imposter syndrome saps confidence

How to beat imposter syndrome and stop feeling like a fraud

9 September 2019

Do you feel like you’re not good enough? That everyone, except you, knows what they are doing? That you are only where you are because of luck, chance or even a mistake? You are not alone. These thoughts and feelings are typical of imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is common

It’s believed around 70% of people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in their livesi. They feel as if they don’t belong and constantly worry that at any moment they’re going to be found out as a fraud. So, they are convinced they don’t deserve the success they have, even when they have worked hard to achieve it.

Constant thoughts

People with imposter syndrome have minds continually in overdrive; telling them all the reasons why they shouldn’t be where they are.

If they get promoted, they will tell themselves hardly any one else applied.  If they recruit a prestigious client, they think it was only down to chance because the client picked the first person they came across.  In meetings, they expect to be taken aside and told they aren’t qualified for the job they are doing.

Imposter syndrome is unpleasant

Living with this going on inside your head day after day can be distressing and unsettling.

People with imposter syndrome can end up losing the courage to take on new challenges and opportunities.  It can hold them back from leading a confident and meaningful life.

As confidence is eroded, everything becomes more difficult. Over time, this can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.  For more on improving confidence, check out creating self confidence.

Imposter syndrome fuels anxiety

While impostor syndrome can motivate some people to achieve more and more, this comes at the cost of constant anxiety.  They may try to control their feelings by over-preparing or endlessly working harder and harder, to “make sure” nobody discovers they are a fraud. So, they end up caught in a vicious cycle, believing the only reason they survived is because of all the extra work they put in. 

For ways to improve motivation without anxiety, have a look at improving motivation without trying too hard.

Evidence doesn’t change beliefs

However well they do, it doesn’t change their belief that they’re an imposter. In fact, the more someone with imposter syndrome accomplishes, the more they feel a fraud. People with impostor syndrome are often perfectionists as well. They think every task they tackle has to be done perfectly, and they rarely ask for help.

Anyone can be affected

Imposter syndrome affects all kinds of people in all walks of life. Men and women are affected roughly equally.  People can feel like they’re imposters as employees, partners and parents, as well as socially. Anyone can experience it, including heads of billion pound companies, famous actors, managers, graduates and students.

New experiences can be a trigger

It can be triggered by getting a new job, a promotion or starting university. These new experiences can leave people feeling as though they don’t belong and aren’t capable.

You can’t tell from the outside

From the outside looking in, its impossible to tell who has it. As it’s fuelled by the fear of being found out, people don’t talk about it and so no-one realises how common it is. Those that have it continue to suffer alone, feeling isolated and inadequate.

Don’t worry if this is you, there is help for imposter syndrome.

When I work with clients with imposter syndrome, we work together to change the thoughts, feelings and actions that are holding them back. We look at their core beliefs and find ways to change them. Care is taken to always work at the client’s pace. I take time to support clients to develop the skills they need to make changes. I teach ways to manage anxiety, thoughts and emotions so clients can start to live their lives to the full. We work together to develop self confidence and a more realistic view of their achievements and abilities.

Try my self-help tips below to help you beat imposter syndrome.

imposter syndrome hard to spot

Find your tribe

Feeling you belong promotes confidence. The more people look or sound like you, or have the same interests, the more confident you tend to feel.

Try and find people who are like you and make you feel good about yourself. One way of doing this is by helping others in the same situation. If you see someone who seems awkward or alone, you could ask them a question to bring them into the group. As you practice your skills by involving others, you will build confidence in your own abilities.

Over time, you will build up a support network around you, of people who think and feel the same as you. Once you have your support network in place, you could try talking to them about how you are feeling. The beliefs which fuel imposter syndrome tend to take root because they are secret and hidden. Once you open up, you will discover that most people feel the same as you.

Change your thinking

Stop expecting yourself to be perfect. No one is. Avoid “all or nothing” thinking, that if one aspect isn’t perfect, the whole thing is a disaster.

Instead of focusing on doing things perfectly, try and do things well enough. So, rather than spending 10 hours on an assignment, stop after eight. Or let a friend read a draft of something you’ve written, even if you haven’t yet polished it to perfection.

If this makes you anxious, try taking deep, calming breaths to help you cope with the feelings. And remember to reward yourself for taking action.

Use self-hypnosis

Hypnosis allows you to experience helpful thoughts and images as if they are real. It can help you to learn to change your self-critical thoughts and to respond in new and helpful ways.

Using self-hypnosis you can learn to imagine yourself belonging and feeling successful. This helps you to think, feel and act as if you do. In the long term, it can help you to banish feelings of not being good enough and replace them with more positive beliefs.

Don’t fight your feelings

Don’t struggle with your feelings of not belonging or your fear of being found out. Instead, try to lean into them and accept them. Taking long, deep breaths can help you to allow yourself to experience the feelings.

It can also help to put distance between yourself and the feelings by recognising them as thoughts. As the feelings surface, try saying to yourself, “I am having the thought that I am a fraud”.  This allows you to experience  it, and, at the same time, to step back from the emotions so they don’t feel so painful.

Remember what you do well

If you have long-held beliefs about your incompetence, make a realistic assessment of your abilities. Write down all the things you’re good at and the areas where you might need to improve. Now compare this with what you are telling yourself every day. Usually, our self-assessments are overly critical and do not reflect reality. If there are areas where you need help, put your efforts into getting new training and skills.

Remind yourself that if you are feeling like an impostor, it means you have some degree of success in your life.  Try and stop worrying that it may only be down to luck. Instead try and look at what you have achieved in your life.  Learning to appreciate how much you’ve accomplished can give you a more balanced view of yourself.

i Sakulku J, Alexander J. The Impostor PhenomenonInternational Journal of Behavioral Science. 2011;6(1):75-97.

Back to blog listing

Interested in making an appointment or more information?

You can use the link below to book your free telephone consultation, for any other enquiries feel free to leave me a message