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26th Mar 2024

‘We need to stop telling women they have imposter syndrome’

Anna Martin

imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that made its way into our everyday vernacular pretty recently

Though it was coined as a term back in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes when they published The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, we only really became aware of it in the last few years.

Though it can be good to have a word for those feelings of doubt and uncertainty, especially when it comes to our achievements and relationships, but is it always healthy to paint those emotions with that big label?

Are we encouraging women to doubt themselves and their abilities? To really understand it, we have to start from the start.

What is imposter syndrome?

imposter syndrome
Credit: Getty

Put simply it’s the condition of feeling anxious and not experiencing success internally, despite being high-performing in external, objective ways.

This condition often results in people feeling like “frauds” and doubting their abilities.

The two psychologists who came up with the term did so after conducting a study on high-achieving women.

According to their findings “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”

Yet it’s not just women who are on paper, thriving, in jobs that don’t cast the spotlight on them, people who are recognised specifically for their talents have spoken about experiencing the condition.

Acclaimed actresses like Charlize Theron and Viola Davis have openly talked about their feelings of self-doubt, even former First Lady Michelle Obama.

While a quick Google search will provide millions of examples of courses you can try to overcome imposter syndrome, little has been done to understand the cause of the issue.

Uncertainty doesn’t make you an imposter

imposter syndrome
Credit: Getty

Imposter syndrome has grown legs to a degree and it’s like even time you’re unsure of something it’s all down to those two words.

Let’s be honest for a second, the word imposter is big and heavy.

When you first think of it you may relate it to old-time crime shows where the detective yells, “This person is an imposter!’

When coupled with the word syndrome it all feels very clinical and scary with decreet nods back to the ‘female hysteria’ diagnoses of the nineteenth century.

Feelings of uncertainty are normal, sometimes even healthy but when it comes to women in the workplace, why do they have to ‘suffer’ from imposter syndrome?

Instead of addressing what could be causing the feelings like, workplace microaggressions, racism, and misogyny, honestly, the list is endless, we put it back on the woman.

She is suffering the effects, it’s something she has to deal with alone as they’re her emotions after all.

It prevents us from addressing what could be deeper issues.

Instead, we call for individuals to find the solution for something that may be caused by long-standing systems of discrimination and abuses of power.