Imposter Syndrome, something we are all too familiar with.

Have you ever felt inadequate? Suffered from self-doubt? Feared a question in meeting? Felt like you shouldn’t be in the room? Questioned why you even stepped on the career path you are on?

Then you’re not alone.

Many women (and men) experience the constant, nagging feeling they’re going to be unmasked as a fraud at any minute. Despite overwhelming evidence saying otherwise. It’s a phenomenon that blights most high-achievers – and it’s called Imposter Syndrome.

Welcome Imposter Syndrome

The term Imposter Syndrome came into my vocabulary over the last few years. Perhaps unsurprisingly since I started to progress up the career ladder. I started seeing articles in magazines and recommended reads on Linkedin. Then this year at the Best You Expo, people offering coaching for Imposter Syndrome and most recently a podcast/instagram page called The Imposters Club (find them on insta @theimpostersclub).

Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the “imposter syndrome” in 1978 when they were studying successful women who believed they were not worthy of their achievements. Their definition:

A feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” These people also “live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.”

I wanted to understand more. So using my good pal Google, I searched different terms to get some facts for The Wonder:

  • The Independent study  stated it found a third of millennials experience self-doubt at work, with 40% of women saying they felt intimidated by senior people, compared to 22% of men asked.
  • According to HR news ‘Imposter Syndrome has impacted a whopping 62% of people at work, according to a report by Access Commercial Finance. The survey of over 3000 adults in the UK shows over two-thirds of women (66%) have suffered from imposter syndrome compared to over half of men (56%) within the last 12 months’.
  • The Telegraph reported that research showed that 28% of working women feel like imposter syndrome has stopped them speaking in a meeting. It also found 21% have been prevented from suggesting a new or alternative idea at work, and 26% have failed to change career or role.
  • In a WITI article, it stated that research eventually showed a majority of people (70%) will experience imposter syndrome at some point in life, often during transitional times.
  • In 2011, a study published in Human Relations questioned 60,000 full-time workers on their attitudes toward male versus female bosses. 72% of those who expressed a bias towards gender, wanted a male manager. (That was back in 2011!).
Even TRESemmé has a stat! (Via Boots Magazine)
  • My coach also told me about how Imposter Syndrome is also very present in women who work in technology/IT fields of work.

In one of my most recent The Wonder articles Please mind the (gender pay) gap I explored the well published and publicised topic of men being paid more than women. I refer to this, because I see a similar pattern. There does not seem to be an equal balance to the feelings towards Imposter Syndrome with Women showing 10-20% higher results in feeling like a fraud then compared to men. Perhaps Human Relations has a point that companies are very bias towards one gender which is impacting the behaviours and progression of women?

‘It is crucial to remember that women are not born feeling less-than. But if you are continually treated as though you are, you eventually internalise it. And this is not merely a synonym for low confidence – imposter syndrome is the logical outcome of a world that was never designed for women to be successful. It is time we stopped seeing the problem as being women’s refusal to believe in themselves and rather a world that actively refuses to believe in women’. *The Guardian Yomi Adegoke.

With the facts and figures of researching this topic, also came with some useful suggestions to combat Imposter Syndrome. Here are the top few:

  • Capture all your achievements and remember the positive results. A degree, a career change and/or running a 5K. Whether a photo around your house or on your desktop, capture those results.
  • Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to either. I like to ask for 360 feedback it is a process where not just your manager but your peers and direct reports and sometimes even customers can evaluate you. Ask 3 simple questions – What should I start doing? (This will capture what they need) What should I stop doing? (This will give you something to work on) and What should I continue to do? (This is your positive feedback that you need to capture and drive from!)
  • Remember it is more than OK to ask questions, put your hand up and say ‘I don’t know’ – you are not expected to know everything.
  • Find ways to cope when the Imposter Monster takes centre stage in your head and you start hearing ‘You can’t’ find a way to turn that into a ‘CAN’. The best way find techniques is looking at tools for resilience.

Here are few I found:

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/resilience.htm and https://www.stressresilientmind.co.uk/articles/top-three-stress-resilience-tools

  • Find allies both in work and within friends. When you start using self-doubting language ask your allies to use a code word like ‘pineapple’ 🍍to bring you back in the room and capture the moment you started to doubt yourself? Perhaps at this point you may want to keep a diary so you can start to build any patterns and recognise any triggers.
  • Listen to podcasts, speak to friends, colleagues and family members about Imposter Syndrome. You will be surprised in how many people are willing to share their stories and you will truly realise you are not alone.

Do you have story of Imposter Syndrome? Have you been in combat with the fear of being found out? Or maybe you have suggestion on improving self doubt. Comment below your thoughts.

One comment

  1. Had some messages about my spelling of IMPOSTER. Had a google and found this –

    Imposter vs. impostor
    The noun referring to one who takes an assumed identity in order to deceive is variously spelled imposter and impostor. Impostor has the edge, and it is the form recommended by most English reference sources, but imposter is not wrong. Not only is it nearly as common as impostor, but it is also nearly as old. Impostor came to English from the French imposteur in the late 16th century,1 and imposter first appeared almost immediately thereafter.2 And though the -or spelling has always been more common, imposter has always been present to some degree.

    Always open to feedback so thank you 💗

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