Written by: Claudia Westwood
Edited by: Khushi Karnawat, Jesie Randhawa
While these three systemic issues should be addressed by employers and industries, there are also things we as individual women can do to combat our imposter syndrome. Our self doubt comes from our inner monologue, and one of the key ways to overcome it is to be able to isolate narratives of self doubt.
In other words, women should work on ‘naming and shaming’ their thoughts of inadequacy as imposter syndrome and dismissing them for what they are. Alongside this, women can make a conscious effort to remind themselves that their accomplishments are not the result of luck, but rather the result of their skills, knowledge, and hard work. They should take pride in their own success – women are shown to be much more likely to attribute credit to a team effort or to someone who helped them out than men. Sometimes such acknowledgement is warranted, but in other cases sharing credit stems from a desire to underplay one’s own role in success. Finally, it is unlikely that imposter syndrome will be eradicated, and therefore the crucial thing one can do is to take action in spite of self doubt. If imposter syndrome is difficult to get rid of, the next best thing is to not let it stand in the way of speaking up, sharing your voice, and putting yourself out there.
"Women should work on ‘naming and shaming’ their thoughts of inadequacy as imposter syndrome and dismissing them for what they are."
Another action one can take is to review social media habits. Social media is a much debated topic, especially its effects on teenagers and self esteem, but it is a medium which is nonetheless ubiquitous. There are two key ways in which social media has been seen to affect imposter syndrome. The first is often discussed, which is that social media portrays a glamourised and edited version of people’s lives. The disparity between an Instagram post and reality is ever growing, as editing apps become more advanced and Instagram-aesthetic products, such as pretty cocktails and extravagant restaurant decor, become trendy. These trends can cause people to feel inadequate, and that they are not succeeding in life because they don’t eat the food, wear the clothes, or look like the people they follow. In this way, social media skews what one sees as ‘normal’ activity for their own age group, and creates a sense of guilt or inadequacy when one’s own life doesn’t match up. This comparison is seen to disproportionately affect teenage girls, and often the nature of the trends glamorises money and expensive goods, thus ostracising lower income viewers. The rise of trends like “My Best Friend’s Rich Check” and “#PrivateSchool” on TikTok, or influencers living in major cities like Los Angeles, makes even free social media apps seem increasingly inaccessible to lower socioeconomic classes. Therefore, following influencers and friends who promote an unrealistic life style can increase anxiety in young women and create a feeling that they are inadequate in comparison to others their age. Reviewing whether those you follow bring joy and art or self-doubt and guilt is one way to combat this.
Conversely, imposter syndrome has also been seen to result from a person’s own social media presence. The widespread discussions of the differences between social media and real life have also created anxiety about living up to the social media presence one has online. It has become both acceptable and commonplace to question other’s authenticity on social media. Being asked for the “real story” behind a post, or whether that aesthetically pleasing drink “actually tasted good” are some minor examples of questions which can trigger feelings of fraudulence. Those with a carefully cultivated social media presence can feel pressure in their lives to live up to unrealistically high standards their social media portrays. Reflecting on the effect to which one’s own social media has created anxiety and stress is helpful. Taking breaks from social media can be very effective at reducing the power it has in your life. Turning off notifications from certain apps, scheduling screen-free time in the day, or getting apps that track social media time are all ways to address imposter syndrome rooted in social media presence.
While these mental practices and social media lifestyle changes can help to combat one’s own imposter syndrome, it is undoubtedly difficult and tiring to fight these narratives of self doubt alone. It can be hard to distinguish imposter syndrome from a range of other internal monologues and cutting out harmful social media is much easier said than done in a world where so much news, socialisation, and communication is done via apps. Therefore, it is also important for women to reach out to their communities when these feelings arise: their friends, family, and co-workers. Communities can then look out for each other actively, offering words of encouragement in times of dispirit and uplifting and recognising each other in times of success.
Outside of immediate circles, communities like Women Unbounded are a great place to find women who you can talk to, listen to, and share experiences with.
Our survey referenced in Part 1 shows that the Women Unbounded community knows and has felt imposter syndrome; and it is here to help.