The Impostor Syndrome at Work

Fraudulent thoughts that we have, and many of us have often, about our accomplishments, skills and talent is a generational commonality.  The impostor syndrome is more prevalent today in workplaces and I thought it was time to bring this out in the open, once again.


To break it down to its simplest form: The imposter syndrome is the internal feeling that in some area(s) of your life you feel like you are a phony.  You believe you are fooling everyone around you.  You believe that you are not qualified to be where you are in your career.  You are convinced that eventually you are going to be “found out” and, like a tower of cards, fall quickly and implode once everyone sees who you really are.  You got to where you are in life primarily by being lucky.  And your luck is going to run out as soon as someone figures out the “real” you.


Impostor syndrome can be identified in different types of workplace headspace.  Do any of these types resonate with you?


  1. The Perfectionist: Unless we are absolutely perfect in something, we believe that we could have (and should have) done better.  This is a very tough bar to live up to.  Perfectionism leads to procrastination and then analysis paralysis creeps in.
  2. The Expert: Often we forget that we are all on the learning team.  We have set expectations for ourselves that we must know everything there is to know about everything.  The reality is that it is pretty impossible to truly achieve expert level at everything we do.
  3. The Genius: My favorite impostor type.  Didn’t do well in physics class in high school?  Not a spelling bee champ?  If you don’t believe that you are competent enough, yet you have been given responsibilities that others believe you are (and then some) then the imposter syndrome lives on in your brain space.
  4. The Lone Ranger: When we have to ask for help along the way of achieving our goals, or getting to a higher level of position in a company (as examples), we will often question our own abilities because we didn’t get to where we are on our own.  This can also, easily, prevent us from asking for help from others because we believe if we can’t get somewhere or something on our own, we don’t deserve to have whatever it is we are striving for.


If you have found yourself attributing your successes in life to external factors and you limit the acknowledgment that you have something to do with your success, that’s a sign you may have a bit of the impostor syndrome.  Self-doubt and putting yourself down, fearing you won’t live up to what is expected of you also describe the impostor syndrome.


Check out this GutwiZdom® podcast on the impostor syndrome where I interviewed John Graden, the author of “The Impostor Syndrome” and let me know what you think!


In the meantime, here are a few remedies that you can work on, and work through, to overcome the beliefs and feelings that the impostor syndrome gives us:


  • Overcome self-doubt: This requires self-acceptance. You don’t have to attain perfection to be worthy of your success or the accolades you’ve received!
  • Own your successes: You didn’t just get “lucky” – many high achievers tend to focus on what they haven’t done versus what they have accomplished.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other people: Sometimes we all fall into the trap of comparing the weaknesses we think we have and the strengths we think that only others have.
  • Don’t let fear take over your mindset: Playing it safe keeps us in a place of never really knowing how capable and deserving we are of success!
  • Forget the fear – think courage: Have the courage to make a commitment to do something, and then build your capacity of doing it well and *poof* you get confidence.
  • Self-awareness: Know what your innate strengths and unique abilities are – we all have them!
  • Don’t under-estimate the destructive power of self-doubt: Often it’s the only thing that stands between where we are and where we want to be!
  • Identify the source of your self-doubt: Get to the root! Those feelings are there for us to be found… and faced… and uprooted!
  • Print out a little picture of a stop sign: Keep it with you, or where you can see it. Every time self-doubt starts to creep in – acknowledge that it’s there – and then stop yourself and say “Stop! I’m not going down this road with myself and this self-doubt again.”
  • Remember you aren’t a failure just because you experienced something that failed: If you take chances, which we all should, expect that some are not going to be the wins we strived for. Practice looking at what you learned from the failed experience.


Now is the time, to take the time, so you are making the most of your time here on this planet.  Nobody can do the work for you.



Email me for more insight into this topic.  Happy to help!


Deidre Koppelman - Founder & CEO, PEAR Core Solutions, Inc. –