Unmasking Imposter Syndrome – 5 Key Lessons


Suzy Ahn

January 13, 2023 | 3 min read

What do Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, and Maya Angelou have in common? They’re internationally recognised, powerful leaders… and they all have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. In fact, studies show that the majority of female leaders have experienced imposter syndrome.

A couple of weeks ago, we were joined by 20 women in the digital industry at our Women in Ecommerce lunch in Sydney. The theme of the lunch was to unmask imposter syndrome, by discussing how we can overcome feelings of inadequacy and improve our relationships with our work.

To kick off the event, we got into the nitty gritty about our experiences with imposter syndrome and our practical tips to overcome it. Then over fresh oysters, succulent rib-eye steaks, and a bit of wine, the rest of the table connected by sharing their own stories.

Here are 5 valuable lessons I took away from the Women in E-commerce x Shemarkables Lunch.

1.What Would Chad Do? (WWCD)

Chad (n) /tʃæd/: a stereotypically alpha-person who can be obnoxiously cocky and bold.

One of our guests said in times of doubt, she asks herself, “what would Chad do”? We all have moments when we’re faced with an opportunity that scares us: whether it’s an invitation to do a presentation, a new job opportunity or asking for a pay raise. Approaching situations with a WWCD mentality has helped her be more assertive and proactive.

“Embrace your inner Chad.”

2. Advocate for those around you

A common theme brought up at the table was the importance of giving your colleagues the platform to speak, especially those you know who tend to be quieter. Empowering others helps create an environment where ideas and growth are encouraged. Not only can your team achieve more, but you can prove yourself to others as an equitable, open-minded leader.

3. Advocate for yourself

It’s just as important to advocate for yourself as it is for others. At the lunch, we discussed examples of situations and ways to advocate for yourself:

  • If someone forgets to credit you for work you’ve done: “Hey, I noticed you forgot to mention my name when sharing about the success of XYZ. I’d love to have been recognised for the work I did.”
  • If you don’t understand something: “I’d love to understand XYZ further to help me do [insert action] better. Could you please explain this again for me?”
  • If your manager is giving you too much work: “I’d love to help, but I’m at my capacity at the moment. Once XYZ has passed, I’m happy to get on this then.” 

4. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries

Another key message that kept coming up was not to forget that your working hours are for work AND that your work is for working hours. Saying no and communicating when you feel your boundaries are being crossed are conducive to a healthy work environment. We shouldn’t have to feel apologetic for setting boundaries.

5. Lead with others in mind

We were joined by some amazing women who have been leaders in the e-commerce industry for years. But no matter what the role, I found that we all appreciated a leader who models to their team the four lessons above. Doing so shows others it’s okay to speak up, set boundaries, and be recognised for their contributions. Imposter syndrome is a symptom of the wider work environment, so showing our colleagues that we care about their personal growth and their boundaries is a win-win for everyone.

If you’re interested in connecting further or learning more about Women in Ecommerce, please check out the Women in Ecommerce hub. There you’ll find talks about overcoming imposter syndrome from our WIE program founder, and the Senior Digital Performance Manager of Krispy Kreme.