What is Impostor Syndrome? What can we do about it?

by | Empowerment, Mindset

When you look at yourself in a mirror, what do you see?

Do you see an accomplished woman smiling back at you or do you see a pretender who worries that one of these days, people will found out that you are not as gifted as they think you are or as you should to be? It’s ok to feel that way. When you think about your career, your business or your life so far, do any of these wicked thoughts pop into your head? “I am not fit for this job. I don’t deserve to be here.” “I’m not worthy of those praises. I’m just in the right place at the right time.” “I am a failure as a/an ______ (fill in the blank: speaker, writer, entrepreneur, parent).” “I attribute my success to luck and my team who did all the work.” “Why would anyone believe what I say?” Whether you want to admit it or not, you are suffering from a phenomenon called “Impostor Syndrome.” It is defined by CalTech Counseling Center as:

“a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.”

This feeling of self-doubt and intellectual deceitfulness are more common with high achieving individuals in every field; from CEOs to celebrities, college students to solopreneur. The more they advance in their positions or gain successes in their business, the worst they are afflicted by it.


Actress Natalie Portman, a Harvard alumna, said these in a touching commencement speech several years ago. “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth, I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”

Photo Credit: People Magazine

Howard Schultz, the chair, president, and CEO of Starbucks revealed that he, and CEOs he knows, feel the same way: “Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.”

Photo Credit: Entreprenic.com

Renown author and poet, Maya Angelou, said ‘I have written eleven books, but each time I think. “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and, they’re going to find me out.”

Photo Credit: PBS.org


1.   Face it head on Understand and accept that it exists. When your inner critic tells you that you are a fraud, acknowledge it. Tell it, “Yes, I hear you.” But remember that it is lying to you. Then counter that claim with a positive thought – “I am experienced, smart, and capable of delivering my message that will help solve their problems.” This is a good segway for number 2. 2.

2.   List your successes. Write down your successes no matter how small or how big they are. Look back at your successes when you were a child, a young woman and at present. Write down what people tell you you’re good at even those you think you don’t deserve. Every morning, look at them and read them to yourself – aloud if there is no one else around. You don’t want your neighbors to think that you flipped your cork ? When you get into the habit of vocalizing positive affirmations, your mind will hear you and your inner critic will be silenced. 3.

3.  Talk to someone. If you have a mentor, talk to your mentor or speak with your accountability partner, your loved one or your friend whom you trust. One who will listen to you without judging. Better yet talk to someone who experienced impostor syndrome in the past. She will empathize with what you are going through. Remember the time when we talked with someone about how we felt, what happens to that feeling? It either went away or the heavy feeling we were experiencing was lightened. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

4.  Do not strive for perfection. I remember my coach, Niamh Arthur’s mantra,  “Connection not perfection.” Concentrate on accomplishing your personal achievements. Add valuable information to your writing or conversations. Let me put it this way. Do you remember that obnoxious person that kept bothering you with nonsense? What happened if you focused on something else after acknowledging the presence of that person? The person went away. The same thing will happen to your inner critic. Although it does not go away, it will remain quiet.

5.   Stop comparing yourself to others. Even though you know people who started at the same time as you and are now they are more successful than you, don’t envy them. How about those who are way more successful than you? Should you be jealous of their successes? No. Instead, find out what made them successful. How do they think? How do they act? How do they feel? If what they did is humanly possible, then you, too, can do a humanly possible act.

The workbook below will serve as a reminder of how to vanish Impostor Syndrome each time you find yourself in that situation.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Skip to content