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Are you one of the 90% of women who experience imposter syndrome?

In 2019, a study by learning and development training provider, The Hub Events, found this huge number of women were feeling inadequate or incompetent at work and 73% felt they didn’t deserve their current success.

Fast-forward through a pandemic, working from home and a host of other life challenges and it’s no wonder Google searches for ‘imposter syndrome’ have increased by 150% over the last year (May 2020 to May 2021). And we’re not alone in these feelings.

High-achieving females including award-winning actors Kate Winslet and Natalie Portman, cymbalta and aspirin COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg and award-winning singer/song-writer Lady Gaga have all expressed feelings of self-doubt at some point in their career.

And, despite having written 11 successful books and being a a three-time Grammy award winner, the incredibly talented author, poet and Pulitzer Prize winner Maya Angelou once shared: ‘I have written 11 books, but each time I think, “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”’

The term imposter syndrome is generally defined as a psychological phenomenon where you doubt your own success and feel like a fraud. While it’s not classed as a mental health condition, this constant conflict of how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you can lead to anxiety and depression.

Psychologists developed the concept of ‘impostor phenomenon’ in 1978 with a founding study which focused on high-achieving women, so why don’t we believe in ourselves?

‘In my experience, women tend to suffer from imposter syndrome more than men,’ says Alexandria Maria, a business and empowerment mentor. ‘I have experienced it multiple times throughout my own career and many of those we look up to have felt it, too.

‘While some people may experience imposter syndrome for a limited period, i.e. the first few weeks of a new job, others can struggle with it for a lifetime. It can manifest as feeling like you’re going to be caught out, believing you aren’t good enough and lack of confidence and it can cause anxiety and raise cortisol levels.’

Alexandria says imposter syndrome as a sneaky habit of cropping up every time you move out of your comfort zone, so how can you crush it? ‘Recognise what it is and remind yourself you’re not alone – it’s a shared experience and we cannot all be imposters,’ she says.

‘Talk about it to trusted friends and family. Remind yourself how amazing you are with feedback and achievements. Also, try to identify where your limiting beliefs come from. Dissolve these and reaffirm new, empowering ones. Refer to these when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.

‘Visualisation techniques are also a great way to move beyond feelings of self-doubt. Visualising yourself with a confident, assured mindset, at the peak of your success, is a fast and effective way to shift your vibration.’

Finally she adds that imposter syndrome is an unwarranted sense of insecurity and just our ego trying to protect us.

‘The ego leaves no room for growth, or for getting uncomfortable which is ultimately required to leave your comfort zone. To create new results, you have to move beyond perfectionism and what you already know. Learn to embrace the discomfort of imposter syndrome, understanding that you only get new results from making changes. The real game changer and ultimate imposter syndrome blaster is taking action.’

Do you think you might be suffering from impostor syndrome? Take our quiz to find out:

I believe my success is down to luck

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

I worry about being ‘found out’

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

I feel like I don’t deserve the successes I’ve had

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

When I receive praise, I don’t think I’m as good as they think I am

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

I feel like other people are better than me

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

I often find myself comparing myself to others

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

I pick apart any mistakes I make

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

I worry about what my results will look like, even though I regularly succeed in what I set out to do.

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

When I get asked to do something out of my comfort zone, I worry I won’t be able to rise to the challenge.

A. Agree
B. Sometimes agree
C. Never

If you answered mostly A’s…

It seems that imposter syndrome is taking over. Imposter syndrome leads to pluralistic ignorance, where we think we’re alone. But everyone experiences imposter syndrome. Start to crush it by writing yourself back into the narrative of your success. Take your biggest achievements and recognise how you made them happen – it wasn’t luck, it was you.

If you answered mostly B’s…

The good news is you’re recognising yourself in your achievements. But imposter syndrome is still rearing its ugly head, leaving you feeling that you don’t completely deserve the praise. Stop it in its tracks by reflecting on three things you did well that day and showing yourself love and gratitude. Keep this as a log to reflect back on when it flares up.

If you answered mostly C’s…

Congratulations! You are living a life predominantly free from imposter syndrome. You recognise that you are a key determinant in your success and celebrate yourself accordingly. If you scored A/B for any of the questions above, dive deeper into those scenarios to make sure it doesn’t step in.

Alexandria Maria is the founder of The Soulful Start-Up and The Expansion

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