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Imposter syndrome: how to recognise it and how to deal with it

08th Sep 2020

There are proven ways to combat imposter syndrome and stop feeling like a fraud, writes life coach and author Sue Belton

Imposter Syndrome is rife, particularly amongst women. This  largely comes from the age-old stereotypes we are told as women and the conditioning we have as we grow up — be ladylike, be quiet, let others speak first, be modest — you get the idea. And what makes this a double-edged sword, is that women generally internalise their feelings more, so any doubts, fears, or worries about our capabilities run around and around in our heads.

But there are proven ways to combat imposter syndrome to stop feeling like a fake or a fraud who’s about to get found out — and be the powerful, smart, confident woman you really are.

Identify it

One of the first things to do is to identify it — recognise the imposter voice in your head. Notice what you’re saying to yourself – the common phrases – whether that’s “they’re going to find out you’re not up to this soon” or “you really aren’t experienced enough to be doing this” (despite the evidence that you are). Then attribute that voice to where it came from! Often, in my experience, it is a strict pushy parent or a bullying teacher. Then when it shows up ask yourself the question “how is it serving me to listen to this voice?”. If it’s not, send it packing! 

What would you say to a friend?

Another key tip is to replace this negative, internal voice with a kind one — imagine you are speaking to a friend, and I bet the way you would address them is different to your own internal monologue. When that voice pops up (as it will if you dare step out of your comfort zone or try something new), replace it with the one you would use with that dear friend, plus whatever you would say to them! For exmple, “Hey, you’ve got this – look at what you’ve already achieved – you can do this!”

Record your achievements

When we are feeling doubtful of our abilities, imposter syndrome takes over and tells us to only focus on our (perceived) failures or shortcomings. We block out all the things we are really good at, all the great things we have achieved. I recommend collating any past positive emails, feedback reports, testimonials etc and ask for more – but make sure they are from credible sources – people you trust, respect, and admire (otherwise that imposter voice will completely rubbish them).  Then, keep them all somewhere you can readily see them, check in with them regularly, and turn to them when that voice strikes again! Take time to read through them, relive how you felt, and reconnect with the confident, positive person you were when you made all of those good things happen.

Find an imposter buddy

Find someone you know and respect, and then ask and agree that you can call her/him when the imposter voice kicks in. Share your imposter feelings with them (knowing they will set you right by listing your wins and achievements at a time when you really can’t remember them, let alone acknowledge them). If possible, have this friend also be someone who suffers the same, and have it be reciprocal, pay it forward.

Stop dismissing praise!

From now, when people do acknowledge your successes, do not brush them aside with an “Oh, it was really my team that made it all happen” or “It was purely down to luck, really”. Instead, say thank you.

Take a moment to let the acknowledgement sink in, and even share an aspect of what you did to make it happen.

Sue’s book Change your Life in 5 is availble now, and you can find out more about Sue and her coaching services at 

imposter syndrome

Feature image: Pexels