If you’ve ever suffered from this – or been in a position to try to help people who have – these 7 Steps to Eliminate Imposter Syndrome are for you. Over the years I’ve noticed that solutions to these types of challenge have become quite granular – focussing in on one particular thing to exclusion of everything else.

This often creates a problem because when you try something and it doesn’t work, it can lead to scepticism or ‘solution fatigue’ and the next stop after that is to conclude it’s not fixable.

Real solutions are often a recipe for success rather than an ingredient – and in that spirit, here’s my list of 7 Easy Steps to Tackle Imposter Syndrome.

If you’ve ever felt out of your depth, the answer will be one (or more likely, a combination) of them.

But – to keep things interesting – I’ve listed them in reverse order of how likely I think they are to be effective over the long term.

Of course, that’s just my opinion – feel free to disagree!


What exactly is Imposter Syndrome?

Reading my various newsfeeds, I’d come to think of Imposter Syndrome as a catch-all phrase used to describe any sense of feeling professionally nervous or out of one’s depth.

But a quick scan of ChatGPT defines Imposter Syndrome as the persistent belief that someone is not as competent as others believe them to be. This is much close to the meaning of the phrase according to the people who first used it.

The term Imposter Syndrome was coined in 1978 by psychologists Dr Pauline Clance & Dr Suzanne Imes in their published article “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”.

The slight nuance is that it was used in relation to people whose identity hadn’t quite kept pace with their impressive achievements. And it was assumed to be more prevalent amongst women.

It seems to me that the meaning of the phrase has moved on, and working to that assumption, here’s my 7 solutions – ranging from sticking plasters through to fundamental cures.


1 Keep a list of ‘significant wins’

The idea is that each day or week you stop and write down the things you’ve done that you’re most proud of.

Note the important word – the focus is on the things you’ve done and not necessarily the great things you have achieved or that have happened.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, great things may have happened, but you might view them as ‘lucky wins’. That they have just fallen into your lap. On the wrong day, focussing on these could increase rather than decrease any sense of being an imposter.

Secondly, you might find that you’ve done something that hasn’t yielded a clear win – or might even have been an outright failure – but still gives you strength. And it’d be a shame to lose sight of that.


2 Get some client testimonials

There’s not a lot that beats hearing genuine praise from your clients and customers.

A couple of quick tips if you’re planning on doing this.

Firstly, put a lot of thought into the questions you ask. Time is precious and you won’t want to over-tax the relationship with your client, so you won’t get many questions to ask. Make them count.

Secondly, if you’re doing a video testimonial, think about getting someone else to conduct the ‘interview’. I’m not sure whether this is a ‘British’ thing, but anecdotally I think people are a little more open and effusive in their praise when talking about you vs talking to you.


3 Using Affirmations to tackle Imposter Syndrome

In terms of our confidence and self-belief, we are held in the balance of our Positive and Negative Self-Thoughts. All other things being equal, if we don’t believe we are capable of doing / achieving something we are likely to do it half-heartedly or just find a reason to not do it all.

As Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.”

Everyone has negative self-thoughts – you’d be a bit weird if you didn’t – so it comes down to the balance between the two and what impact they have on your behaviour.

If you’re taking them to heart – placing too high a value on them – affirmations can be a good solution.

In effect this is the habit of regularly feeding yourself positive statements about yourself. You’re deliberately trying to displace negative thoughts and embed / reinforce positive ones.

Ideally these will be direct and in the present tense. Eg: “I am a positive person who takes action.”

There are 2 big traps to avoid with affirmations.

Firstly, is thinking that they are a substitute for positive action. They’re not. Positive thoughts without positive action leads to positively nothing.

The second is to make them too positive too soon. They should at least be rooted in some form of reality – even if that reality amounts to you on your very very best day. You need to be able to believe it or your emotional chimp will wake up and try to ruin your parade.

Top Tip: A great test is whether you can think of specific events or examples that prove them to be true as you are saying them.


4 Using Meditation to tackle Imposter Syndrome

I never understood mediation (or the point of it) until I read a book called The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe.

Meditation is simply practicing the process of quietening the mind. At first, you’ll probably get one minute in and realise your thoughts have run amok – but with time and practice you’ll get the hang of it.

What happens then is you become much more aware of the thoughts that happen just below the conscious level.

This means you can just pluck them up like little weeds. So fewer of them grow into something that bothers you.

The added benefit I noticed is that more innovative ideas ‘popped’ into my head. I’ve always been quite creative so this wasn’t completely new – but the volume and intensity of them was.


5 Start Journalling

I listened to a great podcast with former England cricketer Stuart Broad talking to Jake Humphries on the High Performance Podcast.

He had used journalling as a way of marshalling his thoughts for years and credits it with playing a hugely important role in his career.

Broad said how he’d woken up on the first morning of the first test of the Ashes series against Australia and realised he felt properly nervous.

Bear in mind by this stage he’d played in over 150 tests and 5 or so Ashes series. And he was as nervous as a newbie.

He wrote about it in his journal that morning and then discussed it with his fellow player Jimmy Anderson, and realised feeling nervous was a perfectly normal emotional reaction. Having taken a step back and examined it – rather than running from it – the thought settled and turned into excitement for the challenge ahead.

Journalling is a great way of getting perspective on your thoughts and therefore being able to put them in context.


6 Listen to your inner critic

This may not be the conventional advice but it’s worth considering none-the-less: maybe your inner critic has a point?

Is there a chance that your bout of Imposter Syndrome is in fact rooted in some form of truth?

Are there skills or qualifications you ought to get? Courses to sign up for? Mentors / consultants or coaches you could seek out?

It’d be a shame to miss out on the opportunity to learn, develop and grow.


7 Reposition the Thought

This is my favourite so I thought I’d save it for last.

Behind the various articles I see on this lies a theme. That Imposter Syndrome is a bad thing – something that needs to be ‘cured’.

But think about what it actually is: The feeling that you’re not as good as others think you are. That you’re out of your depth.

Imagine what a life would be if you never felt out of your depth.

Or if those around you didn’t rate you or recognise your talents.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty bleak to me.

That would be a life spent in your comfort zone, never challenging yourself and never experiencing the feeling of pride that comes with doing something bigger than you thought you were capable of.

When you look at it in that light, suffering the occasional bout of Imposter Syndrome could almost be seen as a privilege.


In Conclusion

As so often with these things, the answer doesn’t lie in denying it or running away from it.

Maybe it’s a prompt to get better, maybe it’s a prompt to work on your self-belief or resilience.

It happens to everyone at one stage or another and it’s up to you how you relate to it.


It’s good to talk

If this or any other topic has struck a chord in relation to you and your business, I’d be only too happy to have a chat.



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