Imposter Syndrome



You’ve worked hard your entire life. Made all the right decisions, or at least most of them, and you did it! You’ve made it into the club. You’ve made partner, managing director or even hung your own flag. Maybe you rocketed up the ladder to this position, maybe you chipped away over time and finally got your shot. You’re a smart capable overachiever, so of course you deserve this promotion. Your talents speak for themselves, right? It’s what you’ve always wanted, right? Then why do you wake up, in a cold sweat at 3am panicked that today is the day they figure it out. It was all a fluke. You got lucky, maybe you’ve been faking it until you make it, but making it didn’t change the faking it part.


This is called Imposter Syndrome. You’ve likely heard of it, it’s one of those corporate buzz phrases going around. With good reason. It turns out pretty much everyone on the planet suffers from this feeling in some place of their life. Some people are more efficient than others at keeping their Imposter Syndrome at bay.


The executives I work with all suffer from Impostor Syndrome in some way or another. It seems the more accomplished they are, the more they experience the paralysis or anxiety of the sometimes undetectable and other times crippling insecurities that come along with feeling like they have somehow pulled the wool over everyone's eyes to get to where they are today. It’s been suggested that 70% of professionals have suffered from imposter syndrome at some point in their career.


We don’t typically talk about these fears and anxieties that can creep in. Which is not surprising. The stronghold of Imposter Syndrome is the fear that someone may find them out and discover their secret that they don’t know what they’re doing after all. Being in this position is isolating, and exhausting. Without addressing these limiting beliefs, one can add a whole slew of anxiety, stress, self sabotage and lack of confidence that can eventually play out negatively in the workplace and at home.


So now that we have identified that this is clearly a problem, one that most of us can’t stay away from entirely, what do we do about it?


We might not be able to steer clear from this part of ourselves all together, but we can manage it.


We can teach ourselves to use our Imposter Syndrome strictly as data when it shows up. We can learn how to become unattached emotionally while we learn about our own Imposter Syndrome almost like a detective.


Here are a few tips to help you move past your Imposter Syndrome:


Make a list of your accomplishments


At the end of each year I ask my clients to list their accomplishments for the year in each part of their lives. Focusing on the wins that got them to where they are today. Not only is this an opportunity for gratitude it can be a useful way to recognize their contribution which is the first step to help them internalize their accomplishments. By doing this they start to challenge the limiting beliefs they may have about themselves. After they make their list I’lI ask them the following questions:


  • What about YOU made this successful?

  • What unique skills and strengths can you identify that created these outcomes?


An inability to internalize and acknowledge one’s accomplishments is an important theme of the Impostor Syndrome. By learning to challenge limiting beliefs and showcase one’s strengths you can cultivate more helpful patterns of thinking that can help to leave your Imposter Syndrome behind.


Is there someone you can talk to?


Find someone outside of work, a trusted friend or someone outside of your typical circle, a coach perhaps. And you don’t need to talk to them in the direct context of Imposter Syndrome. Instead, talk to them about some other topic related to your feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps you can discuss a temporary struggle you have and the lack of confidence you have around solving it. If you keep it conversational and not too deep that can help you to normalise the feelings you are having and perhaps bring a different perspective, which might lead to a new way to think about it.


Visualize success


Professional athletes do it all the time. Take some time before your meeting, or presentation or pitch and visualize yourself making a successful presentation and knocking it out of the park. This simple task can help with the performance-related stress that Imposter Syndrome can manifest.


Our beliefs are fundamental to the nature of results we create for ourselves. By reassessing our beliefs objectively, we have the opportunity to challenge and reshape them.