Why Does Impostor Syndrome Affect More on Women?

Why Does Impostor Syndrome Affect More on Women?

Personal insecurity can cause many people not to recognize their own achievements. However, this can be worse in women.

Personal insecurity can cause many people not to recognize their own achievements. However, this can be worse in women.

Did you know what impostor syndrome is? The BBC reports that it’s a disorder that is more common than it seems. In fact, 7 out of 10 people have suffered from it at some point in their lives. This applies to millions of people around the world: from successful businessmen to Hollywood's best-known actors.

Basically, it is a bad perception of oneself. We may have professional achievements that occurred because of our ability and our effort, but we can understand them as "strokes of good luck" that can disappear at any moment. In other words, we feel that we never measure up or that we aren’t good or capable enough.

This makes us look like "impostors" since we believe that the good things that have happened to us were not due to our own ability, but to fate. Although this problem of self-perception affects everyone, it has a much clearer impact on women. Let's see why this happens.

The impostor syndrome in women

One of the keywords to understand this phenomenon is that of expectations. Often, people achieve many accomplishments that they were not supposed to achieve. This can be influenced by close social relationships, such as with family members or friends who saw us as incapable of achieving certain results.

For example, if a child has parents who saw him or her as "useless," it is likely that, upon obtaining certain professional achievements, he or she’ll feel that it is a stroke of luck. For example, graduating from college will be a "matter of time" because "everyone can graduate." Getting a well-paying job will be a "matter of luck," for which he will have to be grateful for life since he really "doesn't deserve what he has."


This is much more accentuated in women. Precisely, the lack of role models makes them feel that this is not their place. For example, a woman who has reached a high position in a company or who stands out in technology fields will probably feel that her space belongs to men. Then, if they achieve something, they will believe that they have no right to be there because they are "impostors."

Feeling that achievement is "big", regardless of the merit that has been obtained to achieve it, is common due to the expectations that are held about the historical roles of women. Although this situation is gradually changing, the distrust of a part of society towards women, simply because they are women, makes them feel that this is a situation of "instability."

No matter how hard they have fought to achieve something or how important the outcome was, they will always feel that their position is in jeopardy because it is "hostile" ground that they do not really deserve. The New York Times adds that it is common to feel that you "fooled everyone" and that at any moment they will discover your lack of aptitude, as you constantly devalue your value.

No matter how much schooling or background you get, you will always feel that you are not qualified for a certain position. You may even feel that it is "wrong" to be paid for what you do because you could do it for free. In other words, you constantly devalue your abilities because you feel that, in reality, you don't have them.

The Guardian adds that imposter syndrome is the answer to a world that still does not believe in women. For them, living means constantly confronting social expectations. Not only those of men but those of other women who were raised in a macho culture and who do not believe in the value of themselves. 

Therefore, it is essential to remember that women are not born feeling lesser, but rather that it is society that pushes them to delegitimize any kind of achievement. If they are continually treated as inferior, they will probably internalize this and believe that the world was not designed for them to succeed.

What is really curious is that even successful women think that way. For example, Michelle Obama, one of the most relevant women of the moment, acknowledged suffering from this syndrome, which prevented her from recognizing her own achievements, feeling that her career "was a fraud" or the result of chance. She herself thought that she achieved too many successes to "be deserved."

To overcome it, the key seems to be to decrease self-demand. Once you identify this problem, you must understand that the pressure is external. In reality, you have made merits to obtain everything you got. You are not a fraud and no one will discover your lie because it does not exist: you deserve everything you want.

Although it is important to be able to work with oneself to reduce these demands, it’s also essential that little by little, the pressures on women begin to diminish. Only in this way, society will stop assigning gender roles and all women will be able to stop suffering from imposter syndrome, understanding that they are fully capable of achieving whatever they set their minds to. 

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