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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Have you ever felt you haven’t earned your success, or you don’t truly deserve your accomplishments?

If so, you’re not alone. Feeling like a fraud is a syndrome that impacts many successful people.

Actually 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their career. Given how unpredictable and disruptive working life can be, it’s not surprising that more and more people are prone to impostor syndrome: the fear that you’re not up to the task and will be found out. 

I see this with my clients and new coaches all the time, and I have been through it my self.  Becoming a coach and shifting career means learning a new skillset, studying for certifications and becoming an entrepreneur, all in one go. The challenge should not be underestimated. Isn't it normal that it can take time to adjust to a completely new professional identity?

Still, many of us feel as though we haven’t earned our success, or that our ideas aren’t worthy of attention. In some cases, it can even prevent people from sharing thoughts, applying for some jobs, or pursuing certain endeavours.

Now, what should we do? Well, in order to overcome imposter syndrome, it’s important to build your confidence in yourself and your abilities. The sooner you are able to accept yourself for who you are, the easier it will be to reach your goals and celebrate your achievements.

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Let me share with you 6 tips to overcome imposter syndrome:

1) Start by recognizing it

Acknowledge these thoughts and emotions when they emerge. Make a note as they occur. It can be anything from “I’m not good enough to coach this client” or “I don’t deserve this new role” or “I got lucky with this promotion”. Once you’re aware of the syndrome, you can mitigate it by identifying and leveraging positive feedback.

2) Track your own success 

While you may not be perfect, you certainly are good at many things. Make a list of your abilities and talents, and take note of everything you’re great at. Then, make a list of the areas you’d like to improve on and focus on developing those areas.

3) Change your inner dialogue 

Reframe your thoughts. Realize that what you’re feeling isn’t always founded on anything real. Feelings of incompetence are all in your head, so imagine how you’d feel if you could turn these thoughts into something positive. As an example, consultants, who are starting a new assignment with a new client, have to quickly establish their competence and understand the environment, while learning at the same time. How do you keep face while learning? They overcome the impostor syndrome by reframing it as "learning vs expertise tension". They quickly learn about their new environment by recycling internal and external knowledge. Reframe your impostor syndrome acknowledging it is normal to take the time to learn.

Realize that what you’re feeling isn’t always founded on anything real.
Realize that what you’re feeling isn’t always founded on anything real.

4) Accept your learnings

Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Some people may frame their learnings as failures, but they are only failures if they don’t learn from them. Impostor Syndrome can be particularly present when you try something new, as there are lots of new learnings. Choose to accept that it will not always be a smooth path.

5) Stop comparing yourself

It's easy to get into a space of: "John or Mary is doing so much better than me" or, "They get more clients than I do". There is no need for comparison. Forget what other people are doing. Focus on your journey, not theirs. Instead, develop your uniqueness and you'll attract the right people to you.

6) Get really good at what you do

Even if you're good at what you do, get better. As you build on the skills you already have, your confidence can't help but grow. Invest in yourself, learning has an amazing positive return on investment and offer a great space for stepping back and developing self-awareness. You might know the principle that 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" are needed to become world-class in any field. Whatever the right number is, the more we practice the better we get.

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