Trade Tuesday: You are NOT an imposter

Imposter syndrome is the province of the successful, of the high achievers, of the perfectionists. That’s the irony’ 

Kate Hilton

The legendary poet and activist Maya Angelou, who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and received nominations for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, once said about herself, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now! I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” 

She is not alone.  

“You don’t know what you’re doing.” 

“Any moment someone will catch you out.” 

“What made you think you could pull this off?” 

These are the thoughts that run through the mind of many women in business, even those who have achieved the highest of successes. 

The Imposter Syndrome is that feeling that you don’t actually deserve the successes you have achieved – a fear that at any moment you’ll be found out to be a complete fraud. Identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, IS – originally defined as when “despite outstanding accomplishments, women [persist] in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise” was believed to only affect women, but subsequent research has shown that men are also affected. That said, women tend to be more susceptible because they produce less testosterone – the confidence hormone. 

Imposter syndrome comes from a fear of failing, or anxiety about humiliating oneself. Ultimately, it is driven by a desire to be perfect and it can impact your ability to achieve your God-given purpose. 

Farrah Star believes that rather than seeing IS as an evil ailment that bedevils women, we should embrace it as a secret weapon; 

Because rather than the corrosive, ambition-sapping phenomena women believe they have been saddled with, Imposter Syndrome is a miraculous self-checking gauge that delivers excellence. It means we prepare. We question. We delve deeper and wider into problems than anyone else. And here’s the other thing Imposter syndrome bestows upon us: it is an internal control valve which alerts to when we are in our discomfort zone…where accelerated growth happens. Feeling fraudulent is a sign you are being challenged. And when we’re challenged that’s when we make true breakthroughs. 

~ Farrah Star 

When that little voice in your head tells you that you are a fraud, convert that fear that you feel into excitement. Both excitement and fear involve the same chemical process in the brain. Tell yourself you’re excited not nervous. Studies show that by relabelling stressful situations as ‘challenging’ as opposed to ‘terrifying’ dampens down the hormones that activate the part of your brain responsible for fear. Then remind yourself that you have done it before. Grab a pen and paper and start writing down your key wins and accomplishments over the past year – a visual reminder of who you actually are versus who you feel like you are in that moment. Celebrating your successes will give you the juice necessary to step forward & do whatever you need to do to grasp & excel at the opportunity before you. 

Yes, Imposter Syndrome is common amongst women in business, but perhaps the way to overcome it isn’t to bullishly push through &/or ignore the way you are feeling, rather, to use these emotions that would otherwise hold you back – to propel you forward. 

With love, 
Mucha Mlingo 
Board Advisor, OWIT Nairobi 
Founder & EQ Practitioner, PTS Africa

At OWIT Nairobi, we have a vision to empower women to transform communities through global trade. We are committed to creating opportunities for women to connect to global markets. As a Business Support Organisation, we work closely with our members to build capacity & ensure access to the necessary tools to build businesses that can go global. 

For more information about OWIT Nairobi – visit our website, 

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