How to Defeat Imposter Syndrome as a Woman

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "We Should All Be Millionaires" by Rachel Rodgers. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why do so many women suffer from imposter syndrome? What even is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the feeling of being undeserving of your success, despite working hard to achieve it. Women commonly suffer from this and experience burnout and anxiety as a result, according to Rachel Rodgers in We Should All Be Millionaires.

Continue reading to find out how to overcome imposter syndrome as a woman.

Overcome Imposter Syndrome

To be able to recognize your value, you must overcome imposter syndrome—women’s tendency to doubt their skills and abilities and feel undeserving of their accomplishments. If you have impostor syndrome, instead of owning your successes, you might credit them to luck or the efforts of others and feel afraid of being discovered as a fraud. 

(Shortform note: While, like Rodgers, many experts encourage women to overcome their imposter syndrome, others argue that it’s more important to address the environments in which women work. They argue that feeling doubtful at work is normal, but workplace environments tend to perpetuate these feelings for women. They add that the label “imposter syndrome” gives the impression that it’s an issue individuals bear the responsibility for solving rather than something leaders and organizations should seek to solve. Therefore, while it’s important for women to find ways to recognize their worth, the lack of support and validation for women in the typical workplace must be also addressed for more widespread and meaningful change.)

According to Rodgers, imposter syndrome is a major reason why many women aren’t as wealthy as they should be: It stops them from pursuing more wealth by making them afraid to apply for a promotion, take on tough projects, or start their own business, for instance. Imposter syndrome can also cause stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, thereby negatively affecting your overall well-being.

(Shortform note: We might conceptualize imposter syndrome as reaching your happiness threshold. In The Big Leap, psychologist Gay Hendricks writes that we all have a maximum level of success that we’re comfortable with—our “happiness threshold”—which is based on the false, limiting beliefs we develop from our early life experiences. This self-imposed limit prevents us from achieving greater success and wealth: As we succeed and approach this threshold, our imposter syndrome kicks in, causing us to feel unworthy and sabotage our own success. Hendricks argues that keeping yourself from pursuing your highest potential for success and wealth can, like impostor syndrome, cause harm to your physical and mental health.)

To increase your wealth and get the pay and recognition you deserve, you must overcome imposter syndrome. Rodgers provides a few tips on how to do this:

Tip #1: Don’t be hard on yourself for having impostor syndrome. Many successful women have struggled with it, so you’re not alone in feeling doubtful about yourself. Acknowledge your insecurities around your worth and commit to overcoming them.

Tip #2: Write down your achievements, both big and small, as proof of your value. Reviewing your list of accomplishments can remind you that you’re skilled and competent when you feel doubtful.

Tip #3: Seek support. This can mean getting help for your imposter syndrome, like by seeing a therapist or finding a space where you can express yourself and feel understood, like a friend group.

Tip #4: Challenge yourself physically—run a marathon, go scuba diving, learn to ice skate. Doing physical activities that push you beyond your comfort zone can boost your confidence, which can spill over to other areas of your life, like your career.

(Shortform note: In The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write that women who play team sports are more likely to graduate college, land jobs, and work in male-dominated industries than those who don’t. This is because sports familiarize them with failure and setbacks, which helps them overcome them in other areas of life.)

Tip #5: Reflect on your natural strengths and talents. Think about the skills that came naturally to you as a child or that contributed to your past successes. You can also consider taking a strengths test. Once you’ve identified your strengths, Rodgers suggests you commit to one and focus on creating related products or services that can make you money.

(Shortform note: Others argue that you should build your entire life around your strengths so you can manage your time more productively and live a more meaningful life. In 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam suggests you identify your natural strengths and schedule your time around them. Block off tasks that involve your strengths and delegate tasks you’re not good at. She also adds a layer of specificity on how to monetize your strengths: Start your own company or talk with your employer about adjusting your job duties to better align to your strengths.)

Rethinking Imposter Syndrome: Additional Insights and Strategies

Overcoming your imposter syndrome can be a difficult ongoing journey. Thankfully, many psychologists have studied this phenomenon and have additional insights that can help you make the most of Rodgers’s advice:

1. Consider a different label. Instead of “imposter syndrome,” some experts suggest you use the terms “imposter phenomenon” or “imposter experience” instead. Despite its name, imposter syndrome isn’t a diagnosable condition, and many argue that the term is needlessly pathologizing. By opting to use an alternative label, you can help normalize imposter feelings among women and prevent them from feeling like there’s something abnormal or “wrong” with them.

2. Celebrate your achievements. While Rodgers suggests you write down your achievements to remind yourself of them when you’re experiencing self-doubt, other experts advise you to practice celebrating successes when they happen. This will make it easier overall to internalize and own your successes. You can celebrate your achievements by taking time to appreciate when someone congratulates you rather than brushing it off. Additionally, collect physical reminders of your successes, like a positive client email. 

3. Get support from outside your professional or academic group. According to some psychologists, it may be more beneficial to seek support from family members, friends, or significant others about your imposter syndrome rather than colleagues or classmates. They argue that these individuals can be more validating because they support you unconditionally and help you view your accomplishments and values within the context of your life rather than in a professional or academic context. Conversely, seeking support from your peers may trigger comparison and worsen imposter feelings.
How to Defeat Imposter Syndrome as a Woman

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  • Why all women can and should strive to become millionaires
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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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