It feels like everyone is jumping on the findings from the recent Access Commercial Finance survey.  The findings from over 3000 adults in the UK, showed over two-thirds of women (66%) had suffered from imposter syndrome compared to over half of men (56%) within the last 12 months.

It didn’t help that that YouGov asked women whether they have had the opportunity to lead on a project at work, only 44% said yes, compared to 59% of men. Add to that, women are also less likely to have experienced a pay rise or a bonus not connected to promotion, at only 40% compared to 53% of men.

So what is Imposter Syndrome?

It appears that despite the outward appearance of success, women are hiding behind a feeling of crippling self-doubt and inadequacy.  This feeling of anxiety could be attributed to a number of social and cultural factors, however the research cited the top four reasons as: –

  1. Self-generated self-doubt
  2. Being criticized
  3. Having to ask for help
  4. Self-comparisons to high achieving colleagues

It is disappointing that with more women starting and growing businesses; and representation on FTSE 100 Boards has risen from 4.1 per cent in 1996 to 32.1% this year; instead of enjoying these achievement, women are overcome by a gradual feeling of crippling stress as they strive to “earn their stripes.”

Regrettably, UK industries have the highest ratio of female self-doubters believing they are “intellectual frauds”.  Imposter syndrome is more prolific in some industries compared to others.  The findings found the creative arts & design, law, media and technology sector being the highest and those in leisure, sport and tourism falling at the lowest levels.

Imposter syndrome tends to be the domain of overachievers, while underachievers tend to internalise less when faced with failure.  Imposter syndrome is a reaction to a set of unrealistic self-expectation and stress.  Left unchecked without coaching or mentoring, this feeling can lead to anxiety, burnout and increased unhappiness both in the workplace and at home.

Remember it is not a permanent circumstance, its simply an emotional reaction.

But what can we do to make progress?

Get out of your head.

Reframe your thoughts and remove the emotional attachment to the feeling or thinking that you are going to be “outed”.  You were promoted on your talent and you have nothing to prove or justify.

You need to stop embracing the imposter syndrome mind-set.  If not, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Focus on your talents, skills and well-earned experience.  Start creating the businesses the UK desperately needs. But more importantly celebrate and honour your achievements in the workplace, business and at home.