Imposter Syndrome – What to Do When it Strikes

Leader 2 Leader Blog, Industry,

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in a room full of successful people, despite your qualifications? You think to yourself, “it’s just a matter of time before they find out I’m a fraud!”

Believe it or not, there’s a name for this. It’s called, “imposter syndrome.” It’s incredibly real.

And what’s more, it’s unbelievably common. Resesarch tells us that imposter syndrome exists among 56% to 82% of professionals who have graduate degrees.  

Imposter syndrome is more likely to strike successful professionals, and the more successful they are, the stronger it becomes.

The problems that result from imposter syndrome can range from general stress and anxiety to complete career sabotage. Many professionals, although successful, have actually stunted their career growth due to their internal dialogue that they are not as good as they appear to be.

When I talk with leaders about imposter syndrome, they tell me things like, “I was in a meeting today, and I just don’t belong with these other smart, successful people.” This can result in a negative downward spiral of thinking that prevents career growth.

Professionals who struggle with imposter syndrome, are terrified of being discovered for the frauds that they believe they are. Even though they are accomplished in their careers, they believe they’ve gotten to where they are by luck or chance or an unbelievable interview that didn’t really show their true colors.

In general, they’re lacking a sense of empowerment, self-confidence and self-esteem.

So how can you get more confidence, empowerment and self-esteem?

Answer: you have to give it to yourself. You can learn to exchange your limiting beliefs for new, empowering beliefs that will impact how you see yourself and how others see you. By developing a few new habits, you can earn new levels of respect in the workplace and accelerate your career growth.


Begin having regular meetings with yourself, just as you would with an employee who wasn’t performing the way you’d like. Consider these meetings to be performance evaluations with yourself, and remind yourself that you are smart, capable, competent, intelligent and creative. Remind yourself that you earned your right to be in your position.

     The key to real change is that these self-conversations must be backed up by evidence. The things that we truly believe are reinforced because we have evidence to prove them.

Document your successes

I ask my clients to keep a journal or log of their successes so they can begin to create new, evidence-based, empowering beliefs that replace the old limiting beliefs.

This can be difficult to do on your own, because oftentimes people discount their successes. If something comes easily, people often assume that it really isn’t a success. If you come up empty on your list of successes, phone a friend or colleague to help.

Continue to document your successes as they occur. Writing out every key win will build momentum. You will feel a sense of growing empowerment that over rides the old, automated thinking.