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Imposter Syndrome: The Numbers

Imposter Syndrome: how common is it? We take a look at the figures.

I’ve spoken at 40+ events now. And yet before every single one of them I find myself experiencing incredibly uncomfortable feelings of fear. It’s not just the nervousness that comes with speaking in front of people. It’s an irrational fear that they’ll all “figure out” that I shouldn’t be there – that I’m not good enough or smart enough to be there. 

Imposter syndrome stopped me from applying for a few great roles earlier in my career. And it also stopped me from accepting a wonderful role after I had been offered it 4 or 5 years into my career. 

Generally, I’m able to call it out for what it is these days and I know the best thing I can typically do is just get away from whatever I’m doing, go for a walk and come back to it with a fresh head.

But I speak to lots of people in the industry I work in who experience Imposter Syndrome at different levels of severity. In the space I work in, it appears very prevalent (perhaps owing to the nature of the work or how people are measured). But I was curious about how many people experience Imposter Syndrome in the general population, so I went out and polled the public to gather the statistics. Here’s what I found.

Imposter Syndrome Statistics in a Nutshell

Our headline findings are outlined below. You can find out more about our methodology and get additional detail within:

  • 39% of the UK population experiences days when they feel bad at their jobs at least weekly
  • For 1 in 20, this is a daily experience
  • Searches in Google UK for “imposter syndrome,” have risen by 511% since 2016

 

How often do we feel feel bad at our jobs?

Asking people straight out whether they experience Imposter Syndrome is difficult because it means slightly different things to different people. So I took one angle – feelings of being bad at your job. I asked 2,000 people (with the help of Censuswide) the following question:

How often do you experience days where you believe you are BAD at your job?

A question posed to 2,000 people in the UK in October 2021.

imposter syndrome statistics 2022Here’s what they told us.

 

Everyday6.75%
4-6 days a week6.50%
2-3 days a week11.84%
Once a week11.89%
Once every 2 to 3 weeks6.50%
Once a month8.60%
Less than once a month (please specify xx months)1.15%
I never experience days where I feel I’m bad at my job24.19%
  • Only 24% of the population never experiences these feelings. 
  • For more than 1 in 20, they experience these feelings daily 
  • More than a third of people in the UK (38.98%) experience these feelings weekly or more frequently

Imposter Syndrome by Gender

Looking at the make up of respondents, we can see differences in how they answered the question based on their age and gender.

When we look at how men and women responded:

 MaleFemale
Everyday6.72%6.77%
4-6 days a week6.62%6.38%
2-3 days a week10.55%13.06%
Once a week10.13%13.54%
Once every 2 to 3 weeks6.10%6.87%
Once a month8.17%8.99%
Less than once a month (please specify xx months)0.83%1.45%
I never experience days where I feel I’m bad at my job28.34%20.31%

While the proportion of men and women who experience feelings of being bad at their jobs daily is very similar, where we do see a big difference is in the proportion of men and women who never experience such feelings.

28% of men say they never experience days where they feel bad at their jobs. But only 20% of women do.

Responses by Age

According to our statistics, these Imposter Syndrome type feelings are much more prevalent in younger people, as shown by the breakdown of responses by age.
 16-2425-3435-4445-5455+
Everyday12.88%10.15%8.52%5.01%3.47%
4-6 days a week13.30%10.75%9.15%5.31%2.06%
2-3 days a week23.61%19.10%16.40%10.32%3.99%
Once a week20.17%18.81%14.20%11.50%5.66%
Once every 2 to 3 weeks6.44%8.06%5.68%9.73%4.76%
Once a month4.72%10.15%11.04%10.32%7.34%
Less than once a month (please specify xx months)0.00%0.60%1.58%2.06%1.16%
I never experience days where I feel I’m bad at my job6.44%12.24%17.98%28.02%35.52%
  • Only 6.44% of those aged 16 to 24 say they never experience days where they feel like they’re bad at their job
  • At the opposite end of the scale, 35.52% of those aged 55 and over say they never experience such feelings
  • More than 1 in 10 16 to 24 year olds experiences these feelings of being 

Imposter Syndrome in Search

One way to gain some insight into how much a topic is playing on the mind of a population is to take a look at roughly how many people head off to Google to search for it.

According to data from Kwfinder.com, there were around 70,000 searches in Google UK for “imposter syndrome” every months taking an average of the last 12.

But let’s look at how this stacks up over recent years. We looked at the month of October in each of the past 5 years and found this:

imposter syndrome statistics search

MonthEstimated Searches in Google UK for “Imposter Syndrome”
Oct-1612100
Oct-1718100
Oct-1822200
Oct-1960500
Oct-2090500
Oct-2174000

It seems searches peaked during the first year of the pandemic, with a slight reduction into 2021. But comparing October 2021 with October 2016, searches in Google for “imposter syndrome,” have increased by 511%.

Other queries relating to imposter syndrome have increased in estimated monthly search volumes (Google UK) over that timeframe too.

Here are the numbers for some others:

QuerySearches in Google UK October 2017Searches in Google UK October 2021
imposter syndrome meaning303600
imposter syndrome definition70320
define imposter syndrome50390
overcoming imposter syndrome70320
imposter syndrome anxiety90170
imposter syndrome at workNA210

 

Imposter Syndrome Resources

There seems to be more conversation happening now about Imposter Syndrome. And, personally, I think it comes in all sorts of forms and causes all sorts of feelings. But, if it’s something you think you’re experiencing, some resources that might help:

 

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