Nicola Sturgeon says she 'absolutely' suffers from 'imposter syndrome'

‘I don't think there is a woman alive, particularly working-class women, who don't experience that at some point in their lives’


Katie O'Malley
Wednesday 15 May 2019 13:09 BST

Nicola Sturgeon has opened up about suffering from “imposter syndrome”, revealing she regularly questions her position as Scotland's first minister.

On Tuesday, the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader told community radio station Sunny Govan Radio that despite her prestigious role in politics, she isn’t immune to lacking in self-confidence about her abilities to do her job.

"Even though I have been in politics for a long time, I have been First Minister for four years, there will be days when I think 'should I even be here? Is somebody about to find me out?’” she told show host Anne Hughes.

Imposter syndrome is a a psychological phenomenon which comprises of intense feelings of self-doubt to the extent where people feel like a fraud, either in their personal or professional lives

"I don't think there is a woman alive, particularly working-class women, who don't experience that at some point in their lives, and probably quite regularly,” Sturgeon continued.

"I just think it is natural. In some ways I think women should work to overcome that, and be encouraged to overcome it, but there is a bit of humility as well that I don't think we should ever lose completely.”

Sturgeon, who is also the MSP representative for Glasgow Southside, added that she has often thought over the course of her career that she should be more “self-confident” in order to overcome her feelings of “imposter syndrome”.

Earlier on in her career in politics, the politician said that she took herself “far too seriously” and adopted an "adversarial, almost macho approach, because that's what I thought you had to do”.

Nevertheless, she added: "For women that is just a double whammy because if you behave in that way you are described as being unwomanly and not being a real woman. And sometimes if you behave more like a woman you get described as being weak and not serious enough."

The First Minister advised anyone that feels “imposter syndrome” to “find a way of being yourself, whatever that is, and not try to be something else, be yourself”.

Following Sturgeon’s appearance on the radio show, the politician posted a message to Twitter about feeling “imposter syndrome” which has received more than 2,300 retweets and over 300 comments.

One Twitter user commented: “This is great to hear.

“As a younger woman in a senior position early in my career I feel it is more challenging to have my voice heard- I have to at times speak twice as loud to be heard half as much. Great to hear positive encouragement.”

Another added: “Unfortunately most politicians are the opposite, they think they’re more qualified than they are!

“Good to see you talking about this issue Nicola, one that quite a lot suffer from.”

The term “imposter syndrome” was first coined in a study conducted in 1978 by Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes of Georgia State University, titled “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”.

The study describes imposter syndrome as a term used to “designate an internal experience of intellectual phonies”, noting that it appears to be common in successful women.

Sturgeon isn’t the only high-profile celebrity to have spoken about feeling imposter syndrome over the years.

In December, former first lady Michelle Obama opened up about how she succumbs to the psychological phenomenon on a regular basis.

"I still have a little impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you're actually listening to me,” Obama attendees at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

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She added: "It doesn't go away, that feeling that you shouldn't take me that seriously. What do I know?

“I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.

"If I'm giving people hope then that is a responsibility, so I have to make sure that I am accountable.”

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