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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: What To Do When You Feel Like A Fraud

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: What To Do When You Feel Like A Fraud

When I won the Oscar, I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take it back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, and say “Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else.”
Jodie Foster
Sometimes I wake up at night and go, “Oh, damn! Here we go again! What were they thinking? They gave me this role; don’t they know I’m faking it?
Renee Zellweger
There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.
Sheryl Sandberg



I saw these quotes the other day and laughed. Laughed because they seemed so ridiculous, how could these incredibly talented individuals say something so silly? At the same time, I could feel their discomfort.

Something about reading these quotes really struck home with me, probably because I, like you, struggle from time to time with imposter syndrome.

If you’ve never heard of imposter syndrome, it’s time you did.

Essentially imposter syndrome is when you are sure the world will discover you are a fraud. That you’ve been ‘faking it’ all this time. And that you don’t know what you’re talking about, you have no idea what you’re doing and all your accomplishments are the result of a lucky break.

How familiar does this sound? Do you suspect, the only reason you got that promotion, accepted to grad school, or our success in business is because of some freak chance, or even worse, because you tricked someone?

The result, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting to be found out.

The ironic thing about imposter syndrome is you would never for a minute doubt your friend’s capability. You are certain they are smart enough, skilled enough and completely deserve their success.

But not you. Basically, you’re a fraud waiting to be publicly exposed. Any day now they will find out you really have no idea what you are talking about or what you are doing.

Just like Jodie, Renee and Sheryl.

Studies show that it’s often the smartest, most creative and competent people who suffer from imposter syndrome.

What can you do when you know you have a problem with imposter syndrome?

 How can you replace feeling like a fraud with a more realistic view of your skills, strengths and weaknesses? Here are some tips:

1. Accept you’ve played some part in your own success.

Keep a “success file” where you capture your achievements and collect copies of “thank you” notes, performance reviews and testimonials.

2. Just the facts ma’am.

Look at the evidence. What projects have you worked on that others have benefited from? What work have you done that people have appreciated and found useful?  Approach how you feel from a more logical perspective. It will help.

3. Share your feelings with someone who you trust.

When you suffer from imposter syndrome it is easy to isolate yourself. Instead, take action. One of the fastest ways to dissolve the fear of being found out is to share it with a friend or peer that you respect.

In the process of sharing, you will feel understood and your friend will be able to support and remind you that you too deserve the success you’ve experienced.
They will remember and remind you of the times you worked until 3 am on a project that the client loved, or how you spent years researching and writing your thesis, and when you worked on your business between 6 pm and 2 am every night while you were getting established.
In a nutshell, they don’t have your skewed view.

4. Accept that you are human.

You are better than you were and you learn and grow every day. Accept that, at times you will make mistakes and other times you will hit a home run.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: What To Do When You Feel Like A Fraud


5. Shift your focus

Look at the results of what you are doing, the value you add and who you help instead of hyper-focusing on your self-doubt. When you get out of your own head, you spend less time fussing, more time contributing and you will feel more confident and fulfilled.

6. Remember, the people who suffer from imposter syndrome are usually the most capable and committed people.

The ones who are really faking it, often actually believe they are better than they are. And believe it, we know who’s skilled and who spends too much time boasting….yep, we know 😉


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