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Silencing your inner critic, and letting the inner champion speak louder


04 Mar 2020



Ahead of International Women’s Day 2020, Lindsay De Gouve de Nuncques, Director for Europe and Americas at ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) encourages  everyone to challenge their preconceptions about themselves and define their own route to success

When you think about your career, do you feel that you truly deserve your success?

Does it cross your mind to think of yourself as a fake or inadequate, perhaps cheating the system to climb the ladder, in spite of perceived weaknesses and inadequacies? This phenomenon describes imposter syndrome, a common set of feelings that affect people from all walks of life.

In the late 1970s, psychotherapists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes reported seeing many female patients who were high achievers but deeply fearful of failure.  In their research paper, ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention’ they wrote: “Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise”.

But research has since found no association between imposter syndrome and gender, despite the misconception that women are more affected by imposterism than men. Other studies have also found that even students can report such feelings, highlighting that it’s not just an issue for high achievers. The bottom line is whoever you are and wherever you are in your career journey, your inner critic can come out. But it doesn’t have to stay out.

‘Rising above your inner critic’ is the theme ACCA’s championing for this year’s International Women’s Day 2020. We’re encouraging everyone to challenge their preconceptions about themselves and define their own route to success.

Everyone can experience the self-doubt and worries of inadequacy, which constitutes imposter syndrome. If you feel that any of this applies to you, a good start is to understand that there are strategies and methods that can help to keep imposterism in check.

People can find it very difficult to cope effectively with feelings of imposterism. After all, some of the doubts may indeed be warranted – perhaps you do have weaknesses in terms of skillset or behaviour. But it is likely that some or even many of the issues are caused by irrational beliefs that exist only in your mind; you may have strengths that you are downplaying or failing to recognise.

To combat these feelings, we can change how we think about our own careers and progression and how we can better coach ourselves, as well as others.

Practical support can be sought through getting advice and feedback from knowledgeable colleagues to identify areas to improve on and make changes to, such as skills, qualifications or behaviour to be more effective at work. Another strategy to alleviate imposterism is to seek more emotional support. In situations of feeling inadequate, talking through worries with sympathetic friends can be helpful. Seeking professional support can also be a cure.

Challenging unfounded beliefs about yourself can be aided through directly challenging the distortions. One tactic people find useful is to list your own accomplishments to remind yourself of your success. Another way to silence your inner critic is to set goals and track progress, then celebrate the achievement. It’s also wise to think about how you see other people – negative thoughts can be toxic. If you allow yourself to be critical and judgemental of others, then you’re setting yourself up to be critical of yourself.

In this social media age, when a seemingly throwaway negative comment can in fact be incredibly hard hitting, there’s a growing need to be kind to yourself, as well as others. Being kind is not about being ‘nice’ all the time – offering constructive and considered feedback is a kind and thoughtful thing to do.

Recognising your inner critic is essential to rising above the negativity it can bring to your personal career journey and well-being. And accepting that it doesn’t discriminate who it affects is a leap forward to confronting workplace bias and recognising the importance of resilience in relation to success. It’s time we give voice to the inner champion, and let that inner advocate speak out.



About ACCA

For media enquiries, contact: Cecile Bonino-Liti, Head of EU Affairs, ACCA Brussels.

E: ; Twitter: @ACCAViews;

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 219,000 members and 527,000 students (including affiliates) in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 110 offices and centres and 7,571 Approved Employers worldwide, and 328 approved learning providers who provide high standards of learning and development.

Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA has introduced major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here:


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