Don't Let Imposter Syndrome Sabotage Your Career

An new book looks at how women self-sabatoge and offers advice on how to bolster confidence.

by Caroline Dowd-Higgins • Member { View Profile }
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name (

“While the impostor syndrome is not unique to women, they are more likely to agonize over tiny mistakes and blame themselves for failure, see even constructive criticism as evidence of their shortcomings; and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. When they do succeed, they think ‘Phew, I fooled ‘em again.’ Perpetually waiting to be “unmasked” doesn’t just drain a woman’s energy and confidence. It can make her more risk-averse and less self-promoting than her male peers, which can hurt her future success.”

Did You See Her Hair?

It’s very well documented that girls and women are more likely to internalize failure and mistakes while boys and men are more likely to externalize these. Young cites a classic cartoon example where a woman tries on a pair of pants that no longer fit, and she says, “I must be getting fat.” While a man tries on his ill-fitting pants and states, TThere must be something wrong with these pants.”

Women tend to assume it’s their issue and blame themselves. There is a social and cultural bias and women can be the worst offenders. Have you ever watched an Academy Award show and a famous actress (any will do) approached the stage to receive her coveted award, and you murmured, “I can’t believe she is wearing that dress!” Women tend to be very critical of each other so fostering a culture of self-confidence needs to start with women supporting other women.

Own Your Confidence

Don’t wait till you feel confident to act confident. It’s important to have humility to admit when you don’t know something. A way to build confidence is to be authentic and accept that you don’t need to know everything.

Young talks about an unrealistic Competency Rulebook. Women set very unrealistic expectations for themselves and the imposter syndrome then has a ripe environment in which to thrive. Women must stop being their own worst enemies. It’s impossible to know everything and women need to give themselves a break. Perfection is unattainable so women have to stop waiting to achieve perfection and celebrate the strengths they already own.

According to Young, it’s time for women to be bold.

"Being bold is not about being right, being perfect, or knowing it all. Rather it is about marshaling resources, information and people. It involves seeing problems as opportunities, occasionally flying by the seat of your pants, and ultimately being willing to fall flat on your face and know you will survive."

You’ve heard the adage “fake it till you make it,” but Young takes this a step farther. She encourages us all to find the chutzpah artists in our world who take life by the horns and have the moxie and the courage to make things happen. We can learn so much from these courageous souls by tapping into their willingness to take a risk. Start observing the confident people around you and model their behavior.


The Imposter Syndrome can start at tender age so Young encourages parents to be communicative with their kids and address adversity, resilience, and self-confidence early on. Young points out:

“Research shows that even as girls, women are more likely to blame ourselves when things go wrong. We’re also more apt to give up following a setback. Since failure and mistakes are inevitable, bar none the best thing parents can do is to help their daughters understand the learning value of failure and to gain confidence from overcoming adversity rather than running from it. It’s okay to falter. The key is to get back in the game and try, try again.”

What’s a Woman to Do?

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