The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like one

Girls and women more likely to "internalize failure, mistakes and criticisms", says Dr Valerie Young, an expert on imposter syndrome.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like one - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Imposter syndrome, also known as imposter phenomenon, is not a new affliction of the modern age. First given a name in 1978, it's an internal dialogue of self-doubt, a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud", and the belief you have been "lucky" in your achievements, not deserving of them.

When it comes to women, we are more likely to feel the negative effects of imposter syndrome. While men more commonly use self-doubt to propel their energy, work and targets, there is more evidence that women see it as proof we don't belong.

With a pay-gap that is tipped to endure for another 200 years, women frequently have to work harder and achieve more than their male counterparts to reap the same rewards. There are many reasons why women today feel below-standard, doubtful and unconfident about their talents and skills.

But getting over those feelings of shame and self-doubt is possible. According to Dr Valerie Young, an internationally recognized imposter syndrome expert and author of a book on the subject, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, "...the only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter."

Details from the story:

  • Historically, imposter syndrome has been considered a “female” trait. The first study of the condition in 1978 looked at imposter feelings among high-achieving women.
  • While it is thought to affect equal numbers of women and men, it is estimated that women feel the more negative effects of imposter syndrome.
  • "Girls and women, this is true across cultures, we’re more likely to internalize failure, mistakes and criticisms. We’re more likely to see it as proof we don’t belong," Dr Valerie Young told me during an interview for Dazed.
  • In recent years, it has become widely discussed as an issue affecting young people, and is blamed on the overuse of social media and “ambition addiction”. But the condition is historic.
  • Maya Angelou and Albert Einstein are amongst the high-profile genius-like people who have experienced it.
  • Today, it affects around one third of young people, with 70% of people experiencing it at least once in their lives.
  • Young added: "(Generally), men are more likely with imposter feelings to use it as a motivating factor, they’re more likely to see imposter feelings as a positive that drives them to work harder."
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