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Imposter Syndrome: How it may be impacting your finances

You’ve probably heard of imposter syndrome before. But do you know exactly what it is? And did you know that imposter syndrome doesn’t just impact your mental health or opportunities at work? It impacts your finances too. Everything from not asking for a pay-rise to never taking the necessary steps to invest your money can be traced back to imposter syndrome.

The good news is, you can use it to your advantage, yes really.

What exactly is Imposter Syndrome?

It is likely that you have already experienced imposter syndrome at some point in your working life. Apparently, up to 70% of people have reported having suffered from it. And this survey found that 75% of executive women have experienced imposter syndrome. That’s a LOT!

In case you didn’t know (I didn’t) a syndrome is a group of symptoms, feelings or behaviour that often occur together. In the case of imposter syndrome, these symptoms include self-doubt, anxiety about one’s ability, concern about how others judge their skills or performance, and a feeling of being a fraud, i.e. that they have fooled others into thinking that they are better or more competent than they actually are and could be “found out” at any moment.

This idea was first coined by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, after a study of high-achieving women. The study, The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, found that despite professional and academic accomplishments, women who have this condition persist in thinking they are still not good enough.

How it impacts your finances

Regardless of whether you are employed or have your own business, a senior executive or climbing the corporate ladder, imposter syndrome can have a detrimental effect on your finances. This can relate to what you earn, how you spend and even how you manage and invest your money.

Here are the top five ways I see it play out in my clients:

1. Not charging your worth

When you doubt your own value then it’s difficult to ask for what you’re truly worth. This may mean that you don’t ask for a pay rise or don’t negotiate when you do get offered a pay rise. It can also show up as not being able to argue your case, by providing examples of why you deserve the pay rise.

But this isn’t only a problem if you’re employed. If you have your own business, it can make it very difficult to set your prices at a level that sustainably supports you. It can also mean that you don’t raise your prices, fearing your clients won’t see your value and stick around. This can have a very real impact on the longevity of your business.

Cash flow is king (or queen as I prefer it). The effect a regular pay rise or consistently raising your prices has on your wealth compounds significantly over time. Don’t let your imposter syndrome stop you from doing either.

2. Not “making the ask”

In the context of a work environment, this could be not putting yourself forward for a project or promotion. Imposter syndrome will have you thinking that you need to have 100% of the advertising role requirements to apply for a job or promotion. That’s simply not true (men certainly don’t think that way!). Even if it was, it’s likely that being a high achiever you would get bored pretty darn quickly anyway.

If you’re a business owner, this could manifest in you not following up with an interested potential customer. Your imposter syndrome may be whispering to you “Surely if they were interested, they would have called me?” Um, no, life doesn’t work that way. It might also mean that when you’re on a sales call you literally do not ask “Are you interested in working with me?

3. Overspending to overcompensate

There are a lot of societal expectations around women and the way they dress. No matter what industry you’re in or what level you are at, someone will have an opinion on your appearance. But that doesn’t mean we have to buy into that or that we could ever convince anyone (or ourselves) that we are more competent because we’re wearing an expensive outfit.

By all means, buy clothes that make you feel great – and are within your budget. But don’t let your imposter syndrome tell you that you need to spend thousands on a fancy wardrobe, cosmetic procedures to make you look younger, or going to the most expensive salon in town, just to project the image of success and competence.

4. Keeps you invisible

Your imposter syndrome wants you to stay small. However, a vital part of advancing your career or growing your business is in being noticed.

Being able to introduce yourself to the general manager or network with experts at a conference are great examples of ways to get noticed. Being able to connect with people that can help you grow your reputation, and advance your career, is much harder when your imposter syndrome is telling you “not to embarrass yourself”.

In marketing yourself or your business, your imposter syndrome may stop you from putting your face on social media; sharing your opinion; or spruiking the benefits of working with you. Don’t let it sit in the drives seat.

5. Stops you from taking control of your finances

One thing I see constantly with women is their imposter syndrome creating a mindset of “I’m just not good with money.” And I’m here to call it out as bullshit.

There is no such thing as being “good” or “bad” with money. Managing money is simply a skill that is learned – and it can be learned by you, regardless of what your imposter syndrome says.

Whether it’s learning to budget, getting your financial foundations in place or becoming an investor (because anyone can!), anything is possible. The sooner you shut down that inner critic and take action towards your goals, the sooner you can start living the life of your dreams.

How to stop it from jeopardising your financial future

A while ago, I came across this article on the BBC about imposter syndrome. It shows us how we can completely reframe it positively. A study quoted in the article found that imposter syndrome does not necessarily lead to a dip in performance, but can actually improve our performance. It allows us to evaluate, put in extra effort and motivates us to do better.

I love this concept because if we acknowledge and embrace our imperfections we don’t have to let them stop us. In fact, we can use them to our advantage.

So, instead of letting your imposter syndrome stop you from reaching your money goals and creating financial freedom, try this:

  • Take a moment to step back and try to recognise when your imposter syndrome is running the show.
  • Acknowledge the feelings and allow them to be there but don’t let them take over.
  • Think of how you can reframe the beliefs and stories that your inner critic is running.
  • Continue learning, whether that is about your work, your money or yourself and your emotions. Knowledge is power.
  • Get support. There’s nothing like an impartial point of view to help you identify your subconscious beliefs, change your thoughts or help guide you towards your goals with confidence.