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 people – and it’s called Imposter Syndrome.
Welcome to Imposter Syndrome – the data
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.”
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!).
In one of my most recent articles Please mind the (gender pay) gap I explored the well documented 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! Companies are very bias towards one gender, which could be 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 Imposter Syndrome explored, as a career coach I wanted to provide you with a some useful suggestions to help combat that feeling. That feeling of being a fraud.
6 Imposter Syndrome Hacks
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 – make sure they are visible so you can see them.
Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to either. 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).
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 manage the Imposter Monster when it takes centre stage in your head. When you start hearing ‘You can’t’ find a way to turn that into a ‘CAN’.
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.
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.
Would you like to explore more ways of beating the Imposter Syndrome dragon?
Working with me, as your career coach, we can build successful resilience methods to slay that dragon! I get it, I have encountered so many challenges within my career from lack of support or access to coaching, to bad company cultures with glass ceilings and, of course, the gender pay gap. All leading, to me, once experiencing and suffering imposter syndrome with self-doubt… Yet have found and grasped opportunities to slay, shine and progress.
Book your free 30 minute Discovery Call with me to find out more:
‘You joining this call?’ Bellows the rude female colleague of mine. I respond with a ‘yep, sure – apologies’ – I get a death stare and she storms off. She is not of the same mindset of mine: Women empower women.
Her rudeness makes me feel uneasy, self conscious and actually a little bit frighten. The blunt, direct yet bullish approach really isn’t the management style I aspire to. In fact, it alienates colleagues and makes a cold atmosphere in the heated office.
There is also another woman in my office who, is just obnoxious – hear me out. She stomps across the office to her desk, she never holds the lift for you and not only did she once let the door slam in my face, she actually physically pushed me to get through the said door. Everytime she breezes by desk, she looks at me as if I am something on the bottom of her shoe. The scary thing is, we don’t even know each other… I don’t even know her name!
I have armed full of more examples dating back to school years of women/girls (and the opposite sex) being unpleasant… which sparked a thought for this blog post.
When I first started to pull this article together, I was simply going to write about how some women should stop being so damn mean. But once I started to dig a little deeper into the topic, I started to question and explore around the support, empowerment and encouragement we have within our world of work, family and friends.
With the rise of female networking groups such as Allbright, The Step Up Club and The Coven. Insta pages like Boss Babe (and of course mine) with social media hashtags #womenempoweringwomen #womenempowerwomen #womenwholead – should I be surprised that some women still don’t support other women and really couldn’t care?
Since writing posts for my blog and hosting networking events, I have always been solely focused on empowering and supporting women as well as learning and progressing. Leading a feminist platform that opens doors, gives advice and provides a sense of belonging.
It’s funny, I used to hesitate on the term feminist, because there are so many varying understandings of what the term means. Thus, perhaps a Modern Feminist is more appropriate for me. I don’t hate men and I will not be burning my bra outside parliament. I believe in striving for equal rights and opportunities of all people. For me, feminism goes beyond gender and is more about diversity, humanity and accountability.
I have had and still have female friends, and yet for much of my adult life I would find myself saying “I get along better with men than women” and recently a close girlfriend and I announced, almost in sync : “there’s only certain types of women I get along with”.
Interestingly, we used women as our friendship term, if you will. Upon reflection and to correct what I said – There are certain types of people I get along with better than others.
I don’t agree with how the media portrays women.
For example, Theresa May. When she gave her resignation speech the media captured pictures of her at the worst points and used emotional, weakening words in their articles. In fact throughout her time as the UK Prime Minister, I don’t remember anything positive that anyone wrote about her – I only remember her shoes and that she ran through a corn field.
Another example is reality TV shows. It bugs me how the BBC have started to portray women on The Apprentice. So much so, I refuse to watch the programme. I get that it is a competition, blah, blah, blah, but the screeching, bullying and poor management manners isn’t how I see myself as a business woman.
So what we see on our televisions are conditioning our brains to have a perception of women (and men).
I once had a manager tell me, that he doesn’t think women make good leaders. When I pointed out that I am a woman, who manages a team under his leadership, he said he wasn’t referring to me. Yes, I too gave that confused look.
Throughout my career, like the stories I opened with, I have had challenges with colleagues behaviour yet I have had times of great success, encouragement and career enhancement wins with the support from both male and female colleagues.
To me, it is clear that an unsupported work culture towards diversity is damaging. Not only towards the individuals but to the company and brand itself.
Women are not often encouraged to be supportive of each other, at least not in a consistent way. From beauty pageants (which are not commonly in the UK), to the reality TV shows like Love Island and The Bachelor (women fighting over a man). And, of course social media where we now have to look, talk, dress all a certain way. And ever heard someone say “oh she just looks like every other girl on instagram…” (Cringe).
When it comes to female friendships, the bonds that were created come from different elements. I have learned which friends I can talk to about work, business, blogging. And those who I can talk to about babies, boyfriends, husbands and makeup etc. I have also changed my expectations from what I get from them as individuals. Why should I expect one of my girlfriends who has just had a beautiful baby girl to listen to me ramble on about work, coaching, blogging and career aspirations. Although I see she is pleased for me, it is about having that mutual respect for each others opinions and stages of life. On the other side, I will say, that whatever stage of life you are in. The support for your female friends is key – whether that is promoting an article they featured in or celebrating that they got a new lipstick!
Empower the women in your life!
Start with you, Give yourself a break: Before you can start supporting others, spend time getting yourself mentally strong and grounded. Know your values and arm yourself ready to spread the infectish empowerment.
Let the Women inyour life know you value them: This can be a simple act of complimenting them, listening without trying to solve their problems, and most importantly telling them you value who they are and why.
Remember the golden rule? Well here is a remix: Treat other women how you wish to be treated. Basically be nice. You don’t know what is going on with that other person – smile at someone on the tube, ask the cashier how their day is going, hold the door open for someone, tell a stranger you love their hair and give your seat up for the lady who looks like she had a rough day.
I was recently at GOSH with my friend and her son (he’s fine), where passing by, the female of Brain Specialist (ok, she had a much fancier title then that sorry) that my friend spoke to for an update… As she walked off, I hooted “Go you, with your great career and thank you for everything you do for these children.” She probably thought I was a bit odd… But hopefully she walked away feeling good and recognised.
Support that girlfriend who is starting a business or going for an interview or even a date. Offer advice, time and experience. Share their post on your own social media and check in with them especially if you know they are having a rotter of a day!
Being a woman who is supporting other women is something to strive towards. Being a feminist, however you see it, you own it! Empower women in your life.
Although, I see we have come along way, there is is still a journey ahead of us. It is unrealistic to expect all women to support other women, but how I and you chose to be – well that is up to us! #womensupportingwomen
IMAGES: All Images, other than my own, that are used in this blog post are from barker, a data driven creative company. To find out more, either click the image or visit the company page: https://landings.barkernyc.com/womensmarch/
Getting along with your colleagues and boss can be great, especially when it make the day go a little quicker and it can even increase performance.
You may feel so close to your boss that you hang out after work or invite them to your wedding. But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that your friend is still your superior, and there’s a line you shouldn’t cross.
Aside from the obvious — like profanity and insults — Here are 10 words, behaviours and phrases you should never utter to your boss and colleagues even if you’re friends!
10 things to not say at work:
‘I heard Dave got a promotion’ – Not that necessarily things like salaries, pay grades and promotions are confidential. But bitching to your boss about this is just plain unprofessional and borderline gossiping. So what if Dave got a pay-rise, it is none of your business. Bitch about that with a friend that isn’t in the same company as you!
Roll your eyes. Ok, so I am guilty of this, especially my facial expressions. It is something I have learnt to hold back and in, it’s not cool! It makes you look like you have bad attitude – so STOP!
‘I’m so bored/I have no work to do/I am twiddling my thumbs’ – Are you a fool? Don’t ever tell your boss you are bored and have no work to do! Firstly either find something to do like email admin or start on that improvement piece you have been harping on about… Worst case, go and wash up the cups! However, if you really can’t find something to do – ask your boss: “I have some capacity to take on more, is there anything I can support you with”
‘I have an interview…’ – Good for you, you are unhappy and you are planning your escape. But keep it under-wraps, you don’t want to be starting a rumour mill you are leaving. Only tell your boss if you are offered the job, in the meantime, just turn up, do your work and arrange your interview around your current commitments.
‘Oh My Gawd… did you hear about….’ – No one likes an office gossip. As soon as you a labelled as the big mouth, secret spiller you will not be trusted with anything confidential or even let into the trusted groups of managers. This can halt your progression.
‘I’ll get that done immediately’ – Never over promise to then under deliver. Setting to high of expectations can lead to disappointment on both parties.
Referring to someone’s image. You may have a great relationship with the person you are ripping into and that’s great. Just take into account your surroundings. If someone heard, would they be hurt by the language you are using?
Being too needy. There is nothing worse than a needy employee, stakeholder and/or vendor. Constantly ringing, dropping emails in people diaries and needing your hand held every 5 minutes is not cool. Take a break, read the signs. Hint: note down all the times you need to speak to your boss, can it wait? Try and save some for your 121’s.
Don’t let your inner teenager come out. Similar to 2. Rolling your eyes. Keeping your cool is key. It can sometimes be hard to not yell out a swear words when your colleagues or boss are driving you into despair.
Lie. If you haven’t done something be upfront. I have seen some real shockers in my time, even someone changing time stamps on emails! People that lie will get found out. Don’t risk it!
I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Margaret Dawson at the Women in Business Expo (2019). Her set was about women empowering women which I found bloody inspirational. And wanted to share some key points from what she had to say.
Women empowering women, Dawsons thoughts
Dawson started off with asking the audience if we knew our purpose? Knowing who you are and your purpose is a question that most people probably can’t answer and by the lack of hands shooting up in the air, answered my theory. I learnt that from around the age of 8 is when we start processing other people’s input, and their input can shape who we think we are.
Even at the age of 31, I still have ‘naysayers’ add comments to my actions such as: ‘don’t change your job, you will look unreliable’, ‘Can you actually do that?’ (THAT being anything from starting a business, running a events, writing a blog) and ‘you will never make the money you want, it isn’t realistic.’ From a girl to woman, input like this has always been there.
How are those comments helpful? How is that empowering me? What are you getting out of this and do have something constructive to add at that end of negative sentence?
Society Define who we are allowed to be.
Listening to this input, too much will only result in hiding who we are. This is evident in the business world, especially when it comes to a job application. It is common knowledge that Women will not apply for a job unless she 100% qualified, experienced and more. Where men, will apply for a job even if he only has 60% of job spec skills.
Dawson referred to our being as a pure light, which is humble and beautiful. Our light can be dulled when we have negativity and poor input when we are trying to shape our paths.
[A note to add to the readers: Before we input into someone else’s being, perhaps we should make sure the words we are saying are of some use and empowering not unhelpful and demoralising]
Dawson talked around a bullying in the workplace how it can come from women towards other women. She referred to a point where women start to progress up the ladder then there is almost like a high-heel pointing down keeping other women a safe distance from their ivory towers.
It is not always in business that you have this odd competitive nature of not supporting women. I have experienced women in my life who either friends or people I have met that have lacked empathy, encouragement and actually been a bully.
To conclude, Dawson gave 8 points on how we can women can empower women:
Intentional support other women
Hire more women in your organsiation
Mentor, coach, train – no matter the age
Encourage your daughters (and sons) to take that risk
Level the playing field, don’t put up blockers.
Be nice to that different girl
Be aware of the input you give
Celebrate everyones unique light and self.
To round this up 10, I would like to add 2 more:
Don’t be afraid to challenge. Whether the status quo or someone on their behaviour.
Encourage others to follow their dreams, support, give constructive advice and if you can help in any way – whether sharing their business page or writing an article for their own blog small acts of kindness can go a long way…
… And women who do not empower other women, rarely make it!