Fear of failure. Chronic self doubt. Afraid of being found out. Feeling like a fake. Believing your accomplishments are due to luck. Never really owning your success.

5 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome: what to do when your success makes you feel like a fraud

This cluster of feelings is more prevalent and common than you think. Some of the most successful people you know have suffered or still suffer from them. Together these feelings are better known as Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is the collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evidence of success. It’s this sense that despite external proof and existing success that you are, in fact, a fraud. And that any minute now someone is going to come along, tear off your mask, and prove it to the world.

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Imposter syndrome doesn’t only manifest in feeling like a fraud – though that is one of the most common sentiments felt by people dealing with it. Below is a list of some of the thoughts that someone dealing with imposter syndrome may have.

Failure is not an option
If you are to avoid being found out, you must never, ever fail. But the flip side of this is that if your success is too great then you have an even larger responsibility to succeed. Plus, now you’re even more visible and high profile, so there’s an increased risk of being found out. This is a double edged sword that causes people to attempt to succeed, but also fly under the radar. They need to succeed, but they also are unable to enjoy their success for fear of being seen.

I’m such a fake
This thought arises due to a deep belief that the individual lacks knowledge or competency. The person might believe that even though they come off knowledgeable, it is somehow all a rouse. Any moment someone could come along and strip away their promotion or awards because, clearly, the reason that he/she got them was due to an error.

I just got lucky
If you don’t believe that you have earned your success, then there must be another explanation. Either you got tons of help or it was just luck that you succeeded. Unfortunately, this sentiment comes with a side of disbelief that you could ever replicate your success again.

It’s not that big of a deal
With the similar sentiment of trying to fly under the radar comes the belief that if you did succeed, and it wasn’t luck, then it must be that the task was easy or you had loads of help through it. People with this feeling will struggle to accept any compliments or praise and will be quick to show how much support they got – to the point where they make it seem like the team did all the work.

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  • Awareness
    • As with rewriting any thought pattern, the first step is to recognize the thoughts. Not everything we think is true – even if it is about ourselves. Be aware of what you are thinking and when the thoughts bubble up.
  • Rewrite
    • Remind yourself that these thoughts are normal, particularly when you’re faced with a new  position or environment. The bigger the change and the further out of your comfort zone, the stronger the imposter feelings are likely to be. Take a moment to remember that it’s normal to feel this and that not everyone knows everything. Consider the change room to grow.
  • Talk
    • Be ok with discussing your feelings with others you trust. They may also be feeling this way and the shared experience will help you bond – and you will both feel better.
  • Kindness
    • Be kind to yourself. You are entitled to make mistakes every now and again. Even if you “fail”, look at is as a learning opportunity. On the flip side, remember that you have earned any success you’ve had and reward yourself.
  • Support
    • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The change that you have moved into might turn out to be more than you can handle at first. Don’t wait until you’re completely burned out before you ask for support on working through this change.
5 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome: what to do when your success makes you feel like a fraud


Low self confidence is one of the major effects of imposter syndrome. Not everyone suffering from low self confidence is dealing with imposter syndrome, but the effects can be much the same. Even if you don’t have fears of being found out, you may still be struggling to appear confident in an interview or in front of your clients. Below are some steps you can take to bolster self confidence, regardless of whether the reason is imposter syndrome or not.

Fake it til you make it
I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase thrown around before. You may have tried it or perhaps you eschewed it for fear of feeling inauthentic. If you’re dealing with imposter syndrome you would already be feeling like you were faking it, so how would more help?

The goal with this technique is not to fake knowledge, or hedge your personality, but to fake your self confidence. I don’t want you to pretend to be someone your not, but you can pretend to be the confident version of yourself.

Imagine being confident. How do you look? What do you notice about your body? Back straight, shoulders down, chest out? Is there a lightness in your body, a bounce in your step? Figure out what it looks like and feels like to you and start to embody those features.

Even if your mind isn’t feeling confident at first, the sheer act of physically holding yourself as if you are confident will cause you to become more confident. In fact, just standing in a power position for a few minutes (even in a bathroom stall) before an important event will help bolster your confidence and improve your results. Check out this awesome TED talk for more info.

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Watch and Learn
Observe the behavior and styles of those around you that you admire. Don’t just pick one person to be like, pick many. Decide what it is that you like about the way each person leads or speaks to their team or handles pressure – and then borrow it. You can build your confident, self assured style by learning from and emulating those around you. No one person is going to be a perfect match for the way you want to be in the world, so do be afraid to look outside your group or workplace for role models.

One step at a time
Part of the problem with imposter syndrome (and perfectionism – and low self confidence) is the misconception that you’ve got to get it right the first time. For example, no one is going to be given a big promotion, or be sent to another department, and not have to deal with a learning curve. Perhaps even a steep one. And with that comes the higher chance for mistakes.

Instead of trying to think that everything needs to be done successfully right off the bat, consider how you can take this change one step at a time. Focus on the small improvements that you can make (like taking lessons on a new software, for example) to help yourself be successful in your new role. Remember that goals are moving targets – they are always shifting and changing. It’s ok to be reworking them as necessary to continue to move forward.

Imposter syndrome (and lack of self confidence) is something that I see frequently with my clients. The fear that these feelings generate often stops them from moving forward and taking those opportunities that would help them succeed.

You can get it passed it. You don’t have to let these feelings run rampant and hold you back. Making yourself aware of your thinking and stepping into your confident self can help you reach your goals – and then enjoy the success they bring you.

If you struggle from imposter syndrome or low self confidence, I can help you. There are many ways that coaching can help you get over these feelings and help you reach those goals you have. Just fill out this form and we can talk about how I can help you.

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