Do you ever worry about being found out? Like if people only knew who you really were, they would discover that you’re a fraud?

Well relax, it’s okay. You are not alone.

In psychology, we call this Imposter Syndrome and most high-achievers have it. Even the most successful people in the world experience it. Yet, somehow, we all think we are the only ones. People like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Mike Cannon-Brooks, CEO and successful entrepreneur, admit to feeling this way in the midst of all of their success (if you haven’t seen Mike Cannon-Brooks TEDx talk on the subject, you must). So, are you surprised that you might feel it to?

But what are the root causes of Imposter Syndrome? What causes that niggling feeling that you don’t belong here? The answer lies in the body and brain’s desire for homeostasis, as well as your personal levels of self-worth, deservedness and self-doubt.

If you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome, there are most likely two things going on. One you are up-leveling; breaking out of your comfort zone and into new territory as you expand your accomplishments and sphere of influence. You yourself may not have adjusted to this new success as a part of your identity, let alone your brain and body which desire homeostasis (or in other words for things to keep staying the same). When you haven’t accepted this new image of yourself, your brain is likely to play games with you to get you to stay in the comfort zone of who it knows you to be and to keep the status quo.

This can then open the door to doubt and insecurity, which lurks behind reason number two. You very likely (still) have some insecurity lurking around your brilliant mind as you continue to climb the ladder of success. Some fears, self-doubts, feelings that maybe you aren’t really worthy or deserving of this new level of success. So, between the brain wanting to keep the homeostasis and the insecurities lurking about, you get imposter syndrome. Make sense?

Unfortunately, no amount of success seems to satisfy your insecurity’s insatiable appetite for seeking proof that you don’t belong where you are; otherwise, why would we see this in some of the most successful people in the world? Imposter Syndrome feasts on even the faintest whispers of doubts, fears, questions, and old stories, fueling it’s belief that in fact, you don’t (belong).

But don’t worry, there is something you can do about it. Try these strategies:

  • Practice visualizing yourself in this next level of success every day. Imagine what it feels like with all of your senses to embody this new version of yourself. By doing this, you are preparing your mind to accept this image of you before it has become a reality and you are less likely to reject it when you get there. In fact, if you practice this regularly, the transition can be seamless.
  • Check in with yourself on how you are feeling about your worthiness and deservedness for attaining that new goal or level of success. Ask yourself, do I feel worthy of this accomplishment? Do I believe I deserve it? Rate yourself on these two questions a scale from 1-10 with 10 being 100% worthy or deserving. If you are below an 8, create a worthiness or deservedness ritual to increase these feelings. This could be writing out your reasons or your accomplishments, holding a power pose while saying affirmations such as “I am worthy” or using a technique such as EFT (emotional freedom technique). For my clients, I have also recorded hypnosis tracks for them to increase their subconscious thermostat of worth and deservedness.
  • When self-doubt comes your way, talk back to it. Recognize that self-doubt is a protective mechanism often used to keep us safe from disappointment or failure. When you hear those self-doubt voices in your head, just say, “Thank you for your input, but I’ve got this or I know you want to protect me, but I don’t need protecting anymore.” By doing this you will start to rewire those thought patterns in your brain and create new empowering thoughts.

Imposter Syndrome often comes with the territory of being a High-Achiever, but it doesn’t have to derail your success or keep you from enjoying it when you get there. Try these techniques and let me know how it goes in the comments below. And if you are a high-achiever struggling with burn out and looking for a new paradigm of sustainable peak performance that allows you to stay at the top of your career without sacrificing your health, happiness, or family life, contact me for an application for my sustainable peak performance program. Together, we will heal your nervous system, rewire your brain and create the habits of the most successful people in the world so that you can make your big contributions without burning out before you even get there.

Share your ah-has in the comments below. 


  • Dr. Donna Marino (PsyD)

    Psychologist & Executive Coach

    Donna Marino, PsyD, Ltd

    Dr. Donna Marino is a Psychologist and Executive Coach. She is an expert in helping high-achieving leaders move from burnout to SUSTAINABLE peak performance, so that they can fulfill their mission while also experiencing greater health, happiness, and relationships. Dr. Marino has over 20 years of experience in human potential and transformational change.

    As a high-achiever, who works with high-achievers, she discovered a collection of characteristics that when left unchecked lead to burn out, high-functioning anxiety and high-functioning depression. She coined the term for this condition, High-Achievers Syndrome (TM) and developed a protocol for dealing with it, recovering and creating SUSTAINABLE peak performance.

      Dr. Donna is also a sought after speaker and author on leadership, peak performance, and burnout recovery.