Imposter Syndrome: How to recognise and overcome it

Imposter syndrome, self-saboteur

You have the job title you always dreamed of, a company car to envy and you appear to be your boss’s go to person, yet despite these markers of success you are convinced that the only reason you are in this position is through serendipitous luck.

You can’t believe that is down to your talent and capability and so you spend most days doubting yourself and lurking in the shadows waiting to be found out. The self-doubt renders you disabled and leaves you questioning everything you do.  Am I good enough?  Is she/he better than me?  Am I going to mess this up? You may even sit in a meeting desperate to share an idea, yet you don’t seem able to formulate the words in your head, let alone out loud, and so, you say nothing and kick yourself when a colleague presents the very same idea you had been thinking about for 20 minutes.

Does this strike a chord?  If yes, you could be suffering with Imposter Syndrome, a psychological phenomenon first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. The good news is you are not alone as it is estimated that some 70% of successful people have experienced the syndrome. Effecting high achievers and/or perfectionists it is rife among those working in the senior ranks in business, so you may well be taking lunch with somebody who feels the same.

Watch out if you are the type who set huge targets and has high expectations because that’s when Imposter Syndrome likes to take a bite.  Failure to reach your huge goals can result in strong feelings of self-doubt and anxiety plus thoughts that you are not as capable as your peers. Imposter Syndrome can also impact experts such as lawyers, doctors or professors. These people can feel a weight of responsibility to know everything about their field of expertise and if they don’t have an answer it can lead them to worry about being exposed as inexperienced.

Imposter Syndrome stifles natural talent and creates difficult working cultures as those suffering hide their true- and best-selves. Imposters often require a stamp of approval from leaders and rarely celebrate successes. They can demand too much from those who work with and for them.

I believe the route out of Imposter Syndrome includes five things.

Acknowledge the Facts

You have the experience, qualifications and accolades for the role and therefore you are credible. You were recruited to do the role by HR specialists and/or leaders who know their stuff.  Remind your inner critic of these facts often.

Celebrate your Successes

One of the things those suffering with Imposter Syndrome are very good at is failing to acknowledge what they have done. To mitigate this, celebrate everything you achieve, however small.  Write them down, give yourself a pat on the back and revel for at least a moment before moving on the next.

Accept your own stamp of approval

Learn to accept your validation as the best validation. You don’t need constant praise and recognition from external sources if you see your own praise as the highest honour.  This act of self-respect will help you develop a higher level of self-worth

Reframe the thoughts

When the wicked inner critic tells you that you are not good enough, not clever enough, a fraud, reframe the thought to the positive opposite. Repeat this opposite several times so to drown out the inner critic and train the unconscious mind to think differently.

Show you can be vulnerable

This is the ultimate superpower for those suffering with imposter syndrome.  Be comfortable with asking for help or saying, ‘I don’t know’.  You don’t have to have all the answers and you certainly don’t have to be perfect.  Your vulnerability is your secret weapon. Use it.

Angela CoxAbout the author

Angela Cox is a mindset mentor, inspirational speaker and best-selling author. She uses her tried and tested coaching and NLP techniques to help people to develop the motivation, discipline, confidence and drive to succeed. To find out more about her and her coaching visit:

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