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Monday 9 May 2016

On 21 April, the Haberman Ilett Women’s Network hosted a mini-masterclass with career coach and mentor Jo Maughan entitled “Handling the imposter syndrome – tips for managing your inner imposter”.

As explained by Jo, the term “imposter syndrome” was coined to define a syndrome suffered by high achievers who believe their success is not deserved.  They instead dismiss their success as attributable to luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more competent than they believe themselves to be.  These thoughts persist, despite external evidence of their competence.

Whilst suffered by both male and female high achievers, research suggests it is more prevalent in high achieving women.  Sufferers can experience high levels of anxiety and stress, and even physical symptoms such as headaches and back pain.

The aim of the event was to bring female legal professionals of all levels together to demonstrate that, as individuals, we are not alone in our concerns, and to reassure us all that by challenging our self doubt, we can reduce the impact of the imposter syndrome.  One change we can make, as proposed by Jo, is to acknowledge ourselves and our qualities more.  For example, by visualising one of our proudest moments, we can strengthen our self-belief and highlight our positive personal qualities that we may otherwise take for granted.  Using this information, Jo encouraged us to think about what guidance this previous success could provide us with in our current situation, or when facing future moments of self doubt.

A lively debate followed Jo’s talk, with questions on topics as diverse as why the condition may be more prevalent in women, the effect of society and upbringing on self doubt, and the potential effect of “over analysing” our thoughts and feelings in the work place.

The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive, with guests commenting that they found the chance to stop and reflect on past successes useful.  However, many acknowledged that celebrating achievements felt unusual, as it is not something we do on a regular basis.  Being invited to focus on the positive aspects of our characters and the strengths we display when facing challenges, rather than just moving on to the next issue requiring our attention, was also a welcome change for many guests.

The evening concluded with cheese and wine, a chance to catch up with existing contacts and to meet new ones, as well as plenty of opportunities to discuss the evening’s talk.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and in particular thanks to Jo for an inspiring talk, and we look forward to seeing everyone at the next Haberman Ilett Women’s Network event.

By Liz Perks, partner