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The Imposter Syndrome: What You Can Do!

Have you ever felt that even when things appeared to be going well in your life,  the nasty truth in your mind, was that you weren’t good enough, didn’t belong, or that your "incompetence" could be found out? Imposter Syndrome is a belief that your success is not due to your own effort or your own skills. You’re convinced you are a fake, a phony... if "they" only knew that while you present a confident face,  you’re anything but!  Guess what – this is more common than you might think:

Research tells us that 70% of people have felt this way!

This includes Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, Michelle Obama, titans of tech, captains of industry, sports stars, entertainers – this is a human thing!



We’re unable to internalize or take in our successes because on a belief level, we don’t trust that we have the skills:  "Oh its no big deal, I was just lucky, great team, the stars aligned…" We’re plagued with self-doubt – feeling not good enough, and this stops many people, women in particular, from making bold moves in their lives – it’s like an inner tormentor is running the show.


Deeper why: 

It can come from childhood: whether you were consistently acknowledged, encouraged to express your authentic self, or had to conform, shut down in order to receive love. This affects how you respond to stress, to compliments, to believing in yourself and trusting others. It’s related to your attachments style which is a whole other layer, but in short, it contributes to whether you overwork like crazy to feel good enough but you still doubt your skills, or you avoid stepping up and speaking out, for fear of being found out.


I had one client, a fabulous, successful, seemingly confident woman, who was plagued with feelings that she wasn’t enough, she worked intensely during the day, then felt she had to do more catchup at night. She received accolades, but no matter what, couldn’t take it in. I will share with you some of the strategies that helped give her relief.


I myself have had the good fortune to experience many wonderful milestones in my life, and it’s still hard for me to take it in, to savor it. "There’s still so much I want to do..."  so this is present for me too. The good news is there are strategies that work, and let’s go through them now.


1. Call out the inner critic and reframe with your inner coach: 

The research of Dr. Valerie Young describes 5 types of Imposter Syndrome. Do you most resonate with: 

  • The Perfectionist - Unrealistic expectations make even small mistakes feel like failure.
  • The Superwoman/Superman - They work longer hours, stay later to prove they always win.
  • The Natural Genius – If they can’t master it first try, they feel shame and self-doubt.
  • The Soloist – Asking for help makes them feel like a failure or a fraud.
  • The Expert – ever more certifications because they feel as though they will never know enough.


Everyone has an inner critic – give yours a name, and call them out! Then, call in your imaginary inner coach, your vision of your strongest future self to stand beside you when the anxiety comes up. Take a few breaths and imagine your strong future self, right next to you, giving you the courage and confidence to move forward.  


2. Flip the script:

We all have disempowering things we say to ourselves. The challenge is to be aware when they arise. Instead of blindly accepting that old pattern as truth, interrupt that thinking.  How? Have a plan in place to reset that inner monologue. Replace the old critical voice with a new script or mantra:

I'm not doing enough ----> What I'm doing is adding value.

I'm a phony ------->  I'm proud to be a learner.

I don't know enough --------->  I know more than I think, and can help.

When you turn the attention from a preoccupation with your own fears to focusing on how you help/be in service to others, the Imposter Syndrome cannot thrive.


3. Be Yourself:

Sometimes, the Imposter Syndrome arises when you feel you have to pretend to be a certain way to be accepted, or to succeed. That creates an inner conflict (which feeds the Imposter Syndrome) because you are not being your true self. Instead, consider stop trying to fit into a box, and start doing things in alignment with who you are, your values, your style, your truth. You will feel more authentic, less like an imposter. You are also putting your unique spin on whatever you are doing. And because of that personal touch, you’ll feel that you can own it – this reflects you! 


This Confidence Competence Loop: Being your authentic self is a great motivator, and as you gain experience and skills that are aligned with who you are,  you inevitably become more competent. Naturally, your confidence grows, and this makes you want to stretch yourself even more, which makes you feel yet more confident... 


4. Track it:

When things go right, be aware of why. Is it the system, or the process that you used to build that skill? It wasn’t magical. You were brave enough to try something and with effort, over time, with a growth mindset, you built a skill in that area. Now SAVOR it! In the words of Rick Hanson, "take in the good," for 10 seconds, 20 or 30 if you can – don’t rush to the next to-do item on your list. PAUSE and take it in.


And while you are at it, create a journal just to jot your accomplishments and the qualities in you that made them happen. This serves as a reality check to remind you, on the harder days, of who you really are.


5.Who you are is not what you do:

What you do does not determine your worth. You were born with a light, you were meant to shine. You are part of something greater, and that energy is within each of your cells too. You are part of it and it is part of you. Your accomplishments, degrees, paycheck, #followers, perfect family or coolest clothes do not define you. They don’t get to determine if you are worthy. In the words of Rha Goddess, “That’s already decided by my source.”


Q: What do you do when the Imposter Syndrome acts up - what is one action you can take going forward?


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