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6 in 10 women suffer ‘Imposter Syndrome’

A quarter of employees have felt stress at work but not received any support

The overwhelming feeling of crippling self-doubt and dread known as Imposter Syndrome has impacted some 62 per cent of people at work.

The survey, carried out by Access Commercial Finance, of over 3,000 adults in the UK shows over two-thirds of women (66 per cent) have suffered from imposter syndrome compared to over half of men (56 per cent) within the last 12 months. This raises a significant question: are women more likely to experience feeling inadequate in the workplace?  

In light of the study, Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at Instant Offices, delves into why many women experience this adverse phenomenon, which UK industries have the highest ratio of self-doubters and how business owners can beat imposter syndrome at work. 

Over the last 20 years, the number of women-owned firms has increased, yet despite the growing number of female entrepreneurs and major global progress towards gender equality in the workplace, more and more successful women are speaking out about the burden of imposter syndrome.

Despite evidence of success, women experiencing this paralysing self-doubt are more likely to believe they are intellectual frauds. This level of stress – waiting to be found out by peers – can lead to anxiety, burnout and increased unhappiness among everyone from entrepreneurs to employees moving up the ladder.

As research suggests, men suffer 10 per cent less than women, and when considering why women sometimes experience imposter syndrome at a higher rate than men, factors like workplace inequality and the pay gap may come into play. 

Statistics from YouGov reveal that, when asked whether they have had the opportunity to lead on a project at work, only 44 per cent of women said yes, compared to 59 per cent of men. Women are also less likely to have experienced a pay rise or a bonus not connected to promotion, at only 40 per cent compared to 53 per cent of men. In addition, women say they are also more likely to be asked about their personal lives compared to men.   

What Causes Imposter Syndrome at Work?

Imposter syndrome can severely impact career progression and cause negativity at work. When surveyed on the reasons for experiencing crippling self-doubt in the workplace, these were the top four causes:   

38% – Self-generated self-doubt

23% – Being criticised

20% – Having to ask for help

16% – Self-comparisons to high achieving colleagues

Turning Imposter Syndrome Around

Even though so many people have experienced imposter syndrome, the good news is that it’s not a permanent condition but rather a reaction to a set of circumstances, unrealistic self-expectation and stress. Some of the most popular suggestions on ways to turn it around include the following:

Accept Praise And Know Your Worth

Don’t shy away from praise and compliments. Accept your achievements and if need be, write them down. When you try to talk yourself out of feeling confident in your role, all the proof is on paper. Knowing your worth means allowing your work to speak for itself and letting others see it too.

Stop Thinking Like an Imposter

Learn to recognise self-defeating thought patterns and replace them with more positive affirmations. The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking of yourself as one. 

Don’t Seek Perfection

Stop believing that if you don’t excel at every facet of your job that you’re a failure at all of it. Facing challenges and losses is a key part of growth, so recognise that you don’t have to be good at everything. 

Know You Are Not Alone

Imposter syndrome tends to be the domain of overachievers, while underachievers tend to internalise less when faced with failure. If you’re constantly worried about not being good enough, chances are you’re in good company – most successful people constantly over analyse themselves!