Did you know that women are twice as more likely to suffer with depression, anxiety, limiting self-doubt and low confidence than men? It is no wonder then that professional women experience feelings, thoughts and behaviours connected with Impostor Syndrome significantly more than our male colleagues. With 70% of people being affected by Impostor Syndrome globally. Looks like I’m not alone!
Impostor Phenomenon was first documented by Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes when they provided a research article on a study of 150 professional women in 1978 titled “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”.
In her later paper in 1985, Dr Pauline Clance explained that impostor phenomenon can be distinguished by the following six dimensions:
1. The impostor cycle – You react to anxiety by extreme over preparation, “success was just down to hard work” or initial procrastination “It was more luck than good management”.
2. The need to be special or the be the best -You recognise your talents are not atypical, then dismiss yourself as stupid when not at your best.
3. Characteristics of Superman/Superwoman – You have perfectionist tendencies and experience a feeling of overwhelm and disappointment when not able to fulfil your perfectionist goals.
4. Fear of failure – you reduce the risk of failure and will overwork yourself to ensure failure is not an option.
5. Denial of ability and discounting praise – You have difficulty of internalising success and attribute external factors to your success and find reasons why you do not deserve the praise. Your colleagues made a bigger contribution!
6. Feeling fear and guilt about success – You get overwhelmed with guilt at being successful and worry about being rejected by friends, family or peers.
Are you waiting to be caught out? Feel like a fraud? Blagging your way to the next promotion?
Despite your academic achievements, career success and various promotions, you can’t help but think to yourself you achieved all this through sheer luck, by accident, people overestimating your level of intelligence and abilities or blagging your way to the top. Having taken on the new responsibilities and challenges you now fear you are out of your depth and will be soon be found out. A fraud.
Many if not all of us can relate in some way to being less confident or having a low self-esteem at times, some more than others. But if you are wondering
Do I suffer with Impostor Syndrome?
Consider if your feelings, thoughts and behaviours are triggered in any of the following situations where you:
have had to defend your work or ideas?
was being tested, evaluated or judged in some way?
took on a new and unfamiliar assignments?
was in a classroom or meeting?
had to present in front of a group?
showcased your work to others?
interacted with a person or group who are more successful or better educated than you?
was presented with an opportunity to “play big”?
Valerie Young, author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful women. Explains, the Impostor syndrome presents itself due to the belief that women are not entitled to feel, think, or act in certain ways. Impostor syndrome becomes the default thought process which will be the barrier to future success, procrastination and feelings of never being enough, a fraud and incompetent.
As with anxiety and low confidence, Impostor syndrome can be a managed behaviour, with some work. By recognising the triggers which cause such thoughts and behaviours, you will be able to re-frame the thinking around the situation which would normally let your Impostor feelings take charge. Replacing a negative thinking pattern with a preferred one and recognising you have a right to make mistakes occasionally. As feelings are built from our thoughts and behaviours the course of action is to work on your thoughts and behaviours first. Feelings will remain but will change with time to being more positive. But waiting for the feelings to change i.e. to feel more confident, less anxious, inadequate or afraid is not the answer. To feel differently, you first need to behave differently, then take action and measure the difference in feelings as you go.
Have you tried to mask your achievements? Felt you have been blagging your way to the top? Have anxieties about being “found out”. Struggle to celebrate and take ownership of your successes.
Get in touch with me to see how I can help you take control of your impostor tendencies and embrace everything you are.