A recent episode in Billions sees the character Wendy Rhoades forcing artist Nico Tanner to confront his creative block for what it really is: imposter syndrome.
“You know what you’re capable of,” she states pointedly. While Tanner shouldn’t need a reminder of his genius – selling out a full collection of his paintings before it’s publicly unveiled – in this moment, even he, a celebrated artist, felt like a fraud.
What then for the rest of us, arguably with less talent and on the receiving end of fewer accolades? While imposter syndrome sounds like an affliction brought on by social media and comparison-itis, it’s a syndrome that was first recognised in the ‘70s by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD.
While not an official diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), imposter syndrome is acknowledged as a legitimate issue. Defined as a syndrome that particularly affects high achievers, characteristics include being unable to internalise or accept success, attributing accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and a fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.
One demographic particularly sensitive to it is closer than you think: high achieving, successful women. “Imposter syndrome is rampant among female entrepreneurs. Many question their capabilities and think that any success is a fluke, and often feel inadequate and unworthy,” says mindset coach Jillian Parekh (@yourcoachjill) who has a degree in counselling psychology, conflict analysis and management.
“Female entrepreneurs specifically will downplay their success, over-consume information to feel like they know more, and constantly refine their work to make sure it’s “good enough”, says Parekh. “Sometimes this leads to over-work and burnout for more established entrepreneurs, but it can also lead to analysis paralysis and procrastination when they’re just starting out.”
If any/all of this sounds like you, the good news is there are ways to help work through this form of dysfunctional thinking and allow your self-worth and self-belief to catch up with your achievements.
- imposter syndrome