Although the impostor syndrome can be suffered by anyone (you know, not believing one’s worth, not feeling smart enough to do a job, doubting our abilities …) it tends to occur more frequently among women. For this reason, since the psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term in 1978, most of the studies carried out on it have been carried out among the female population.
Why do women still not believe in themselves? is the question that journalist Élisabeth Cadoche and psychotherapist Anne de Montarlot ask themselves in “The impostor syndrome” (Peninsula), a book in which they reveal the reason for the lack of self-confidence that even women who appear to be very confident experience. They look for the causes of this phenomenon, how each woman has a different experience with it and there are different types of impostors, and what can be done to come to fruition with this feeling of impostor and gain confidence in herself.
We spoke to the authors at ABC Bienestar about how past experience influences personal confidence, what can be done to alleviate the lack of confidence and how it not only affects the professional plane, but also extends its tentacles through romantic or family relationships.
What exactly is imposter syndrome?
The imposter syndrome is a particular lack of self-confidence that makes you fear everything: fear of being exposed or unmasked, fear of failing, fear of not living up to the situation. This feeling prevents us from internalizing our achievements, attributing our successes to ourselves, gives us the impression of not being “good enough”, of usurping a position without deserving it (“What gives me the right to be there?”), And so on. Whenever you do something good, it is explained by external reasons, such as chance or luck, and the more successful you are, the more you doubt what you have achieved.
Do all women suffer, even a little, from imposter syndrome?
Without a doubt, all women face, if not the impostor syndrome, then at least a lack of self-confidence at some point in their life. This can come from our childhood, from the looks of our parents or from social mandates that make life difficult for women: you are thin, or too muscular, you are in a relationship, or you are not, you need help with children, or not, etc.
How does the education that women receive as children influence this mistrust in themselves?
In childhood, the idea that we were not pretty enough, that we were not competent, that we were weaker than our brother, for example, causes us to develop limiting beliefs, compensatory strategies to be loved and appreciated. And this will poison us in our adult life. There are also, for example, murderous phrases heard in childhood that condition us. A critical or conditional parental gaze based on success, or being labeled and framed (and locked) in a role. All of these factors weaken self-esteem. But one may have had very critical parents and get over it. Or on the contrary, one may have had such loving parents who are so convinced that we were exceptional and therefore, we will always be afraid of disappointing them …
Why do many women tend to constantly apologize, even when it’s not necessary?
Ah, the famous “Sorry to bother you, but …”. When women feel illegitimate, out of place, they constantly apologize, almost as if they are apologizing for living. Or by taking up space. Since little girls have been trained to be wise and understanding, as soon as they step out of this role, they apologize.
What little habits can we adopt to reappropriate that trust?
We can write a list of all our exploits. By rereading it, we realize what we are capable of. We can also practice the politics of small steps. While it’s hard to use violence to be daring, you can step outside of your comfort zone every day. Finally, we can surround ourselves with caring people and role models who inspire us.
How is this feeling transferred on the plane of love?
When we lack confidence in ourselves, this can indeed affect our relationships. It is hard to believe that a person can be interested in us and this is unfortunately quite common. If we had a childhood marked by criticism or a conditional look, the relationship with oneself will be predisposed to this type of behavior: one will feel unworthy of being loved. It is difficult to love another when you do not love yourself. And that’s not counting the social mandates on body image and the historical discourses on the relationship with sex for women. When we internalize these degrading speeches, we fear privacy.
Do you think that, since the #MeToo explosion, there is more talk about this “syndrome” and, somehow, more tools are given to cope with it?
The #MeToo explosion has undoubtedly highlighted the mistreatment of women, whether due to patriarchy, history itself or social mandates. And this should serve to free us from guilt, to make us understand that the lack of confidence is not only the expression of shyness or the inability to assert oneself, but a historical, cultural, social or family heritage. When you understand the origin of things, you have more weapons to combat them.