Imposter Syndrome might hold you back sometimes, but you can actually harness it to become stronger.

Not feeling ready (or where you want to be, resource or knowledge-wise)…

Afraid to take action…

Playing small…

These are all signs of Impostor Syndrome: the persistent belief that you’re not good enough, don’t know enough, or aren’t talented enough to do the job.

Imposter Syndrome causes you to:

  • Doubt your value and the work you do.
  • Question whether other people will want to work with you.
  • Worry about your performance.
  • Believe you’re a fraud and other people will find out.

It leads to self-talk that diminishes you:

“It’s all because of luck”


“Success is no big deal” 

People with Impostor Syndrome aren’t able to value their accomplishments even if they’re very successful.  There’s often a disconnect between their perception of their capacities and reality.

The Harvard Business Review points out that it’s rarely an accurate perception:

“High achieving, highly successful people often suffer, so imposter syndrome doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women…”

Perfectionism. Performance anxiety. Fear of Failure. Self-doubt. These feelings and thoughts contribute to feeling like a fraud and delay our capacity to take action and to learn. 

Where does Imposter Syndrome come from? 

Some researchers think Impostor Syndrome has its roots in the labels parents give to different members of the family. 

And some say it’s socialization. 

Either way, it’s a mindset that limits self-understanding and affects our self-esteem. 

In the culture of business and self-improvement, you’re often encouraged to fake it until you make it or to “improve your self-esteem”. These messages imply that if you get out there and do the work and you’ll start to feel more confident and grow out of it.

But telling you to manufacture confidence and courage isn’t touching (let alone dealing with) the root cause of the problem. 

Manufacturing confidence will still keep you feeling like a fraud. It keeps you feeling unsure of your performance.

And while I do believe that getting into action creates clarity, (and then fosters confidence) how are you supposed to start acting if you can’t get past perfectionism?

Instead, find ways to work with Impostor Syndrome at its root – by questioning the reality of your self-concepts and beliefs.

Here are 5 ways to yank out Imposter Syndrome by its roots:

1. Examine the belief that your work defines you

Thinking that the work you do is a reflection of your value and worth is limiting. Distancing yourself from the work you produce and who you think you are will help to resolve some of the self-doubt.

We’ve been conditioned by our education systems to think that our grades and abilities define us. The culture of devaluing people who don’t meet social and professional expectations is pervasive. 

We were taught to depend on other people’s feedback and approval, but this puts us in a vicious cycle of self doubt.

Instead, take feedback about work or business with detachment – it’s only one aspect of your life. 

2. Accept failure and mistakes

Challenge your belief that failing at a task or making a visible mistake makes you less valuable.

It’s easier for people experiencing Impostor Syndrome to focus only on their mistakes, rather than on what they’ve done well. Therapists call this the negativity bias, and we all do it- remember the negatives of a situation more vividly than the positives.

Think about something you’ve been doing for a while, like playing a sport. You’ve learned a lot over time, and the mistakes you made early on don’t seem as silly to you now as you thought they were when you first started playing. 

Give room to make mistakes and improve over time. 

3. Understand that most people feel this way and it’s not specific to you

Yes, you are a wonderful, special snowflake. But when it comes to Imposter Syndrome, you’re the same as the rest of us.

We’re afraid that everyone has it figured out. That they’re more experienced and socially graceful and we’re the ugly duckling. 

Some people might have more skill than you because they’ve been at it for a long time, but they didn’t start that way. 

Psychologist Suszanne Imes found that the impostor phenomenon seems to be more common with people who are embarking on a new project. 

Watch out for when you compare yourself to others, and develop a realistic idea of where you are on your business journey. 

4. Find a support network 

Find people who are in the same stage of the learning curve as you on your business venture. Join Facebook or LinkedIn groups, and be honest about where you are. People will empathize and are often quick to offer support. 

Instead of grazing many networks, find one or two that you like and take the time to get to know them more intimately. 

5. Realistically evaluate your capacities 

Find exercises to help really understand your strengths and weaknesses, so you can have a realistic idea of your capacities. 

Acknowledging where there’s room for improvement and taking a close look at your talents will help give you objectivity. 

Knowing our weaknesses doesn’t have to be shameful – they’re only guideposts. 

Imposter Syndrome isn’t something you have to live with

The resolution of Impostor Syndrome takes some effort and time. Recognize what’s happening when it happens, and practice remembering to approach it with a little skepticism.

Don’t worry; you’re not going to get too big for your britches.

And after you’ve worked with Imposter Syndrome a few times, you’ll notice it quicker and be able to nip it in the bud sooner… developing resilience and strength.

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels