Why Imposter Syndrome Will Harm You and Your Career (and How to Solve it)

Have you ever felt like a fraud?

Have you worried that people will “find you out”?

Thought that you don’t deserve your job and the only reason for your success so far is luck, nothing to do with you...?

If so, you’re not alone.

A 2011 research paper concluded that nearly 70% of us experience these feelings at some point in our careers: what has become known as Imposter Syndrome.

  • This can stop us going for promotions and pay rises we entirely deserve, because we don’t feel like we’re good enough.

  • It can stunt our career development: stop us speaking up, leaning in and taking on challenges, because we’re worried if we draw attention to ourselves or fail, we’ll just reveal we’re not good enough.

  • And it can create an enormous burden of stress, overwork and anxiety, threatening our wellbeing even to the point of burnout.

Imposter Syndrome is bad for us, and bad for our careers.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

“The Imposter Phenomenon” was first defined by academics Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in a 1978 paper, particularly focussing on high-achieving women.

As they state:

“Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled everyone who things otherwise.
Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample object evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the imposter belief.”

Why do you get Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome seems to be worst in people with the following risk-factors.

1. Being from a marginalised or minority community

Clance and Imes’ paper was focussed on high-achieving women, and in 1978 they would have been a marginalised and minority community in the workplace.

This is still the case in certain sectors, and women in male-dominated industries (such as tech, engineering or investment banking) are more likely to suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

But this also applies to other minorities, such as those relating to race or sexual orientation.

For example, there have been specific studies on the prevalence of Imposter Syndrome among women academics of colour.

So feeling somehow “different” to the norms around you can certainly trigger Imposter Syndrome.

2. A new career challenge

Imposter Syndrome can commonly arise after someone has been given a new career challenge or opportunity.

Despite getting that promotion or new role on merit, the feelings of Imposer Syndrome kick in and the person becomes convinced that either it was luck, or they’ve somehow managed to pull the wool over the eyes of their employer.

They are then tortured by fear that they’re going to get “found out”.

3. Childhood labelling

There is evidence that equating love with success in childhood can develop into feelings of Imposter Syndrome in later life - for example, a child thinking that they are only loved if they are “good”, or if they get great results in school.

There is also a risk if they are labelled as “clever”, especially in comparison with a sibling (‘you’re the clever one”) - they now have something to live up to and fear not being able to.

4. Depression or anxiety

Those with Imposter Syndrome also often suffer with depression or anxiety (but whether it’s the Imposter Syndrome that leads to the anxiety, or vice versa, isn’t clear to me).

One factor that has been proven not to be wholly true:

despite the focus of their 1978 paper, evidence suggests Imposter Syndrome can be experienced by men as much as women (as acknowledged by Chance and Imes in a later paper).

However, it is very common among women in certain workplaces because of that risk-factor that they are often the “exception” rather than “norm”.

Different types of “Imposter”

Not everyone suffers from the same type of "Imposter Syndrome" - there are different variations of behaviour. Valerie Young has defined five different types:

  • The “Superwoman”: this Imposter overcomes their feelings of inadequacy by working harder and longer than anyone else around them, taking on all challenges and pushing themselves to breaking point to “prove” themselves (to themselves and others).

  • The “Perfectionist”: this Imposter is obsessed with making sure everything is done perfectly - anything less than that is not good enough. This places an enormous burden of stress and pressure on the Perfectionist, and can also lead to paralysis in the constant search for perfection.

  • The “Natural Genius”: this “Imposter” feels as though something is only an achievement if it’s come easily to them. If they have to work at something, that just demonstrates that they’re not worthy.

  • The “Expert”: this Imposter only feels good enough if they know anything and everything about their subject. They bolster their feelings of self-worth with training, studying and data. Anything less than complete expertise shows they are not good enough.

  • The “Soloist”: this Imposter has to do everything on their own. Asking for help is a sign of weakness, and a sign that they aren’t up to the job. They prove their worth by being able to achieve everything on their own, at all times.

(I’m developing a Quiz to help you work out which Imposter you are - watch this space!)

What can you do about it?

The million-dollar question: how do you banish Imposter Syndrome, and replace it with what I call Naked Confidence™ - that unshakeable self-belief that you can achieve on your own merits, no matter the challenge.

By using my Three Pillar system:

  • SELF-AWARENESS: recognising you have a problem, and then doing the internal work so that you truly know who you are and your value, deep down - your strengths and areas for growth, your fears and hopes, what lights you up and what drags you down.  

  • SELF-EMPOWERMENT: by learning how to harness the incredible power of the mind to create an internal cheerleader and banish that internal critic and terrible Imposter voice so you can achieve anything

  • SELF-FULFILMENT: by understanding exactly what you want, how to get there, and the impact you want to make, boosting your sense of ambition based on self-worth - while also recognising how to do this with balance, and without stress.  

Using these as rocket fuel to power you to succeed in the career of your dreams.

Empowered and resilient, balanced and courageous 💖💪

How do you get this?

Through my Signature 1:1 Coaching Programme: BANISH FEAR AND DISCOVER NAKED CONFIDENCE™

In 7 sessions held over three months, you will:

✅ transform your Imposter self-doubt into Naked Confidence™ through powerful exercises to banish limiting beliefs and that negative inner critic, and instead develop a powerful inner cheerleader

✅ develop a true perspective on your areas of strength and growth-potential (rather than the skewed one you have at the moment where you doubt your abilities), as a springboard for your success

✅ boost your ability to excel by learning how to lead, manage and communicate with Naked Confidence™ (to yourself and others)

✅ discover powerful tools and techniques to help you succeed calmly and productively, without ever struggling with stress or overwhelm.

You will finish the Programme having banished that Imposter and replaced it with unshakeable self-belief, and the Naked Confidence™ and skills to succeed at the highest level (with the financial rewards to match).

What next?

If this sounds like what you need, get in touch to book your free intro call: email me on or book into my calendar here.

During this call I find out about you, your specific situation and your goals. 

You get more understanding about me, the way I work, and how I can help you achieve those goals. 

And we can both decide if we "fit".  (Successful coaching is two-way relationship, the "fit" has to be right for us both.)

I will also give you the opportunity to experience one of my powerful mindset exercises, as an insight into the kind of transformation that is possible when we work together.

Then your journey to Naked Confidence can begin...

And an extra bonus:

the first three new clients to sign up to my new Programme to discover their Naked Confidence will get a £500 discount.

Conclusion - my story

I had my first panic attack in a meeting, three weeks after starting my first proper job. I was on the "European FastStream" in the Civil Service - a highly-competitive accelerated promotion scheme.

I was invited to the meeting of the senior management of my Department as a special privilege - just to sit in and take the minutes, not even to contribute.

But I became overwhelmed by the feeling of the need to prove myself.

And that pressure I was piling on myself, so intensely, to justify my right to be in that room - that built up until it exploded into a panic attack.

I remember it so clearly - trying to write the minutes while watching my hand move across the page, writing gibberish because my head was in meltdown.

And that was the start of years of panic attacks - just from that feeling of needing to justify my existence.

Imposter Syndrome doesn't always lead to panic attacks.

But it IS always debilitating and undermining, holding back so many professional women from fulfilling their potential with ease and balance, and getting the career and financial rewards they deserve.

My mission is to change that.

I don't want anyone else to suffer I like I did.

Let me help you discover your Naked Confidence.

Get in touch to arrange your free intro call.

Wishing you a positive, productive, and Nakedly Confident week! 😁💖💪

Kirsten xx

p.s. to book that free intro call, email me on or book into my calendar here.