneaky cause for much of the self-doubt and complacency that can cause you to stay in jobs that are below your experience level, talk yourself out of asking for a raise or other employment benefits, and generally accept less than you truly deserve. It can sometimes look like a lack of confidence, and confidence is critical when it comes to salary negotiations.

What can you do to get the salary you deserve this month?

There are a few things you can do if you suspect imposter syndrome may be holding you back from recognizing—and cashing in on—your value at work.

1. If you think it’s “About that time”, you’re probably right, don’t wait.

If you’ve been thinking about asking for a raise or negotiating other perks that would make your work life more enjoyable, now is a perfect time. Don’t feel the need to wait for your annual review, and don’t listen to the voice in your head that may be telling you that you need to wait for a big win or a more obvious success to point to. Chances are if you think it might be time to ask for a raise, it’s already overdue.

2. Look at your accomplishments through another lens

Try to think about your accomplishments and professional standing from the perspective of your peers or supervisors. It can be easier to see our value objectively when we think about how other people see our performance day to day.

3. Ask for what you want

Remind yourself that the worst they can say is no! There’s no harm in asking for what you’re worth, and even if it doesn’t go the way you hope this time, you’ll have even more practice with backing up your achievements and having tough conversations about salary. You’ll be even better prepared to have the conversation next time—or to find a new role that will pay you what you know you deserve.

4. If you’re in the room, at the table, in the interview, You are qualified.

You need to stop thinking that we need to have 100% of the qualifications to be the right person for an opportunity. You must stop putting pressure on yourself to be perfect when you step foot in the door. Give yourself grace and the opportunity to learn whatever percentage of the qualifications you think you're lacking.

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