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How to deal with imposter syndrome

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As we get prepared to be back in offices and workplaces, many women are feeling some imposter syndrome. It’s normal, you can beat it.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

So what is imposter syndrome? Essentially it is telling yourself and feeling that you’re a fraud and doubting your abilities. It is the feeling that your skills and capabilities aren’t enough and when you have wins, you might put it down to luck or circumstance. But it isn’t, it is because you do have the skills and aptitude. And it is a syndrome precisely because it is more a pattern of behaviours and a way of thinking. It is also one of those things that gets ascribed to women more than men. But men feel it as well, although less than women. A UK study showed that 52% of women and 49% of men felt this on a daily or regular basis. But too often, women are thought to be the ones who suffer the most.

In October of 2020, KPMG in the United States issued a report around women in the workforce and it revealed that 75% of women across multiple industries experienced imposter syndrome. It also showed that 74% felt their male counterparts didn’t have the same emotional issues as they did. While this is an American study, Canadian business culture is similar enough that we can probably translate this into the Canadian workplace.

“It’s important to realize that most women experience similar doubts at some point in our careers,” said Laura Newinski, KPMG U.S. Deputy Chair and Chief Operating Officer. “Our contribution as leaders is pivotal. Together, we have the opportunity to build corporate environments that foster a sense of belonging and lessen the experience of imposter syndrome for women in our workplaces.”

And it’s known that many high-powered, successful women also suffer the effects of imposter syndrome, from Mya Angelou to Sheryl Sandberg. In fact, imposter syndrome seems to disproportionately people who are highly intelligent and capable. There is also an opposing phenomenon called the Dunning Kruger Effect where people feel they are more capable than they actually are.

Women who are higher in empathy may feel the effects the most, even though they are just as capable of achieving their professional goals as anyone. One of the most common outcomes of constantly feeling this can be burnout, as well as sleep and digestive disorders. The KPMG study also found that where make leadership was dominant and there was less of a collaborative and supportive environment, these imposter feelings were much higher.

So how can you deal with these feelings? According to psychologist Dr. Susan Alders of the Cleveland Health Clinic, there are methods you can employ. First she says “you need to sit back and separate the emotions from the facts. Review your successes and work away from your emotions.” As well, keep track of your successes and if you want, talk to a therapist. If you can, find a supportive manager and a trusted co-worker and have the conversation. It is entirely possible to overcome these feelings with a little work.

More: Why not check out Canada’s Top 10 Power Women for 2021.


  • Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia covering Optimyz and Silver magazines in print and digital editions and is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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