Do Men Get Imposter Syndrome? [Episode 56]

Do men get Imposter Syndrome? Surely it's just women? Are men somehow immune to it? What does our latest research study really say? Want to know some surprising differences between the sexes? And how can we support men, as well as women, to set themselves free from that secret fear of being found out as a fraud or not good enough, despite outside-world evidence that they're doing well?

What you'll discover in this episode:

  • What Imposter Syndrome is and isn't - plus my 'lightbulb' definition
  • What the data says about men vs women
  • How the symptoms and impact of Imposter Syndrome are different for men
  • Why it's such a big men's Mental Health issue
  • Step 0 - what we need to do first to fix this
  • How solutions need to be tailored for men, vs women
  • How to help hundreds in your teams, for the cost of coaching a handful

Listen Here Now:

Resources From Today's Episode: 

Useful podcast episodes mentioned in this one:

  • Episode 7 - What's The Difference Between Imposter Syndrome And Confidence Or Self-Doubt?
  • Episode 19 - Is It Time To Forget The 'Feel The Fear' Message? [Episode 019]
  • Episode 29 - The Truth About 'Do It Scared': The Antidote and Which Of The Two Types Of Fear Is Trashing Your Confidence [Episode 029]
  • Episode 39 - Imposter Syndrome: Time To Rename It or Reclaim It?

Join in the discussion:

And here's where we're talking about today's episode on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Prefer To Read?

Click here to read the transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 56, the ditching Impostor Syndrome podcast with me, your host, Clare Josa. And today is all about do men actually get impostor syndrome? So this episode is for you. If it looks to you like the only people in the world who get impostor syndrome are women and it's a girl thing, and that men are somehow immune to it, exempt from it, and it doesn't affect them at all. Going to be sharing with you what our latest research study into this really says.

Some surprising differences between the sexes on impostor syndrome, and how we can support men as well as women to set themselves free from that secret fear of being found out as a fraud or not good enough, even when the outside world thinks they're doing well. So I lose count of how often I get asked. This one is do men even get impostor syndrome, or does it just affect women? So let's start by just agreeing what impostor syndrome is. I define it as the secret fear of being found out as not good enough, or a fraud, or not belonging, despite external world evidence that you're doing well.

And it's different to self doubt. Self doubt is about what we can and can't do, our skills and our capabilities, whereas impostor syndrome is deeper at who we think we really are. Who am I to do that? What if they find out I am a fraud? This is an identity level issue, whereas self doubt is more about skills gaps and some good old fashioned mindset level coaching and work can really make a difference.

You need different tools to deal with impostor syndrome. I could talk about that for a long time, but to keep this episode concise, I've put a link in the show notes you want to look for episode seven of the Ditching Impostor syndrome podcast. What's the difference between impostor syndrome and confidence or self doubt? So, another way that I define impostor syndrome, and I often think of this as my light bulb definition, because when I'm doing a keynote talk for an organisation or a conference, it's often the one where everybody, you see the faces in the room go, yeah, that's me. Is.

It's the secret fear of others judging us the way we judge ourselves. So just let that land for a moment. The secret fear of others judging us the way we judge ourselves. Now, we're just wrapping up the last bit of work on the white paper for the 2024 impostor syndrome and Burnout research study, and we have found that 62% of women have struggled with impostor syndrome daily or regularly in the past year. To an extent that's affecting their performance, their well being, their mental, emotional and physical health.

And one in ten people is thinking of quitting their job due to impostor syndrome and burnout every single day. This is up a fifth both of those stats since the pandemic. And the majority of people think this only affects women. So if 62% of women have struggled with it daily or regularly in the past year, what's the stat for men? 59%.

So they're pretty much the same. So what's going on? Why do people think it's just about women and men don't experience impostor syndrome? There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the very original research on the impostor phenomenon, as it was then known back in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Eames, only included women.

Who knows why? It's probably that's who they had at their disposal to research and work with. Their future research did include men. They found that men also experienced impostor syndrome. But by that point, the connectionin people's heads was formed.

Impostor syndrome and women. Then there's another factor. Our research studies over the last ten years have found that women are 20 times more likely than men to ask for help with impostor syndrome and to talk to people about it. So they're the ones standing there saying, this is an issue for me, I need help and support, what can I do? The men were 20 less, 20 times less likely to speak up to ask for help.

They push it on down. Another factor that leads to this belief that it's only women is diversity. Networks are so often the ones who are running the initiatives to deal with impostor syndrome. They can see for themselves. And it's backed by our research studies, the direct impact of impostor syndrome on diversity.

So they're being incredible, they're stepping up, they're having the initiative, they're making a difference, they're organising events, they're bringing in people like me to do a workshop or run a keynote. And the thing is, these networks are predominantly run by, and often run for women. One of the things I implore keynote event organisers to do, if it's, for example, a women's network, running it, is to make sure they also invite men. Because when you invite only women to an event on impostor syndrome, you're accidentally reinforcing the stereotype. If you want to have something for just women, let's do something smaller.

In a women only space after the main event. But really avoid falling into the trap of marketing your impostor syndrome events or solutions or trainings just to women. It just reinforces that gender stereotype. So you can see how all of these added together can really perpetuate the myth that impostor syndrome is just something that women experience. Now, not only is this unfair on women, and it can cause people to make assumptions and judgments about how women behave, how they feel, what they will achieve, how they might self sabotage, it hurts men as well, because it means the solutions are being focused only on women.

And men need support too. So here's what's happening with the men. Not only are they significantly less likely than women to admit how they're feeling and experiencing impostor syndrome, and to ask for help with it, mainly due to shame, they're much more likely to push on through that fear, which can be hugely harmful. And if you want to understand why pushing on through the fear, the whole field of fear and do it anyway type message really needs retiring. I've got a link in the show notes for a podcast episode on that is it time to forget the field of fear message?

That is episode 19 of the Ditching impostor syndrome podcast. So our research found that in addition to the deeper shame that men are feeling, because impostor syndrome is about who we think we are, not what we can and can't do, it's down there at that identity level. We found that men are five times more likely than women to turn to drugs, alcohol and medication to be able to cope with the stress and anxiety that pushing on through the fear from impostor syndrome is causing them. It is a huge risk factor in men's mental health. There are massive risks of them feeling forced to push on through to be that stereotypical strong man.

And we also find that the alpha male culture in the most senior levels of too many organisations, that competitiveness means that men are scared to show anything that could be seen as a sign of weakness for fear of being judged, excluded, blackballed, criticised. So this makes it even harder for them to speak up when they need help for impostor syndrome. So where impostor syndrome from our research studies tends, all of these are generalisations. There are always exceptions to every rule. It tends to make women hold back, shut down, not go for opportunities to shine, tone down their ideas, share the credit when praised, volunteer a butt when praised.

Men instead are pushing on through that fear. They are pretending they are okay. They feel like they've got to really hide those emotions. So there's another podcast episode that could be really useful for you. If you want to find out more on this, it's episode 29 from the Ditching Impostor Syndrome podcast.

That's 29 the truth about do it scared, the antidote and which of the two types of fear is trashing your confidence? And it really is time to remove this myth that impostor syndrome only affects women. Because one of the things that's happening is men are desperately scared of admitting to experiencing the words impostor syndrome. If we could rename it to something else, it might open up the opportunity for more men to feel safe, inexperienced in sharing that they've experienced it. So another useful podcast episode for you is episode 39 from the Ditching Impostor Syndrome podcast.

Is it time to rename it or reclaim it? So what can we do to support men in accepting and sharing that they've been experiencing impostor syndrome? And to get access to the solutions that allow themselves to truly set themselves free from this once and for all? So we need to start by moving away from the either or thinking it's either women or it's men. This can affect anyone.

Someone's sex or gender identity doesn't make them more or less predisposed to experiencing impostor syndrome. It's driven by other factors. Then, a step zero, we need to remove the taboo. So part of my huge mission, what's driven me to specialise in this field for over 20 years, is a deep desire for it to become as acceptable to ask for support with impostor syndrome as it is with, say, Microsoft Excel. Now I've actually got a gift for you to help with removing the taboo.

If you get my impostor syndrome hacks app, even if you are just a free member and not a paid member, there is a course in there called Impostor Syndrome 101. One of the lessons inside that course is all about how to remove the taboo. It's a video training and there are a couple of PDF resources you can download on how to remove the taboo in your organisation, how to raise the conversation, discussions you can have as a team at your team meetings. And it is a fantastic step zero for starting to turn this around. When we remove the taboo and people no longer feel afraid of being judged, shamed, rejected, even taken out of consideration for an opportunity to shine, be more visible or get promoted when we take that away and make it completely judgement free asking for help with this, can you imagine how many more people will step up and ask for help?

How that could shift in a positive way the company culture, the mental health, emotional health, productivity and performance benefits, simply from removing the taboo. Another thing that we need to do is look at genuine equity. There is a classic meme that goes around social media every now and then looking at a parent taking their two children to see a football match. One of the kids is quite young, one of them is a bit older. They can't see over the barrier, so they can't see the match, so the parent gives them a box each, and equality means they each get the same sized box.

The older kid can now see over the barrier, the younger kid can't. Equity is giving each of them the sized box they need so they can both see the match and there's a genuine level playing field. It's similar with impostor syndrome. The solutions that tend to work best with men are slightly different to the ones that tend to work best with women. Of course, there are always exceptions and it also comes down to culture and environment.

For men, they tend to prefer to work with an external certified impostor syndrome coach on a One-to-one basis before moving into something like a men only group discussion with women. They can really thrive in that group coaching environment because they feel so much safer sharing their emotions, their thoughts, their opinions with other women. And they also can learn and support and grow from each other's experiences. Again, I'm generalising, but from our research studies, we find that women tend to do really well when working with somebody who's actually an in house impostor syndrome certified coach or master coach. Men tend to prefer to work with someone external, but the women tend to find it actually reassuring that it's somebody that understands the situation that they're in who can empathise with that.

Again, there are exceptions to every rule. Another thing that's incredibly important to help men with impostor syndrome is to give them permission to stop feeling like they always have to be brave and strong. This isn't then about creating a pity party or using impostor syndrome as a badge of honour. It's about genuine well being. The knockon effects for general male mental health are enormous from this one tiny cultural shift, giving men permission to stop feeling like they always have to be brave and strong.

When you can facilitate this in your organisation, then it means you can move away from the highly competitive alpha male culture at the most senior levels, which we found to be one of three hidden barriers to the gender pay gap and gender equality, and you improve the mental health of the people leading the company and that has a ripple effect through everybody else that's reporting into them. And finally, the impostor syndrome hacks app. So we find on things like our group coaching programmes like the impostor syndrome boot camp or the influence lab, we tend to be about 90% women in the delegates who join us for those programmes and only 10% men on the impostor syndrome hacks app. It's about 50 50. And we've asked people why this is, and the men are telling us it's a much more private way to get support, to take inspired action that they know is research backed and proven and that can help them to ditch impostor syndrome in just five minutes a day.

And remember, women were 20 times more likely than men to want to talk about this and ask for help and share their experience with others. Men tend to experience this in a much more private way, and the ability to do so through an app meant that we found men are much more likely to take action, to see breakthroughs and to start setting themselves free from impostor syndrome once and for all. So the impostor syndrome hacks app is a brilliant solution for men as well as women. Now, obviously, sending the men in your teams who are experiencing impostor syndrome, remember, it's 59% experiencing it daily or regularly in the past year. To an extent that will be impacting their well being, their performance, their productivity and possibly even their teams.

If it's turning the manager toxic into a micromanaging bully boss, it's not possible to pay for every single one of those people to go and work with a fully qualified impostor syndrome certified external coach. If you are looking for an external coach, I've got a gift for you, which is ten questions that you need to ask an external coach before committing to work with them on impostor syndrome. You can find that in the impostor syndrome hacks app under bonus resources, or you can register to get that PDF. It's like a workbook you can go Tenquestions that's 10 questions.

But if you don't have the immense budget required to send everybody to go and work with an external coach, then I strongly encourage you to build your own in house resources. For example, my natural resilience method practitioners are affectionately known as impostor syndrome first aiders. They can help probably about 80% of people who are experiencing impostor syndrome. It's only about 1015 or so percent that actually need to go and work with a certified impostor syndrome master coach. And these people can then be in house coaches supporting people with impostor syndrome.

I know back in my engineering days, I quit the engineering career I loved back in 2001 due to impostor syndrome. I thought I was the only one. Yeah, I thought everybody else had their act together. I thought I was somehow broken. If there had been somebody in my organisation that I could have gone to talk to about this, I'd still be an engineer.

But then you wouldn't be getting this podcast episode and I wouldn't have written ten books. So it swings and roundabouts. But having those people in house to be able to do that foundation level work to help eight out of ten people that are struggling with impostor syndrome to set themselves free from it once and for all is transformational. And then you just need a sprinkling of certified impostor syndrome master coaches for those who might need the deeper work. And I'm putting a link to find out more about that and potentially apply to join us on our next cohort for that certification programme in the show notes.

You can also find it at naturalresilience method so that wraps up what I wanted to say today about do men actually get impostor syndrome? Hopefully that's dispelled some of the myths for you. And my biggest prayer is, if you're a man listening to this and you've been struggling in silence, please use this as your invitation. Your permission to stop feeling like you've got to pretend to be brave and strong, to find the people that can give you the support that can help you to set yourself free from this so you don't have to keep pushing on through the fear. And if there's no one in your organisation, get in touch.

Yeah, maybe you're the champion that needs to bring this work into your teams so that you can help. Hundreds for the cost of coaching a handful. And make sure you go to You can join us as a free member, an essentials member or a courage club member. And if you do, you could be experiencing your first breakthroughs even before the end of the day today.

I hope you found that episode useful. I will be back next week with episode 57 when we're going to be talking about but I need impostor syndrome to perform and other pretend benefits of experiencing impostor syndrome that secretly keep us stuck. I hope you have a great week.

Loved This? Want More?

Want to stay in the loop with the latest news and events? Get Clare's free occasional What's On newsletter: