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A Member of the Table Group CAPA Pro Network

Success and imposter syndrome

Oct 8, 2019 | Effective leaders, Employee engagement

I had the privilege of attending a talk this morning by Ana Loback, Managing Partner of Turning Point.  She spoke about something that, in my experience, most leaders have grappled with at some point in their careers and that is, success and imposter syndrome.  It’s such an important topic that I thought I must share it with you…

Research has shown that more than 70% of successful people struggle with imposter syndrome and women are more prone to it than men. The irony is that its successful people that are plagued by it and, while they might be enjoying a measure of success, it holds them back from achieving even more.

What is imposter syndrome?

So what is it? It is the persistent inability to believe that your success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of your own efforts or skills. It’s the fear that someone is going to find out that you don’t really know what you’re doing and expose you as a fraud. It’s the internal dialogue you have with yourself about your ability and your achievements…i.e. the stories you tell yourself about yourself. It leads to anxiety, affects your confidence and causes you to limit your potential.

How do you know if you have it? Here are just a few symptoms as a starter for ten:

  1. Feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
  2. Worrying you won’t live up to others’ expectations of you.
  3. Thinking that you’re unable to do the job you’re doing.
  4. Focussing on your mistakes rather than your achievements.
  5. A tendency to be a perfectionist.
  6. Overthinking everything you do.
  7. Underestimating your strengths and talents as merely commonplace.
  8. Thinking that whatever you do is never enough.
  9. Taking on too much.
  10. Believing that what you’ve achieved to date is merely a fluke and that if you were to start over, you wouldn’t achieve the same level of success.

An important principle to remember in the fight against imposter syndrome is that what you think drives your emotions and your actions…and these in turn, affect the outcome. But change your thinking and you change your emotions and your actions…and ultimately the outcome.


With this principle in mind, here are a few strategies to help you overcome the imposter syndrome:

  1. Acknowledge how you feel. You can’t change what you won’t acknowledge. Try keeping a journal of your thoughts and your feelings…as you read back what you’ve written, you may come to see just how untrue they really can be.
  2. Remember that feelings are not facts. Just because you feel unqualified, doesn’t mean that you are.
  3.  Identify the source…understand where it comes from. Was it the way you were praised or disciplined as a child? This is not about shifting the blame, but about dealing with the cause.
  4. Replace the beliefs or thoughts that make you feel like you don’t deserve your success with positive affirmations instead, every time.
  5. Acknowledge your role in your success. This means knowing your strengths and the value you bring to the table.
  6. Track and celebrate your wins.
  7. Stop comparing yourself to others…remember that we are all unique and have our own race to run.
  8. Adopt a growth mindset. Embrace failures as opportunities to learn and as invitations to grow and do better next time.
  9. Tell someone you trust how you feel. Firstly, if you want to change something in your life, accountability plays an important role in keeping the momentum! Secondly, speaking to someone will also be an incredible confidence boost as the person you tell will no doubt assure you that this is not how they see you. And last but not least, a load shared is a load halved!

You are capable of far more than you are currently enjoying. Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back.


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