Imposter syndrome is often cited by women, and many men too, as the thing that they most need to overcome in order to feel more confident in the workplace, especially as they start to become more senior in their career. It’s a common phenomenon, and in a recent study by KPMG it found that 75% of female executives have experienced it.

It often results in individuals doubting their own accomplishments and feeling like they are frauds who will be exposed at any moment. This can cause feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, and can negatively impact performance or lead to burn out. It can also lead capable and qualified women to work long hours to try to prove themselves, and leave them feeling afraid to ask questions or ask for help, and avoid speaking up or taking on challenging jobs. 

In short, it holds women back.

While the feelings are real, I’m not keen on the label. It implies that there is something wrong with us as individuals, if we experience it. A condition that needs to be fixed. In reality though so many external factors contribute to it including historical societal behaviours towards women, and poor workplace experiences such as lack of supportive managers and effective mentors in past or present posts. So while I agree that you can work on those feelings associated with imposter syndrome I don’t think there is anything you need to fundamentally change about yourself or your actions in order to manage it.

You see you already have the tools inside of you. 

By working with both your inner critic and inner mentor, you can learn not to overcome imposter syndrome but manage it more effectively so that you can confidently pursue your goals.

So, how?

Well it starts by taking a look inside, and coming face to face with two characters who share your space:

Your inner critic and your inner mentor.

The inner critic is the voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough or that you are a fraud. It can be an overwhelming force that can make you doubt yourself and your abilities and at certain times the volume turns to full when you find yourself in particularly challenging situations. But it’s just a voice, one of many you can choose to tune into at any time. However, the inner critic can also be a useful tool if you learn to listen to it in a constructive way. After all, the inner critic comes from a place of fear, and fear, in it’s most natural form, is a tool built to protect us.

A useful approach is to acknowledge the thoughts that your inner critic brings up and examine them objectively. Ask yourself if there is any evidence to support these thoughts, or if they are simply baseless fears. By doing so, you can begin to recognise when your inner critic is being helpful and when it is holding you back.

On the other hand, the inner mentor is a positive voice in your head that encourages you and supports you. It can often be much quieter than the inner critic and overshadowed as a result by particularly noisy inner critics. But it is the part of you that sees your strengths and capabilities and believes in your potential. By tapping into your inner mentor, you can learn to counter the negative thoughts of your inner critic. 

One way to do this is to visualise a wise and supportive mentor who embodies the qualities that you admire. This could be a real person or a fictional character. Whenever you are feeling doubtful or anxious, imagine that your inner mentor is speaking to you, offering encouragement and guidance.

Another way to work with your inner mentor is to keep a journal where you write down your accomplishments and strengths. Whenever imposter syndrome starts to creep in, read through your journal and remind yourself of all the amazing things you have accomplished. This can help to reframe your thoughts and shift your focus away from self-doubt and towards self-confidence.

Finally, it’s important to remember that everyone likely experiences some form of imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. It’s a natural part of the learning process, and signals to us that we’re stepping out of our comfort zone. This is a necessary process if you want to grow and develop in your career. It doesn’t mean that you are any less capable or deserving of success. By working with both your inner critic and your inner mentor, you can learn to make peace with feeling like an imposter and instead tune into all that knowledge and experience that has been there all along.

If you’d like to work on your personal and career development and join a group of supportive women who all want more from their career, then come along to the Career Collaborative and start moving forward with more ease.


Jo Oogarah

Career Empowerment Coach

To start building your own collaborative network with like-minded women join me in the Career Collaborative online group to learn, share and get the support you need from other professional women like you. Find out more information here.

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