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Defeating Imposter Syndrome – One Day at a Time

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Here’s how I think about it. People with Imposter Syndrome* (and that’s a lot of us) are fundamentally and deeply fearful that others will uncover that they’re not “the one.” One day, they’ll be “found out.” I know how that feels. I experience it every day.
Now, don’t think that you can’t do anything about it. There are strategies to quieten those fears and bring your greatness forward.
Imposters think of themselves as needing to be perfectionists, experts, soloists, or “superpeople”, but they don’t believe they really are. I’m in the superpeople category—I try and quash the fear by working really hard and being very productive. It’s exhausting.
If you “hold back from… starting or scaling your business” (Valerie Young**), you’re likely to experience imposter syndrome.

Symptoms of IS

* Feeling like a fraud even when there’s evidence of success
* Self-doubt
* Sensitive to feedback
* Negative self-talk
Anything that reminds you that you’re “not the one” is a sensitive spot for you. Notice how you act when you’re in IS fear.


How do imposters behave: they try to know everything, they go it alone, and they don’t share ideas with others. They hide their fear and try and act as if they’ve “got it all together.” They can go really quiet, or they can become aggressive. Sound familiar?
People who are very confident don’t doubt themselves. In fact, their confidence can lead them to dismiss others’ ideas or have judgmental attitudes. According to star Wharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant***, imposter syndrome says something good about you and your professional abilities. Grant believes imposter syndrome is a professional superpower—a sign of ambition and competence, a sign of precocious talent, a sign that you’re empathetic. It allows you to question yourself: your decisions, your goals, your leadership, how you work with people and help them grow, and how you are willing to be an open book.
Tennis star Serena Williams, chess champion Magnus Carlson, and pop star Lady Gaga have all felt like frauds. You’re in good company.

Unlearning Imposter Syndrome

I can’t say it better than Valerie Young**, whose article is reproduced below.


As we head into 2024, our mission remains the same:
To address the (avoidable) impact of impostor syndrome on individuals and organizations.

Here are a few steps you can take at the individual level to address impostor syndrome:

1. Reflecting on 2023, identify specific ways impostor syndrome impacted your work/life? For instance…

* Did overworking or over preparing cause you to miss out on time for family, friends, self-care?
* Did you hold back from going for a promotion, starting or scaling your business, or sharing ideas for fear of being “found out”?
* Did unhealthy perfectionism cause projects to take longer than necessary?

2. If you could only pick one of these new year goals, which would it be and why?

* Be less of a perfectionist (a hard one we know!)
* Practice a healthy response to failure, mistakes, & constructive criticism
* Stop being afraid to speak up in meetings or classes
* Be less sensitive to constructive feedback
* Understand that a certain amount of fear and self-doubt is normal and not a sign of ineptness
* Not expect to know everything before jumping in
* Expect a learning curve. Understand that some things will come more easily than others, e.g. writing vs. public speaking; leading vs. technology, or visa versa
* Not be afraid to ask for help when I need it
* Stop expecting to perform at an equally high level in everything I do — at work and/or at home

3. Finally, what is one small action you can take toward achieving this goal? For instance, you might:

* Choose someone you respect to give you constructive feedback on something you did — and then apply it
* Speak up at least once in the next meeting or class
* Make a list of routine tasks where “good enough” is truly good enough

The Bottom Line: You are no impostor!

Even if you focus on just one of these new behaviors, it will bring you closer to finally seeing yourself as the bright, capable person you really are.


Article can be found at

Final note:

Imposter syndrome is not a medical condition, although psychologists have been interested in it for some time. Putting yourself out there as a leader is dangerous as far as youy brin is concerned, so it tries to have you pull back and stay safe. Don’t listen – just be your bold, unique self, and go for it!


*The term “imposter syndrome” has been around since the 1970s, when Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Chance (both psychologists who worked together) created it.

** VALERIE YOUNG is a global thought leader on impostor syndrome and co-founder of Impostor Syndrome Institute. In 1983 she designed the first training intervention to impostor syndrome and has since delivered her Rethinking Impostor Syndrome™ program to over half a million people around the world at such diverse organizations as Pfizer, Google, JP Morgan, NASA, and the National Cancer Institute and at over 100 universities including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Oxford. Valerie earned her doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst… Although her early research focused on professional women—over half of whom were women of color—much of the original findings have proven applicable to anyone with impostor feelings. Her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: And Men, Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It has been reprinted in six languages.

***ADAM GRANT. His book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You don’t Know, is a great source for coming to terms with your IS.

Need to talk?

Book a time with me to talk about your imposter syndrome.

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