Knocking the imposter off its perch


Have you ever felt like you’re a fraud? Or questioned why people should listen to what you have to say? You are not alone. 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this imposter phenomenon in their lives, according to the International Journal of Behavioural Science. ‘Imposter syndrome’, as a concept, was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes and is known to be particularly common among high-achievers.

Women like Michelle Pfeiffer, Meryl Streep, Sheryl Sandberg and Emma Watson to name a few, are well-known and well-respected individuals who have suffered from this syndrome over the years. Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet confided: "I'd wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud." 

Our own research, shows that out of the 300 business women we surveyed, around 1/3 said that managing a negative mind set was one of the challenges that stopped them making the impact they wanted at work. This is a significant statistic, and should be heartening to every woman out there that has ever suffered from ‘Imposter Syndrome’. My business partner and I have both suffered from imposter syndrome during our careers and know how debilitating it can be, which is why we’re on a mission to provide women with the tools and techniques to deal with this fear.

Our experience shows that once people realise they’re not alone in having these feelings, it does help to create more of a positive experience. A starting point for us in helping women to overcome these fears, is to start by making a list of your accomplishments, positive feedback and success stories (this is the first thing we do in our ‘Personal Branding’ masterclass). We also believe in creating a support system so that positive feedback can be freely shared and talked about which helps to knock that imposter off its perch.

There are five things you can do to help – we talk about the 5 Rs:

Recognise your fear – once you have recognised it, you will find it easier to overcome it. My business partner tells the story of how she wrote down her strengths on a piece of paper and hid it in her underwear drawer so that she sees it at the start of every day!

Reframe your thoughts – what you are experiencing is not fact, it is your own made up story and you can try to reframe it into something positive. Kick that mind monkey sitting on your shoulder into shape!

Realise you are not perfect – no one is – give yourself a break!

Reward yourself – you may not be perfect, but you are great at many things so recognise your achievements.

Remember you are not alone – there are many of us with feelings of inadequacy so make sure you don’t deal with this on your own. Get a friend, colleague or coach to help you work out your strengths.

We are holding an intensive and fun one-day masterclass in London on 28th March 2018 on the topic of ‘Uncovering you and your personal brand’ which will give up to 12 senior women a chance to:

  • get real clarity on their strengths

  • learn tools to overcome imposter syndrome

  • build a support network of like-minded women

  • be clear about the personal brand you want to be known for

  • help you create a bigger impact

  • do more of what you want to do at work.

If you would like further information, please do contact us on  

[PLEASE NOTE: Imposter syndrome is not a gendered experience, but due to the nature of our business, we tend to focus on where and when it affects women at work.]


Joy Burnford