Have you ever felt inadequate? Suffered from self-doubt? Felt like you shouldn’t be in the room? 

Then you are not alone.

Many women (and men) experience the constant nagging feeling they’re going to be unmasked as a fraud… any… minute… now! This is all despite overwhelming evidence saying otherwise.

It’s a phenomenon that blights humankind– and it is called imposter syndrome.

The term imposter syndrome has wriggled its way into my vocabulary over the last 5 years. Perhaps unsurprisingly since I started to progress further with my purpose and career. I started seeing articles in magazines, adverts on social media and recommended reads on Linkedin… (Oops, I am now adding one to the mix!)

Where the term came from

Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term “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.”

The facts and figures

📣 The Independent performed a study which 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.

📣 HR news stated ‘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.

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Women and Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is pretty darn serious.

Beyond making you feel like an utter failure, imposter syndrome can limit your career and personal growth. It can lead to other health issues such as burnout, anxiety, depression and emotional exhaustion. Hinder you further with loss of motivation and poor achievement. It can knock careers off-track and also harm team morale and organisational performance through micromanagement, slow decision-making, and perfectionism.

What has been found is that the problem is more common among women and minorities within the workforce.

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‘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.

For me, there is a mindset shift needed across all genders. We must all strive to create a world of balance, equality and justice. There is also a view of organisational cultural change: Embodying and implementing Servant Leadership opposed to traditional leadership of hierarchical dictatorship.

Fundamentally, to move on from imposter syndrome we need to change behaviours.

How you can start to overcome imposter syndrome today

Here are my personal top 6 hacks (that I have tried and tested) to overcome imposter syndrome:

1. Start with you.Take time out for yourself and be consistent with regular breaks. Work on your self awareness as well as your physical and mental health. You may want to invest in coaching, mentoring or even join networking groups to build a tribe of support.

2. Find allies both in work and in your friendship circles. 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

3. Create empowering beliefs: Try this NLP technique: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

🧠 Think of a belief that would be really useful to have. This is your desired belief. E.g. I am Confident. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

🧠Think of a belief that is absolutely true. E.g. The grass is green.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

💡 When thinking of your true belief get a real picture of what you see, hear and feel.

🧠 Now put your desired belief into the same picture as the absolutely true belief. ⠀⠀

Do this any many times that feel comfortable. How do you feel about your empowering belief? ⠀⠀⠀⠀

4. Ask for feedback. I like to ask for 360 feedback. It is a process where your manager, 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 you need to do) 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 can save in your brag list).

5. 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. I obviously recommend listening to: Speak Female Podcast ™️

6. Ally or not – it is time to embrace that mindset shift. It it also time to banish the pink jobs and blue jobs. Set the world and the workplace up for success. You can do this by actively promoting females within, collaborate with your diversity boards and educate yourself by reading, listening to podcasts and watching Tedx talks.