How to understand and live with imposter syndrome

Updated: Apr 14

Who has heard of imposter syndrome? Well, for all those who haven't, let me enlighten you.

It's a psychological term for when someone doubts their own accomplishments and has an internal fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.' It actually doesn't matter about the external evidence of their capabilities, they remain convinced that they are undeserving of all they have achieved.


Valerie Young wrote a book that looked into fraudulent feelings. The book is called 'The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It'. She was able to identify 5 subgroups that this syndrome often falls into: the perfectionist, the superwoman, the natural genius, the soloist, the expert. Perhaps you might be able to identify yourself in any of these subgroups? Studies show that more than 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career.


Imposter syndrome is linked with an anxious mind, self-doubt, low self-esteem and a loud self-critical voice. Some of our leaders and best creators and athletes have shared their experiences with imposter syndrome:


David Bowie stated in an interview “I had enormous self-image problems and very low self-esteem, which I hid behind obsessive writing and performing. … I was driven to get through life very quickly. I really felt so utterly inadequate. I thought the work was the only thing of value.”


Serena Williams shared that “There were two Venus Williamses in our family -- it was crazy. … [At restaurants] my parents would make me order first, but once she ordered, I’d change my mind. It was tough for me to stop being Venus and become the person I am.”

Even the incredible civil rights activist, author, poet and Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou admitted that at times, she often felt like a fraud, once sharing "I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'"

Recognising that you live with imposter syndrome is so important for your own development. When you can identify it showing up, you can respond instead of react. That way, it stops being debilitating. It stops affecting the perception of your world and your self-perception.

That's pretty powerful, hey?

It wouldn't be sustainable or effective for you to suppress these thoughts. That would mean giving power to/or resisting these parts of your psychology. It is about learning, leaning into discomfort, getting to know all the parts of you. Once you get to know how your imposter syndrome presents itself, you are able to use it to give you power, and it stops taking your power away. Now read that last sentence again.


If you need support working on your anxious thoughts or your low self-esteem I have a series of on-demand programmes that focus on these areas. Depending on whether you want to work on anxiety or self-esteem, you will receive 4 weeks worth of workbooks that guide you through these areas with purpose and intention so you can overcome your blocks and barriers.


Click the link below to access the on-demand programmes to get started on your own personal development journey!