Unmasking Imposter Syndrome

I recently held an International Women’s Day panel discussion event, which was packed with famous faces. A collection of exceptionally talented females sat alongside me. Professional commentators, media spokespeople, and women at the very top of their game.  Despite their outward appearances of achievement and capability, as we talked on stage it became apparent that most of them at one point had grappled with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Worse, a large proportion had also suffered from a fear that they would be exposed as frauds or imposters in their respective fields. A silent adversary lurked among us – imposter syndrome.

In this blog, we’ll be unmasking imposter syndrome. Exploring the nuances of it, in the context of business, and discussing ideas for overcoming its debilitating effects. We’ll cover:



But firstly, it’s important to understand imposter syndrome more fully, including why it apparently affects women disproportionately.


In unmasking imposter syndrome, we need to first understand what it is. In short, imposter syndrome is a psychological occurrence that can lead to a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Imposter syndrome is a restrictive mindset that magnifies feelings of inadequacy. It can affect businesspeople from all walks of life, at any stage, or level of their profession.

Not only can this state of being have profound implications on a person’s career and productivity, but it can also be detrimental to mental health and overall well-being.



Imposter syndrome can affect individuals of any gender, but there is evidence to suggest that it may disproportionately impact women, as my IWD panel suggested.

According to research 72% of women have felt like a fraud in the workplace. Men feel it too (around 52%), but it does appear that gender bias is rife in the field of impostorism.

Find out more about this research here: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/women-imposter-syndrome-workplace-confidence-b2313770.html

Numerous factors contribute to this imbalance. Gender stereotypes, societal expectations, and systemic biases to name a few. Women may also face unique challenges in male-dominated fields.

Some believe that social media can also play a part in amplifying imposter syndrome. The constant comparison to others in modern life can be a draining force on confidence and mindset.

So, what is it that makes people feel like they are not qualified or don’t have the skills to do their job despite being outwardly qualified and confident?

Related Topic: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone



Imposter syndrome is characterised by persistent feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness, despite evidence of success and accomplishments.

People experiencing imposter syndrome will often attribute their achievements to luck or external factors rather than their abilities and efforts. In my panel discussion, this became clear.  Take a listen to the thoughts of Ruth Langsford, Angellica Bell and myself recorded at the event.

The fear of being exposed as a fraud can lead to anxiety, stress, and a sense of inadequacy. Ultimately it will undermine confidence and hinder professional growth.



Imposter syndrome can arise from various factors. High standards. Perfectionism and too much of a focus on flaws/mistakes. Comparisons and fear of failure. All have a part to play.

Past experiences can rear their ugly heads too. I include negative feedback or criticism from parents, teachers, and mentors in childhood which can contribute to feelings of self-doubt and undermine confidence. I hark back to my troubled relationship with my father in many difficult circumstances. Imposter syndrome is no different.

However, what’s really important to recognise is that imposter syndrome is a common experience that can affect anyone, regardless of their actual level of expertise.


Now I won’t say that a lack of confidence is something that has a detrimental effect on my career, but what I will admit is yes, imposter syndrome is something I have suffered from too. It’s always important to remember that no matter how confident a person appears – everybody has insecurities.

While overcoming imposter syndrome is no easy feat, there are some strategies to combat its effects and regain your self-assurance.

Recognising that imposter syndrome is a common experience shared by many high-achieving individuals is the first step. If the likes of Ruth Langsford and a panel of instantly recognisable women have felt it – it’s most definitely real and relatable.

Challenge negative self-talk – if you struggle with an overly critical inner voice then recognising this can revolutionise your approach to business, and life. Catch your critical self and try to imagine how a friend or colleague would describe you instead.

Set realistic goals and celebrate achievements – break down larger goals into manageable tasks and celebrate achievements along the way. After any project or landmark, look backward and reflect – often we don’t realise how far we’ve come.



Who better to help you overcome your imposter syndrome than a global expert? Clare Josa has identified the four Ps of imposter syndrome which include perfectionism, paralysis, people-pleasing, and procrastination. Find out more in her book ‘Ditching Imposter Syndrome’.


If what I’ve discussed here doesn’t convince you that most people will encounter imposter syndrome at some point in their lives, then how about the words of a Nobel Laureate to sway the argument?

American memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou often felt like a fraud, talking of these feelings she said: “I have written eleven 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.  “I still have a little impostor syndrome…”

Thanks for sharing my thoughts on unmasking imposter syndrome!