THE IMPOSTOR SYNDROME: WHY DO HIGHLY INTELLIGENT WOMEN FEEL LIKE FRAUDS?



“How can I apply for the promotion, speak up in a meeting or claim to be an expert, when I feel like such a fraud? Surely my current promotion was a mistake, a token appointment or a fluke, when they find out I’m done for… “


Have you ever felt like this? You may be interested to know that Impostor Syndrome is particularly common amongst high-achieving, intelligent women.


Given a name in 1978 by two female psychologists, the Impostor Syndrome was described as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”


Successful people are seemingly unable to internalise their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.


In the case of successful businesswomen, this situation is rooted in women’s inability to ‘own’ their intelligence, often believing that others overestimate their intellect and their ability. It leads women to feel that they need to work harder than their male counterparts, least they are ‘found out’ as an impostor, and it’s the most likely cause of burnout amongst entrepreneurial, professional and executive women.


So what can you do about this?


1.    Get to Know the Voice of Your Inner Critic and Converse With It


Do not get weighed down by static and that destructive inner narrative and storytelling that eats away at your self-confidence. It is certainly a large contributor to the feeling of being an impostor or a fraud.


The problem is we hear this inner voice and accept it as fact; it’s never been the truth about who we are, but we just perceive it to be so. By simply entering conversation with the Inner Critic and seeking specific guidance on what it is trying to tell you that’s helpful, the negative narrative loses its power and you regain control and ownership of your emotional state. The Inner Critic can serve a useful purpose – particularly in relation to morality – however you need to ensure you are only interacting with the helpful narrative. There is a HUGE cost to allowing this negative voice to rule your life, it robs you of everything your heart desires – love, peace, happiness, success, wellbeing, and vitality just to suggest a few.


Once you understand this voice, it can become the access point to gaining that which you truly desire. A word of caution, most of us need some help to get their inner critic in hand, we’re so accustomed to its presence that we don’t realise it’s the one calling ‘Imposter!’ ‘Fraud!’ from within. You should seek guidance and support from multiple sources as you embark on this change.


2.    Compile Some Evidence


Who are the 3 people you respect most? They will be people whose opinion you respect, when they tell you something you believe them, they have integrity, you trust them and they are their word.


So what I want you to do is ask them what they see as your personal and professional attributes, your specific skills and talents. Be sure to tell them why you’re asking and listen carefully to what they have to say, ask them to email you their feedback so you have it in writing.