Have you ever had the feeling that you are not qualified for what you’re doing? That you just lucked into this role, and eventually everyone will find out? What you’re feeling is known as Imposter Syndrome, and it effects countless people worldwide.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

I’ve encountered this issue a lot in my transition from a manager to a leader; people confide this fear in me regularly. I’ve also experienced it myself!

Imposter Syndrome is a type of “fraud syndrome” where an individual doubts their own accomplishments and skills, to the point that they internalise those doubts. They believe that the doubts that they feel are true, and that everyone else shares them as well. The true fear of this situation, is that the imposter will be exposed as a fraud.

The thought process generally goes something like this:

  • I don’t belong in this role…
  • I’m not qualified to be here…
  • I’m going to make a mistake because I’m not qualified…
  • Everyone will know I’m an imposter!

…and then we spiral from there. But how can we identify and avoid, or prevent this?

Defeating Imposter Syndrome

What is important to understand, and remember, is that our accomplishments and our skills are ours, and cannot be taken from us. There is a reason that you are in the position you are. If nothing else, you have experience in the position you are in—you’re doing it right now!

Don’t compare yourself

One way that we can ameliorate the self-doubt that leads to imposter syndrome is to avoid comparing yourself to

Imposter Syndrome

                     via ErrantScience.com

others. We’re often tempted to look at other people in similar roles, or the roles we aspire to, and try to discern what makes them so qualified. Perhaps they have a degree from a famous school, or have worked for a big-name firm in the field. Maybe they have a few more years of experience than you do. Maybe they know someone. Maybe… they are feeling the exact same thing as you!

You never know what someone else is thinking, or what their situation is. In some cases, you may be looking at someone who did hit a lucky break, and hitched their wagon to a star. Maybe they are less qualified than you, with less experience, and lucked into a great role. If that’s the case, they are probably more anxious that you are.

Maybe they have spent years and years building a network and requisite skills, and you feel that you could never catch up—but they may be looking right back at you and thinking, “how can someone with less experience, so much younger than me, manage the same type of job I have? Where did I go wrong?” In reality, neither of you have gone wrong. You just took different paths.

Positive Self-Talk

Sometimes it seems a little ridiculous to remind ourselves that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” but in reality, the way we speak to ourselves is often much worse than what we would ever say to our friends or colleagues. It’s important to consciously remind yourself to be nice to yourself. If positive self-talk is difficult for you when things get tough, try a few simple strategies.

  • Keep a list of your positive traits, the things you’ve worked hard to accomplish, and the skills that you naturally excel at.
  • Keep track of your successes and accomplishments each week, each month, and each year. Really; write them down!
  • Keep a log of new things you’ve learned—consider starting a blog to keep track, and promote yourself at the same time!

It is okay to realise and accept how you feel when you are in a slump. We can learn a lot from those feelings, and sometimes we just don’t have the energy to be our heroic self every day. Take time to regroup and plan; but don’t let negative self-talk convince you that you aren’t worthwhile. Focus on your skills and accentuate your strengths!

Reach Out for Help

The first people that you should reach out to are your coworkers. Your team is there to support you and to get results. Nothing will make you look like more of an imposter than trying to go it alone. Not only are you more likely to make a costly mistake, but your team will see right through your false front of confidence. Be honest, make the most of your strengths, and let your team make the most of theirs. Allowing your team members to excel, and to help you, will improve the morale of your group, show that you have the confidence to admit when someone is more skilled than you, and increase your productivity as a team.

Beyond your team, you should reach out for specific help to build your skills and confidence if needed. Seeking out coaching, training, and professional development will help you build on your existing skills and become an expert in your niche. Continue to practice both your skills and the weaknesses that you’ve perceived in yourself. This will build your confidence, and develop your team’s confidence in and respect for you.

To help create a plan of attack, and get your emotions under control, consider contacting a career coach. I recently had the pleasure of working with a newly promoted manager, who knew she had the knowledge to excel in her field, but didn’t have the confidence to accept and embrace her new role. After a few sessions of working with this client, we had a breakthrough. She realised that she was just as qualified for her position as anyone, and that her mindset was the only thing holding her back. It was so rewarding for both of us to hear her say, “I know that I deserve this job now.”


If you feel like you could benefit from similar coaching—get in touch today!

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