“I don’t deserve to be here!”: How you can deal with Imposter Syndrome

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha, Commercial Director at ForwardPMX talks about her own experiences of imposter syndrome and offers some advice when it comes to supporting ourselves and those around us.

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha

Commercial Director ForwardPMX


It took me four days to write this article, and the irony is that the very topic of discussion was the problem!

Day one: I wanted to write an article about my experiences with imposter syndrome. I felt like I was off to a good start, until I stopped to read what I had written. Suddenly, I felt like a fraud. The very feelings I was trying to write about were getting the better of me.

“What gives me the right to talk about this?”

“Readers will think I’m a fraud.”

“Does anyone even want to hear what I have to say?”

“I should say something, but I’m not sure.”

If these sound familiar to you, welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Club!

Imposter syndrome refers to “a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” Imposter syndrome was identified in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. They wrote an article called The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention,  in which they explored factors which contribute to imposter feelings as well as therapeutic approaches.

Imposter syndrome can exist alongside psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem and can impact career development in different ways at different career stages. It is therefore important to address feelings and find techniques to overcome them.

I discovered that in order for me to cope, I needed to air out my negative feelings and build a support network.

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha

Imposter feelings have plagued me for years. I didn’t understand them and felt very much alone in these feelings. But that changed when someone I regard as a mentor mentioned that she suffered from imposter syndrome. That was my introduction to the term, and suddenly, I felt better because I now understood that what I was going through was so common, it had a name. But more importantly, I discovered that in order for me to cope, I needed to air out my negative feelings and build a support network.

Day two: I sat down at my laptop, stared at what I’d written the day before, and then decided to respond to my emails instead.

You might ask why I didn’t give it a go. It was because I had talked myself into believing that it was a waste of time because no one really wanted to hear from me and that readers would think I was a fraud.

In my experience, it’s hard to understand what’s happening in the moment. It’s not until after, when I try to analyse what happened that I realise that I am reacting to the expectations and demands I place on myself. When I’m not in the moment, I can perceive my lack of confidence. I then get angry at myself for hesitating and not being able to stand my ground, voice my thoughts or remain quiet because I incorrectly believe that my opinion does not matter.

Day three: I wanted to get back to writing but I didn’t pick up my laptop. Later that day, I got on a group chat with some of my close friends. I’ve known them for over 20 years and despite the physical distance between us, they knew exactly what I needed: encouragement, inspiration, and more importantly, support.

Day four: I approached the task with a fresh mind and a positive outlook. I hope this is worth the read.

I hadn’t always felt like an imposter. Throughout school and university, I was a high-achieving individual and a perfectionist. Back then, I also had a solid support network.

It’s not important to identify who is and isn’t suffering but rather to treat those around us with the same etiquette that we would expect for ourselves.

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha

What triggers imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome heightens the need for affirmation, leading us to constantly seek approval. And when we don’t receive it, self-doubt and feelings of low self-worth grow stronger.

A 2018 survey of 3,000 people in the UK found that 62% of respondents identified themselves as dealing with Imposter Syndrome. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, 66% of women versus 56% of men had dealt with crippling self-doubt and dread in the 12 months preceding the survey.

It is important for individuals to understand what the triggers are as well as how to overcome them. And, just as important, is that we all support those around us and help mature more positive feelings. It’s not important to identify who is and isn’t suffering but rather to treat those around us with the same etiquette that we would expect for ourselves.

Imposter syndrome is not limited to any one career stage. People who are mid-career experience imposter syndrome as they move through different stages of their career. Recent graduates, especially when they are the first generation to have been to university, also deal with it. Women and minorities disproportionately experience Imposter Syndrome.

So, how can we address imposter syndrome?

There are a number of things that we can do to support ourselves. And as managers and colleagues, we can support those around us who are dealing with it silently. Below are some areas that can help whether you are coping with imposter syndrome yourself or supporting someone who is.

Acknowledge your feelings:

This is probably the most important point for me. It is important for us to acknowledge both that the feelings are real, albeit not always justified, and the circumstances that they arise in.

Learn to accept praise:

For some people it is really hard to accept praise; it can seem forced or difficult to accept praise at the best of times. If you are finding it hard to accept praise, talk it through, ask what it was that prompted the praise, but more importantly believe it.

Create a support system:

It is difficult to know who you can trust when you second-guess what people’s opinion of you might be. Support can come from an old friend, a peer, a line manager, or your partner. Accessing that support involves discussing our feelings and needs; this takes trust. One of the challenges of imposter syndrome is the feeling of being judged, so if you aren’t able to talk to someone you know, try someone you don’t. The National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS) offers confidential services for the advertising and media industry.

Remember that no-one is perfect, and therefore expectations of perfection from others or yourself places an unfair burden and can only result in someone falling short.

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha

And for those of us who manage or supervise junior colleagues, informing ourselves about imposter syndrome is a great first step to supporting the people we work with.

Give positive feedback:

Praise is a difficult one, as it is often assumed that the feedback is not needed when an individual is highly skilled and appears to be flourishing. Don’t assume that is the case. It’s important to give praise whole-heartedly and back it up with specifics so that it is evident that you really mean it.

Provide support:

A 2016 study into work-family conflict found a positive correlation between imposter syndrome and self-reported conflict in managing work/life balance. However, in organisations perceived to be more supportive by their employees, this correlation was not as pronounced. This points to the importance for leadership at all levels to contribute towards developing a supportive environment.

Don’t expect perfection:

Remember that no-one is perfect, and therefore expectations of perfection from others or yourself places an unfair burden and can only result in someone falling short. Be realistic about your expectations and take into consideration any factors that might affect achievements.

Communicate realistic expectations clearly:

We can make it easier for everyone if we clearly communicate what we expect from ourselves and others. Understand what you are asking others to do in relation to their job descriptions, workloads, and capacities.


Self-reflection is an important tool in identifying, addressing, and overcoming internal and external challenges. I have found that taking the time to acknowledge my feelings and access my support network has strengthened my ability to deal with imposter syndrome. And realising that most of us deal with it at some point or another has made me more empathetic and supportive of my peers and junior and senior colleagues and advisees.

Guest Author

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha

Commercial Director ForwardPMX


Supriya has been working in Digital Marketing for 15+ years and joined ForwardPMX (previously Forward3D) in 2011. Currently a member of the Executive Management Team in EMEA, she has been the catalyst who has created roles and departments within the business, from Business Development through to Client Services and has actively contributed to building her current agency from 30 people to 1,000 and a successful merger. One of UK’s Top 100 BAME Leaders in Tech (2018) Supriya’s move into her current role as Commercial Director was another example of her taking on a challenge. Under this role, alongside revenue management, productisation and business development, she also heads up strategic partnerships for the agency, and is responsible for sourcing relevant media and tech partners to develop the agency’s offering and ensure they cater for the needs of their versatile client set globally.

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