Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. The term was coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, in an article called The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.

The article includes this paragraph:

Despite their earned degrees, scholastic honors, high achievement on standardized tests, praise and professional recognition from colleagues and respected authorities, these women do not experience an internal sense of success. They consider themselves to be “impostors.” Women who experience the impostor phenomenon maintain a strong belief that they are not intelligent; in fact they are convinced that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.

And this:

“Women who exhibit the impostor phenomenon do not fall into any one diagnostic category. The clinical symptoms most frequently reported are generalized anxiety, lack of self confidence, depression, and frustration related to inability to meet self-imposed standards of achievement.”

While it’s not an official medical diagnosis term, dictionaries define impostor syndrome as a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalise their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as follow:

The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”

In essence, impostor syndrome involves feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and fraudulence despite external proof of one’s competence. 

How I see it manifest in my field of work


Because I have spent the last 13 years working in the perinatal field, as an antenatal teacher, babywearing instructor, doula, doula mentor, healer, therapist, and teacher, I have encountered hundreds of women in this field who experience impostor syndrome.

In fact I’d go as far as saying that the majority of women I have worked with have issues with this, and that it’s rare and refreshing to encounter someone who doesn’t. And that the rare men I have trained never seemed to have this issue.

I remember at the end of a postnatal recovery massage training, where a female student asked me if it was OK to charge for this work. In the course there was a male massage therapist and he was utterly surprised that she asked this question, and reframed it in a very helpful manner for her.

I see beautiful, deeply caring professional women who are incredibly nurturing and massively over deliver what they do for their clients, and yet are held back by unconscious impostor syndrome. I see it manifest in the following ways:

  • Doubting their expertise. Despite having the necessary qualifications, training, and experience, women in these professions often doubt their knowledge and expertise, constantly questioning their abilities.
  • Overpreparation and overworking: to compensate for their perceived inadequacies, they spend excessive time preparing for sessions, classes, or appointments, constantly seeking more training or certifications, or working longer hours than necessary.
  • Not being able to charge enough for their services. Feeling that they need to over justify how much they ask for their time. Feeling embarrassed about asking for money.
  • Reluctance to offer services: they may avoid taking on new projects or offer new services due to self-doubt and a fear of failure, or feeling that they do not know enough yet.
  • Fear of being exposed as a “fraud”: They have a constant worry or fear that others will discover they are not as competent or knowledgeable as they are perceived to be.
  • Minimising accomplishments. Downplaying or dismissing positive feedback, compliments, or recognition from clients, students, or colleagues, believing they don’t deserve the praise, or dismissing the praise and focusing only on their perceived lack.

What saddens me is that it prevents wonderful women from thriving in their work and feeling good about themselves, despite over delivering on everything they do. It also often prevents them from sharing their gifts with the world.

My personal experience & how I overcame it


I experienced impostor syndrome even when I was still an employed research scientist, especially when I moved from the field of academic research into the biotech industry. I have shared about this in the past here.

But I experienced it much more deeply when I became self-employed, especially because I often pioneered services that did not exist in the UK yet, for example when I became a babywearing instructor. I’ve noticed it’s often harder for women to justify charging for something that society has no frame of reference for. Nobody would dream of asking say a hairdresser or massage therapist to work for free, but with the modalities I teach, because they aren’t well known, it’s harder for it to feel “normal” and therefore justify prices.

Over the last 12 years I have managed to bring my impostor syndrome into consciousness, and from something that held me back in my offerings, into something I recognise and can tame, and which no longer prevents me from sharing my gifts with the world.

For example, the first time I offered an online course, back in 2018, and 115 people signed up, I had a panic attack over it, because I hadn’t expected that many people to signup. I was crippled with worry that people wouldn’t like the course. This was especially ridiculous because I’d only asked for £20 from people as a group of early adopters to help me build the course. But the unexpected signups really shook me.

6 years down the line I have created 6 online courses, totalling over 800 students in over 30 different countries. I also feel confident enough now to create the course from scratch with my group of students when I offer a new course. This was unthinkable for me only 3 years ago.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t encounter uncomfortable feelings around this, I still do, especially when I’m offering something completely new. For example as I write this I’m getting ready to do a drum journey at a midwifery conference, and it sure elicits some mild anxiety about how it will be received, because this is outside of my normal experience. Last year I delivered a talk about the science of drumming to a conference of 150 women drummers, and felt totally in my power, because I knew that my talk would only elicit excitement. Here, I know I’m going to stretch people’s beliefs. However, I see the feelings as they arise, I name them, and I can tap into past experiences of overcoming them to reassure me. Plus I plan to deeply challenge the negative biases as part of my talk and drum experience. Bottom line is: the impostor monster can still rise (bigger growth = bigger monsters), but I can see it right for what it is and tame it.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.” Marianne Williamson


I feel called to help other women overcome their impostor syndrome.

It’s a process of self reflection and bringing it into consciousness which is easy to follow. It includes:

  • Understanding the root causes and manifestations of impostor syndrome
  • Understanding impostor fears and what they are trying to protect you from
  • Identifying and shining a light on these beliefs from a kindness perspective
  • Recognising and defusing impostor feelings as they arise
  • Cultivating self-acceptance and self-belief
  • Embracing your unique strengths and talents
  • Learning to reframe and celebrate your achievements

If this is something you’d like to explore, I’m running an online workshop about it at the end of April, find out more here

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression.” Martha Graham.

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