Imposter Syndrome and Women


“I have written 11 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,” says poet and American author Maya Angelou. This is a common thought amongst high achievers especially women. This is called Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. The term is defined as a fear of being exposed. You are a fraud or faker and people will figure it out.

Anyone can experience imposter syndrome but it doesn’t affect all demographics the same. Women, especially women of color are more likely to be affected by imposter syndrome then men. This is caused by stereotypes and socialization. Stereotypes and socialization suggests that these people who belong to these groups are unworthy and unintelligent.

Women in leadership roles or high achieving roles are more prone to imposter syndrome because of the image they can put off. When they are too strong and strict, they are bitches. When they are too sincere, they are too emotional. Women get thrown into boxes too quickly and easily so it is easy for women to feel like frauds.

A study was conducted that parents tend to believe that high mathematical achievement in male children is because of natural aptitude whereas the same achievement for female children is because of hard work and not natural intelligence. These subtle instances affect the self esteem and confidence of women.

Imposter syndrome also comes with decreased self-esteem, decreased self-efficacy and decreased self-acceptance. This also leads to increased general anxiety, depression and test-taking anxiety. It essentially makes people feel inadequate. It is hard for women to break into the work force in general but adding in imposter syndrome causes more problems.

Emma Watson has repeatedly stated that she feels like an imposter with her success. Even though she is an incredibly talented and successful actress, she feels out of place. A way for her to overcome this feeling was to find her place.

Emma Watson because the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and she says that she has found a sense of belonging and purpose. “I understood what I’m here to do and knew where to channel all this energy that has been coming at me. I now feel this sense of peace. People say that I’m different since I did it.”

The true way to overcome feeling an imposter is to be true to yourself and try to not put yourself into a box. It is easier said than done but it is possible.



Imposter Syndrome and Women

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