Imposter Syndrome

22 Nov

Ever felt like you are a 'fraud', living in fear of being uncovered as one...?

“Now is the time that everyone finds out that I can’t really do this”

“Who am I to think that I deserve this opportunity – it doesn’t happen to people like me?!”

“I can’t believe people will like me – there must be lots of people who could do better…”

Ever felt like that or similarly? The feeling that you are a fraud and living in fear of being ‘uncovered as one’, or as someone who cannot really do what they say they can, and who can’t see their achievements through the fear fog.

How do you get over this ‘imposter syndrome’?

Actually, it can be a help to get the odd feeling of insecurity about oneself – it means that you care about what you are doing and really want to make a difference. A bit of checking in with what you are doing and self-reflection to see that you are on course is a good thing. You may well agree with me that there are a lot of people in public life who seem to have a level of delusion about their own abilities that is quite scary… However, staying in a fearful mind-set for any length of time can be corrosive and can shut us down.

Beating imposter syndrome is not to enter the world of the fantasist. It is to not allow self-doubt to grip you and stop your progress because of a fiction that you have conjured up through fear.

In order to combat imposture syndrome, we have to recognise it and take a good look at why it is happening. Usually the answer is FEAR of the unknown: of stepping out somewhere new where we can’t quite be sure what is going to happen to us, and our thoughts turning to the negative. This can trigger creation of the so-called ‘stress hormones’, adrenaline and cortisol, and cause an overreaction to a non-life-threatening, although potentially challenging, situation.

This can happen to us in times of conflict, or when we are expected to be an expert on something, or when we have to speak up. Performers suffer from it a lot. You would probably be surprised at the names of some of those performers:

“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”
Meryl Streep, as quoted in Marie Claire Magazine

The first thing to do: breathe. Take a deep breath and calm yourself down. When we become fearful and tense up, we quicken up our breathing and don’t breathe in enough, which can induce panic.

Know that you are not alone in feeling this – even Meryl Streep has suffered from it!

Have a look at what you are trying to achieve and break it down into bite-sized pieces (how do you climb a mountain? Bit by bit…)

Allow yourself to look at and own your achievements; know the value that you provide.

Avoid over-thinking a situation – just get on and do it.

Understand that everyone makes mistakes – it’s how you get successful in the first place. It doesn’t mean you’re a fraud, it just means that you have learnt something that you should avoid doing again, and you learn what doesn’t work, so next time you can try something different.

After a big disappointment for example (which happens to us ALL), you might need to cut yourself a bit of slack and allow yourself to process feelings of worthlessness to get through to the other side. The trick is not making it a permanent or lengthy state.

If it happens a lot, then you need to speak with someone about it who can help you to reflect on yourself to move you back to a place of feeling authentic – a friend, family member or coach. Don’t compare yourself to others, you are your own unique self and that is what you bring to a situation.

I admit it – I watched Love Island! Like many others I was very taken with the contestant, Ovie Soko. I felt he seemed utterly relaxed and happy in his own skin – not a hint of feeling a fraud. He was quoted in The Guardian Magazine on what he hoped the programme showed about him:

“If there’s one thing I hope it did show, it’s that being you is dope. Being original and being yourself is cool. If you’re one of one, think about how valuable that is. Every single person – regardless of race, colour, gender – is one of one. Now that is some valuable shit. Excuse me for the language.”

Being you and believing in yourself and your abilities… now that is a really powerful position to be in!

To book a free consultation with Fiona about coaching or to book onto one of her training workshops to help you to become confident and competent in how you present yourself to the world and believe in yourself, contact her at or through the contact page on the website.

Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching

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Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching

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