What is it an "Impostor Syndrome" and how to overcome it?

February 5, 2020



Have you heard about impostor syndrome? It usually manifests itself in the depreciation of oneself, one’s doubts about one’s own achievements and accomplishments and a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. When other people would rejoice at the prospects of promotion or salary raise, a person who suffers from impostor syndrome would question the appropriateness of their promotion, believing in absence of any sound reasons for it. Instead of enjoying acknowledgment of their professional contribution, such people would fall into the nets of self-depreciation, doubting any personal achievements, whether it is their skills, experience, education or their ability to maintain long-term relationships or be a good parent. 


Such people, as a rule, have a very pronounced fear of making mistakes (both by themselves and by others), a fear of exposure (“everyone will understand that I am stupid”), constant tension, a fear of not living up to the expectations (this one blocks any attempts of courage and bravery), and a fear of punishment (projections from one’s childhood). As a result, these fears create distrust and doubt of oneself, of a team and of other people as well as the loss of a direction in life.


The roots of the impostor syndrome are often found in people’s childhood. The quality of certain relations and attitudes back then (e.g., within a family, at school, social values and traditions, peer pressure) triggered a situation of dissatisfaction, when a person does not feel content, gratified and relaxed regardless the extent and the quality of the achieved results.   


The only way to stop suffering from the impostor syndrome is to stop feeling as an impostor. Below I suggest some steps, which will help you exit the state of an impostor.



1. Recognize the right to make a mistake


Any mistake is an experience. Let yourself and others make mistakes. Mistakes are the result of actions. Although we can control our actions, we cannot predict and control all their outcomes. Stop being afraid of making mistakes. In this way, you’ll allow yourself to act.




Start an “achievements diary.” Allow yourself 15-20 minutes before bedtime and write down all your achievements for the day (minimum 10). Looking through your daily achievements, you will learn to see that not all your actions lead to mistakes. You will also receive satisfaction from micro-victories and will appreciate what you do. Make a habit of rewarding yourself for your achievements!



2. Acknowledge your natural intelligence and talent 


Each one of us is born intelligent and talented. Yet, now and then we fear that by making a mistake we expose our narrow-mindedness. Wrong thinking gives rise to fear and insecurity. The fear of being unacknowledged transforms into the fear of being banished and isolated.




Think and write down “what’s the worst thing that can happen if ...?” This will help reveal the patterns of your thinking and single out indicators for further work. It may also help understand that everything is not as terrible as you used to imagine.



3. Assess the benefits of your habits, actions, fears


Many of our actions and inactions are determined by the expectations of certain benefits, also of negative situations. Find some time to think about your own benefits from some situations you hate or feel frustrated about in your life right now. Have you noticed that some of them may repeatedly challenge you again and again with different people.




Honestly write down a list of all your benefits of a negative situation that bothers you. And now try to answer yourself if these benefits are worth sacrificing your freedom and happiness. 



4. Self-reflection: track your repeated reactions and responses in various contexts and situations


You experience an ongoing feeling of discomfort, even when there are no major changes in your life routine. Try to correlate your present-day behavior and reactions with the situations from your past or with the people who played an important role in your life (parents, teachers, peers). Don’t be surprised if the feeling of discomfort appears during the state of emotional excitement. 




Boys are playing football (a state of childhood happiness). Suddenly, the ball breaks a window in a neighbor’s house. The boys were not allowed to play at that spot and were well aware of the possible consequences. Depending on the subsequent reactions of all the people involved, a neural connection can form for some or all the children: a ban on joy and excitement. As a result, the fear of destroying something while in a state of emotional excitement. Situations are different for everyone, but their elements are similar. The situation itself, as a rule, is soon forgotten, but your reactions to other situations of excitement confirm the continuous impact of your traumatic memories.



5. Finding a solution to a problem


Someone, having done all of the above steps, can find their proper solution independently. Someone will find a solution with the help from friends and acquaintances who have faced similar problems and managed to find a way out. In other words, we need a person who can show specific steps and actions that will lead to the desired results. This can be a friend, coach, trainer, psychologist or psychotherapist. When choosing a specialist, make sure to check whether they have successfully dealt with similar problems in the past.


An impostor syndrome’s sufferer needs new scenarios and freedom to act if they want to move forward. Once they are able to experience life in all its fullness, without usual fears, they will immediately feel the difference in all areas: their overall quality of life increases; their relationships with loved ones getting improved; there is even visible income growth. Even more importantly, for the first time they are able to enjoy the state of happiness and self-confidence!



Here, at Gross Leadership we know how to help you to claim back your life from the tenets of impostor syndrome. Our techniques and consultations help to decrease your fears and improve your self-esteem. Likewise, you will notice how your work efficiency increases, including creativity and goal-setting. You will learn to appreciate your work, to celebrate your achievements, to share your skills and knowledge, improving productivity and the microclimate within your family and team.


If this topic corresponds to your needs, we are ready to offer you a solution. Our staff will contact you to agree on a convenient consultation time.


Please, share this information with those of your colleagues and friends who may find it useful.



“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players…”

(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)


We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!  With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.


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