How Women Can Stop Falling Prey to Imposter Syndrome

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GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.

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In today’s column, we’re chatting with Dr. Scyatta Wallace, an award-winning psychologist, scientist, social entrepreneur and CEO of Janisaw Company, whose mission is to highlight the importance of developing leadership skills in young women. One barrier that many women face in their careers — regardless of age or experience level — is imposter syndrome, the feeling that you aren’t qualified to hold a certain role and are therefore a fraud. Although anyone can feel imposter syndrome, women — and especially women of color — are more at risk. Wallace is breaking down the signs that you’re suffering from imposter syndrome and how you can overcome it.

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Are You Suffering From Imposter Syndrome?

You might have imposter syndrome and not even be aware of it.

“Imposter syndrome is like looking in a warped mirror where you see yourself, but the reflection is distorted, blurry and out of proportion,” Wallace said. “It’s a feeling that you are not up to the task or if you are doing well on the job, that it’s not because of your skills but luck or other people propping you up.”

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Imposter syndrome often pops up in a work situation where the task is challenging or high stakes, and women are more likely than men to feel imposter syndrome in these scenarios.

“Everyone feels imposter syndrome at some point in the workplace, but it’s more common in women and people of color,” Wallace said. “This is because these feelings of doubt often come about when someone has internalized negative stereotypes about their group. Many times women are stereotyped as not being leaders and not good under pressure. So when a woman takes a role where that’s what she is being charged with doing, she may feel inadequate, like she’s not up to the task.”

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How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

“[The] first step is knowing what it is,” Wallace said. “By identifying that it’s not you but the feeling of imposter syndrome that’s taking over your mind, you are able to begin getting past it.”

Next, Wallace recommends listing all the things you have accomplished in your current position and previous roles.

“You haven’t come this far without doing great things at work in the past, so the list will be long,” she said. “And by writing it all down, you see in plain view a track record of success. It will make it clear that you are not an imposter because you have done many things in the past like a pro. Whenever you start to feel like you just aren’t able to do the tasks at your job, remind yourself of your list to get your mind off the ‘false’ feelings.”

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Another way to help counter imposter syndrome is to seek out colleagues and mentors that recognize how valuable you are.

“Be sure to surround yourself with positive people and role models that can lift your spirits,” Wallace said. “Being around other people who see the value that you bring to the job allows you to add more proof to the list of who you really are.”

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Some of these people have likely experienced imposter syndrome themselves, so having an open dialogue about your feelings can help you to feel less alone.

“Talking to others who have similar experiences will help you see that what you are feeling is normal and something that you can move away from too,” Wallace said. “As mentioned, imposter syndrome is something most people have struggled with at some point in their schooling or career. So if you talk to others you trust and respect, you are bound to find that they have felt the same.”

Although it’s definitely possible to overcome imposter syndrome, it’s not something that will happen overnight, so it’s important to be patient with yourself.

“Imposter syndrome is not something that you will get over immediately,” Wallace said. “Be gentle with yourself if you have days where you look in the mirror and see a leadership rock star and other days where that person isn’t there. Keep focusing on your list, and soon the imposter reflection will be a thing of the past.”

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Last updated: Sept. 27, 2021 

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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