Imposter syndrome: How to stop fear and finances killing your dreams | Women's Agenda

Imposter syndrome: How to stop fear and finances killing your dreams

A new survey has found 31% of women say fear of not being good enough stops them pursuing their dreams, but only 18 per cent of men admit to the same.

The AMP/Newspoll research also found 65% of women, but only 56% of men, cite money as a reason for not following their dreams and investing in their talents.

Paralysing fear of failure – sometimes dubbed ‘imposter syndrome’ where a person is plagued by self-doubt or constant worry about being found out to be a fraud – is thought to affect more women than men.

The term was coined in 1978 by researchers Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes whose study of 150 successful women in various professional fields found many worried they were not as intelligent as they were perceived to be and that their talents had been over estimated by others.

Harry Potter star Emma Watson and other award-winning actresses including Michelle Pfeiffer and Kate Winslet have all admitted to suffering from the syndrome. Even the literary great George Orwell was said to have been deeply troubled by a sense that he had everyone fooled despite his success.

So why do so many of us – women in particular – allow money and fear to dictate our lives? There are many theories, but if you identify with this then you must start by acknowledging that there are plenty of things you can do about it. Here are five tips to overcome whatever it is that is holding you back.

1. Change how you think

Changing how you think is easier said than done, which is why it can seriously pay to seek help – speak to a psychologist and investigate cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is designed to help you change habitual and unhelpful patterns of thinking. If you’d rather go down the self-help route consider reading Change Your Thinking, a classic text which has helped thousands of people and is often recommended by psychologists.

2. Ask for a pay rise or a promotion

A study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US found men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do, and that when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 per cent less money than men do.

And numerous other studies, including one by Hewlett-Packard, show women apply for a promotion only when they think they meet 100 per cent of the criteria, whereas men will apply when they think they meet just 50 per cent of the job requirements.

So, if you think you deserve a pay rise or a promotion take a leaf out of the book of men and don’t hesitate to ask – not doing so could cost you thousands over the years. The worst that can happen is that your boss says no. Even if that happens you’re then in a position to honestly evaluate if you like the job enough to stay despite the pay or if you want to start applying elsewhere.

3. Apply for funding

Ask yourself the question: what is holding me back here? Often you’ll need to look in the mirror to find the answer. But if there are also real financial constraints think about applying for a scholarship or for funding. AMP’s recently launched Tomorrow Fund is giving away up to $1 million a year to help clever Australians of all ages and walks of life who are working towards a goal or dream and need some financial help to get there.

It might be a community project, an invention, social enterprise or maybe something left-of-field that has never been attempted before like setting an obscure world record. Applications are open online until 31 August 2014, you can apply here.

4. Take your financial bull by the horns

A Federal Government report titled Financial Literacy – Women Understanding Money found that women are less confident than men in their ability to invest with only 63 per cent of women saying they have the ability to invest money, compared to 75 per cent of men. The report also found that 77 per cent of women, compared to 84 per cent of men, say they have the ability to plan for their long-term financial future.

A lack of confidence around managing money may hold some women back. To become more confident you need to firstly educate yourself about investing, managing money and debt and planning for the future. There are so many resources available – check out the Government’s MoneySmart website or book yourself on a course. It doesn’t matter how you educate yourself, the point is just to do it. Put simply: stop procrastinating and take your financial bull by it’s horns.

5. Soak up inspiration from the success of others

Knowing that other women have succeeded before you can be inspiring. Look around you, it might be a friend or a neighbour, or read any widely available stories about successful women. Google, download to your e-book or cruise the biography aisle of your nearest bookstore – inspirational stories are everywhere. Think you don’t have time to do this? All of us have the same number of hours in a day, the difference is in how we use our time – next time your internal dialogues starts chattering away about how you don’t have time, stop and instead analyse how you spend your time. Most of us can find time and can make small changes that over time make a big difference. Make time, not excuses.

Lastly, remember that while a lot of us feel we are held back by fear and finances, it doesn’t have to be this way: sometimes the biggest hurdle is the one in our minds.

*Claire Esmond is an Authorised Representative of AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd, ABN 89 051 208 327, AFS Licence No. 232706.

Any advice given is general only and has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, before acting on any advice, you should consult a financial planner to consider how appropriate the advice is to your objectives, financial situation and needs.

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