The very first thing I ever won in business was some free coaching. I was terrified. Six sessions to be delivered by A Very Impressive Person, with half a ton of letters after their name, coming into my business and inevitably exposing that any success I had ever had was all an error, or, at best, just outrageous good luck. It was years afterwards that I read about Imposter Syndrome and realised that my shaking terrors had been a classic case. Researchers believe that about 70% of people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, otherwise known as Fraud Syndrome at some time in their lives.
An inability to accept praise, fear of failure, fear of being “found out”, believing we do not merit our successes – all these are typical symptoms.
As Mike Myers puts it “I still believe that at any time the no-talent police will come and arrest me”. And yes, men do suffer from imposter syndrome too – Tom Hanks and Neil Gaiman are others. We are still unsure if women suffer much more than men do or if women are just more open to admitting it.
However, as Valerie Young, author The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, says “Being female means you and your work automatically stand a greater chance of being ignored, discounted, trivialized, devalued or otherwise taken less seriously than a man’s”. This immediately makes us more vulnerable. Women also tend to over-evaluate others, and having done so, compare ourselves unfavourably.