How to Spot if you have Imposter Syndrome…and how to overcome it!

Just recently, the topic of Imposter Syndrome seems to have cropped up a lot, with various posts over social media, NatWest have addressed it during a series of interviews between Stacey Dooley and professional women/business owners, plus it was the topic of the business discussion at a recent female networking event I attended.  It is also something that I see quite a lot with my female coaching clients…but what is it?

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud, even in the face of success.  Whilst more prevalent in females (NatWest’s research showed that two thirds of women thought about starting their own business but held back due to self-doubt), it can affect both men and women alike.


Even though I worked as a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist for 4 years, and a Life and Business Coach for another 5, (so I fully understand the little gremlins/’chimps’ we all have, running their annoying little commentaries in our heads on a daily basis!), I am still surprised by the number of times the tell-tale signs of this syndrome raise their ugly heads.  Whether it’s in members of Senior Leadership teams or women who have been running their own successful businesses for a number of years, it seems that Imposter Syndrome does not discriminate against who it will get under the skin of.


One fellow business owner at a networking meeting I recently attended, shared that she had experienced Imposter Syndrome a number years back.  Whilst still in employment, she had decided to apply for a job with another company, as she felt there wasn’t any room for progression with her current employer (lots of older/more experienced people staying in post, holding out for retirement). The good news was that after interviewing successfully, she was offered the new role!  However, when advised of the starting salary, she rejected it and said she wanted less as she didn’t feel worthy of that amount of an increase and felt under pressure to perform!  Imagine being the recruiting manager hearing those words and realising what a bargain you were getting!  And that lady went on to realise just what a mistake she’d made in under-valuing her skills and capabilities compared to her new colleagues, who were mainly younger and a lot less experienced than her.  Hopefully a lesson learned and not to be repeated!


Have you ever been in a similar situation?  Perhaps you’ve not put yourself forward for a promotion because you’ve not felt good enough…yet?  Or maybe you’ve heard that little gremlin asking “How on earth have you got yourself here?” before you’re about to go into a Board meeting, absolutely convinced that you’re going to show yourself up for the fraud you are and be sent packing!  Do you beat yourself up over and over again about a mistake made, not able to let it go and move on?


What does Imposter Syndrome feel like?


Obviously everyone is different and has their own experiences of Imposter Syndrome.  However, it typically presents with any number of the following symptoms: from lack of self-confidence, to anxiety and doubts about your thoughts, abilities, achievements and accomplishments.  Oh and we can also throw negative self-talk, feelings of inadequacy, dwelling on past mistakes and not feeling good enough into the mix!  People often report a sense of dread or foreboding, feeling like they’re constantly looking over their shoulders.  They’re just waiting for someone to tap them there and say “OK Jo, we don’t know how you got in but you don’t belong here, please collect your things and leave”.  This can be despite being knee-deep in qualifications and having a CV of experience worthy of a gold medal or two!


What Causes Imposter Syndrome?


There’s no one specific cause of these feeling of not being good enough or belonging.  However they will often be symptomatic of a set of beliefs that you’ve developed as a result of things you’ve seen/heard/experienced throughout your life.  It could be feeling like you always had to prove yourself against an older sibling when growing up.  Did you believe you had to know as much or achieve as many sporting accomplishments as them, even though they were 4 years your senior?  It could be that you had an embarrassing incident where you answered a question in class, got it wrong and were laughed at.  Perhaps you’ve had to present a project to a Board and got tongue-tied when they asked you some question?  An experience such as this could leave you with doubts about your abilities, believing you’ll always be found out or tripped up somehow if you put yourself ‘out there’.


No matter how big or trivial the contributing reasons may seem, there is no doubt about the crippling affect it can have on a person’s ability to progress and take opportunities presented to them in life.  Or to continually berate themselves about not being worthy of ones they’ve taken.


So, what can you do if you recognise these symptoms and think you may be held back by Imposter Syndrome?


One area to address is what’s causing this lack of self-confidence or belief.  Dipping into my hypnotherapist’s toolbox, there are a number of ways I can help someone to access their sub-conscious, which is where we store all our belief systems, core values and habitual thoughts and behaviours: good, bad and ugly!  By doing this, we can understand what is causing these negative thoughts and emotions and start transforming them into beliefs that actually support our growth and development.


And even if you don’t necessarily want to know where the self-doubting talk has come from, you just want to make changes, stop sabotaging your own success and go after your dreams now, you absolutely can!


I’ve shared a couple of techniques to help identify if you’re experiencing Imposter Syndrome yourself below.  And if you would like some top tips for boosting your confidence to start overcoming this, take a look at an earlier blog post I wrote on this very topic.


How to Identify and Overcome Imposter Syndrome


 The first step in overcoming Impostor Syndrome is to acknowledge what you’re feeling, and why. Whenever you experience thoughts or feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy, write them down and describe why you believe you’re feeling this way.  Be as specific as possible about each situation.
Grab a copy of my guide on How to spot Imposter Syndrome, which takes you through what to look for, then what to change!


And if you’re really struggling with this and would like some help with overcoming these self-sabotaging thoughts and feelings, so you can start grabbing life with both hands and going for that promotion/new relationship/great client, get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat to see if we’d be a fit to work together!

Written by Katie Farrell



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *