Chipping Campden, UK

Imposter Syndrome: It's Real

"Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon, imposterism, fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with imposterism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be."  Source: Wikipedia
Be honest with me, does that sound familiar? Chances are, each of us will have experienced the dreaded imposter syndrome at some point. In fact, I feel like the definition above pretty much sums up my entire life. In my recent post on Redefining Myself, I wrote candidly about a persistent nasty thought that plagues me, namely that one day, all of my friends will realise that I'm actually a horrible person and will ditch me for good. And it's not just when it comes to friendships that I experience imposter syndrome. Most recently, it's really been holding me back in my academic career. Let me explain.

As part of my PhD research, I have been conducting interviews museum visitors, staff, and volunteers, asking them all about their experiences with the collection of artefacts that I am studying. I always really enjoy this interviewing process as many of my interviewees are incredibly switched-on and insightful, pushing my research in new and unexpected directions. However, imposter syndrome has regularly been rearing its ugly head when I've been listening back to the recordings of the interviews that I have conducted. When I hear my voice on tape, I am constantly bothered by nagging thoughts such as "that was a really dumb question", "they think you're so stupid", and "I bet they were really bored during this bit." It has really knocked my confidence and made me doubt myself, my research, and my place within my Faculty.

Grey Cable Knit Tights: White Stuff (similar)
Zip Brown Ankle Boots: M&S (similar)

However, during a conversation with my PhD supervisor, who I spoke to about my worries, it dawned on me that I'm not alone in this. My supervisor reassured me that what I was feeling, this incessant imposter syndrome, was, in fact, commonplace - especially among female academics. She also told me that she feels that it's not something that we, as women and as academics, talk about enough. And I can see why.

Admitting that you're suffering from imposter syndrome is hard. You already feel like an outsider, someone who doesn't really fit in, so telling other people that you're experiencing those feelings can seem like you're owning up to this weakness, inviting them to turn around and confirm your worst fears: "yeah, you really don't belong here." But today, I'm taking a stand. I'm openly shouting about my imposterism in the hope of showing any fellow sufferers that they're not alone. And if you want stats to back up that you're very much in the majority with these feelings, I've got those up my sleeve as well. In this *super scientific* Twitter poll, over 80% of respondents said that they too had experienced imposter syndrome.


Just in case those numbers haven't brought you enough comfort, I have also asked a whole host of other amazing, successful women to contribute their experiences with imposter syndrome. These negative thoughts don't discriminate. Chances are, even the total boss babe in your office who is totally smashing it in her career is having the exact same doubts as you. Don't believe me? Let these incredible ladies who battle imposter syndrome every day speak for themselves.

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"I think it’s pretty common as a young woman to feel this way, especially when you're in a role such as mine. The general public expect the man in the office to be in charge. I have always dealt with imposter syndrome by faking it 'til I make it. Every morning I stroll into work with my manager hat on and I pretend that I know what the hell I am doing until it’s time to go home. It seems to be working, because the results say I’m really good at what I do. But I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to shake off the feeling that one day I’m going to be found out." Nicola from Mummy to Dex, Post Office branch manager
"Imposter syndrome is an awful feeling that I have experienced with every area I am technically skilled in: my PhD, as an educator, and with blogging. It's hard to get over, but time helps, along with consistently telling myself I *am* worthy and am smart enough and that I am doing a good job!" Bryanna from The ecoLogical, PhD candidate and teacher
"As a psychologist, I'm supposed to know what imposter syndrome is and how to avoid it, but it's still something I've struggled with for a long time! As I've progressed through my career I've realised that the people I see as more competent than me actually don't have all the answers, and seeing them as human has helped me come to terms with my own anxieties about not being good enough. Also, being honest about how you're feeling can be really helpful - acknowledging that I don't have all the answers myself but that I'm trying has been important." Sarah from Clin Psych Sarah, Clinical psychologist
"I work in very male dominated sector and in a family company where I’m part of the family. Not only am I one of the youngest in our management structure, I’m one of a handful of women and have the fun of feeling like I have to prove I’ve earned my position rather than been handed it because of who I am related to. I’ve found the best way to deal with it is to try to ignore it. If I doubt myself then others are going to doubt me, if I come across as confident in my decisions then I believe it inspires others to have confidence in me. Internally I’m questioning every decision I make and replaying every conversation but on the outside I don’t think people would notice it and I try to remind myself of that all the time. Again, I think results speak for themselves, sometimes those feelings make you even better at your role and less complacent than others!" Hayley from Devon Mama, Marketing director
"I always used to think (and still do sometimes) that my clients could find someone who’s better/faster/more experienced, so why are they paying me? But I’ve learned that they don’t particularly enjoy nor have time for writing and social media, whereas I love it. And paying me to take that pain away means that they can focus on what they know best, their business. Once I shifted my mindset from, “Why should they pay ME?” to “How I can add value to THEM,” it’s become a lot easier to accept that, yes, I am quite good at what I do!" Lisa from Lisa's Notebook, Freelance content creator
Faux Suede Shearling Lined Jacket: Thrifted, originally from Bershka (similar)

The aim of this post isn't to give you all of the answers and cure your imposter syndrome for good. No matter how hard I try, I think I'll always experience it. But just speaking to others about their similar experiences whilst writing this post has been so heartening. While I hate that so many talented women also feel the same way as I do, it has helped me to realise that I'm not alone and that imposter syndrome need not hold me back. I can still do amazing things regardless of what the little gremlin inside my head shouts at me. I hope that like me, you'll feel less alone through reading this and that through acknowledging how common these feelings can be, they can start to impact on us less and less.

Have your ever suffered with imposter syndrome?

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