In our New Year special edition of the WO-Down podcast, our host Cynthia chatted to Jacqueline Daley, business advisor at the Women’s Organisation; Irene Afful, founder and director or Ametrine Enterprise Solutions; and Denise Chilton, Executive Business and Leadership coach. There was one theme that continued to come up as we spoke about all things business: imposter syndrome.
From L-R: Irene Afful, Denise Chilton, and Jacqueline Daley
Imposter syndrome can be defined as a feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt, which overrides any proof of success and competence. Simply put, it’s feeling like a fraud, as though your achievements are down to pure luck, and you could be found out and exposed as a fake at any given moment.
Many highly successful people experience imposter syndrome, so it isn’t necessarily related to low self-esteem or confidence, and it can manifest itself in a few ways:
Perfectionism: Some people set excessively high (and unachievable) goals for themselves, then berate themselves when they don’t measure up. Perfectionists can have difficulty delegating, believing that the work would be done to a higher standard by themselves – and even then, it’s still not good enough. Mistakes are a natural part of growing and can make you better than before!
Being ‘Superman’: As imposter syndrome can invite feelings of inadequacy in comparison to their peers, some attempt to tackle these sentiments by working harder and longer to prove their worthiness, often to the detriment of their mental health.
The ‘Natural’: It’s indisputable that some people are naturally better at some things that others, but it is unrealistic to expect to be great at everything, especially first time around. These types of people also set the bar impossibly high, but also judge themselves if they don’t instantly grasp something new the first time.
Going Solo: Rule 101: it’s okay to ask for help. It’s highly common for imposter syndrome to make you believe that asking for help will reveal your fraudulence, meaning you would rather struggle along alone. Being independent is great, but asking questions is the only way we can learn – and no one will judge you for it!
The ‘Expert’: The feeling that you don’t know enough is particularly common one, especially when going self-employed. Why would someone pay you for your services when you don’t know everything there is to know on a subject? It can also stop people from applying for jobs when they don’t meet every single specification, as they’re fearful of being ‘found out’ as not knowing enough.
Introducing our new series, ‘Women in…’, where we’ll be talking to women leading in their fields
So, the big question is: how do we overcome imposter syndrome? Recognising it is the first step to helping yourself, and considering the context in which you feel like an ‘imposter’. Maybe it’s a situation that you have never met, or you feel out of your depth, in which case, reframe how you feel: ‘the fact that I feel useless right now does not mean that I really am’.
A pertinent point raised by the panel in the podcast was the fact that we are our own harshest critic. How do we speak to ourselves? Would we speak to others in the same way? Be kinder to yourself, reward your big achievements and forgive yourself for your mistakes – if we think of failure as a learning opportunity, then we’ll be less scared to not achieve. Jacqueline also advised creating a character for your ‘imposter’, making it a separate entity and removing it from yourself.
Imposter syndrome is an all-too-common occurrence, especially if you’re keen to do a job well. Overcoming internalised feelings of inadequacy is no mean feat, but with some self-care and the realisation that you’re always learning, you can outgrow and defeat your ‘imposter’.


If you’re a woman in enterprise and feel like you would benefit from support (managing your imposter syndrome or otherwise!), the Women’s Organisation provide business support for businesses that have been registered on Companies House for under 42 months. This support is fully funded under our Enterprise Hub programme for those that are eligible. To enquire, please contact: 0151 706 8113.
The WO-Down is a monthly podcast by The Women’s Organisation, hosted by Cynthia B.
Delving into the why, what and how some of the region’s most prolific entrepreneurs and brightest minds have got to where they are today.

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The WO-Down aims to promote a new wave of role models and inspire people to take the leap of faith to pursue their business or personal dreams.
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