Imposter Syndrome: You are not alone!




Guest author Peter Soer is the founder of Bravely Honestly Generously Coaching. They provide tailored coaching and mentoring to help individuals succeed at key moments in their career, building sustainable behaviours that increase future success.


Do you…


  • Work harder than the rest to be sure things go well, including over-preparing for meetings
  • Expect every aspect of your work to be exemplary
  • Hold back your talent and opinions
  • Procrastinate, such that work is last minute or not finished


If you recognise one of these, you might be experiencing Imposter Syndrome.


Taking on a new role, new project, new team, new place to live are all moments in life that can be trigger such behaviours. Or we may have an ever-present nagging voice in the back of our minds that drives us to over-work as the only way to succeed, or to avoid the very opportunities we desire. What is going on?!


Many of us wrongly brush this off, assuming “it’s just the way I am”. But these types of feelings are experienced by most of us at certain points in our lives, and they are aspects of what is now often referred to as ‘Imposter Syndrome’. A study conducted by psychologist Gail Matthews, suggests that 70% of successful people experience imposter feelings at some point in their life.


What is Imposter Syndrome?


International speaker and writer, Dr. Valerie Young is an expert in this area. In her wonderful book “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women”, she provides a great definition.


“People experience Imposter Syndrome when they dismiss their accomplishments and the recognition of others, and fear their success will disappear when others find out the awful secret that they are in fact imposters!”


Dr. Young continues with a description of behaviours, which many of us will recognise:


“People experiencing Imposter Syndrome often unconsciously overcompensate with perfectionism, over-preparation, maintaining a low profile, withholding their talents & opinions, or never finishing important projects. When they do succeed they think, ‘Phew, I fooled ‘em again’.”


We can beat it to enjoy & increase our success


Experiencing Imposter Syndrome reduces our ability to be the best we can be. We hold back out of fear of “not being good enough”. But confidence in your ability is the most significant differentiator of high performing individuals and teams.


So how do we beat Imposter Syndrome and become more confident? Fortunately, there are specific steps of understanding & behavior change we can work through:


  • Understand the nature of Imposter Syndrome and why it arises
  • Appreciate the fact we are not alone
  • Examine how the feelings ‘reward’ and limit us
  • Identify our own specific behaviours & mindsets, learn how to reframe them, and replace with practical, doable new behaviours and thought


When we replace limiting behaviours and feelings with growth behaviours and feelings, we become more confident. Life stops being a non-stop test, and instead becomes a constant wonderful opportunity to learn. Seeing you really can do the things you thought you couldn’t generates confidence.


This journey is important not just for us, but also for the people around us – colleagues, children, parents, friends. As we build self-confidence, we become a positive role model for others. We enable the individuals and teams who work with us, and we help develop the next generation of strong women and sensitive men.


Imposter Syndrome is real. The great news is every one of us can identify and get over it, increase our confidence, and enjoy increasing our success as never before. We can even learn to identify and manage the behaviours of some others who live at the other end of the confidence spectrum – those who have Irrational Self-Confidence Syndrome, a term coined by the Rocky Mountain news reporter Erica Heath, to describe the unjustifiably confident.


Creating a more inclusive and diverse leadership talent pool


People in ‘the minority’ – for example women in male majority businesses – often suffer from Imposter Syndrome. This affects their ability to be the best they can be, to succeed and stay long enough and senior enough for the leadership talent pool to become truly inclusive and diverse. We can think similarly about most minorities – gender, disability, ethnicity, sexuality.


Leadership is the key to an organisation’s success:


So is the leader so is the culture,

So is the culture so is the organisation.


Particularly powerful and sustainable leadership is found in the form of inclusive diverse leadership teams. We know that inclusive diverse teams perform better, create healthier culture, and do better business. Yet it remains a challenge to create and maintain a diverse leadership talent pool. There are things we can do to help. For example:


  • When we recruit / promote someone into a new challenge, especially someone in a minority, provide them with the right coaching to enable them to succeed in role. Getting the right person into the right role is a great challenge in itself. Don’t waste the investment, by leaving them to sink or swim. Give them the right support to ensure they swim. This pays dividends for the individual, the team and provides an example of diversity working well which will ripple across the organisation. Often this means providing coaching to the individual, and often that may be best delivered with an understanding of Imposter Syndrome. 


  • Run interactive seminars with groups across the business enabling them to understand Imposter Syndrome, develop new habits, and by discovering together the participants will create support networks where they grow and help each other organically.



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