Imposter Syndrome

I felt inspired to write about Imposter Syndrome after a really great chat with my sister on the phone the other day.

We were discussing this venture I’ve embarked on and she made a comment about me being “brave” to do what I’m doing. It was in no way meant as a criticism, and neither did I take it that way, but it did strike a chord with something that I have struggled with in the past, and still have to coach myself on from time to time.

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like people were putting their faith in you more than you thought they should?
  • Have you ever thought; “Who am I to be advising on this topic?”
  • Have you ever been worried that somebody will turn around and say that you’re a fraud, and not capable/good enough to be doing whatever it is you’re doing?
  • Did you ever think that there was someone else who could be doing your job way better than you?
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

These are all thoughts that are associated with Imposter Syndrome. I had experienced all of the above long before I’d heard that there was a term for it. I think there are more people out there who have felt like this than you probably realise; and they are probably the people you would least expect.

According to Imposter Syndrome was first described by psychologists in 1978 (the year I was born… coincidence?). It is interesting to note that it is high achieving individuals, and people who are considered to be perfectionists that seem to be afflicted by it most commonly. I know that I fall into the category of the perfectionist, although it is something that I have learnt to manage over the years, but I would never have called myself a high achiever. Case in point!

Whilst there will always be someone better than you, it doesn’t mean that you are undeserving just because you are not the best. Ultimately, when you reach the top of anything, the only way is down! That might not sound like the most positive statement, but it is reality. No human is capable of reaching the top and staying there forever. The elite sportspeople who dominate their chosen sport are still only as good as their last race, match or test when they go out to compete the next time. I wonder how many of them have wondered if they are worthy of their wins?

In my sport of dressage, and in fact all the equestrian disciplines, I would bet that every gold medallist has at some point thought that they only achieved what they achieved because they were lucky enough to have been on the best horse at the time.

Some might argue that in certain cases it is true. I don’t believe that. I think that at Olympic level the margins are so narrow that everytime an individual wins a title, they are deserving and worthy.

So what happens if you don’t address the problem, and how do you deal with Imposter Syndrome? Well the biggest issue with experiencing these feelings is that they do not bring you joy. It stems from insecurity, and ends up being a reason for self sabotaging your plans for future success and further development.

If you allow the negative self talk to continue on loop in the background of your mind, it will eventually be all you hear, and will drown out the slightest hint of positivity that might otherwise have been coming your way. You are the only person who can change that. It can feel like it is so hard to rewrite that script when it has been playing for so long, but there is a trick you can play on yourself that can help:

“Fake it ’til you make it!”


One of my favourite aphorisms is “Fake it ’til you make it,” and I use it all the time. Just ask my 9 year old what I tell her when she is complaining that she doesn’t know how to be happy (this is usually 10 minutes into homeschooling maths). She will tell you that I suggest she just pretends to be happy for a few minutes and see what happens. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, and within a short space of time she is genuinely laughing (even if it is because of how ridiculous her forced smile looks in the mirror), and able to get on with maths with a positive mindset.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that you should deny yourself of your feelings. Acknowledge they are there, let them have their say, and then quietly show them the door as you have a show to put on. I like the analogy of the stage here, because the “Fake it ’til you make it” technique does require a little bit of acting to begin with. But you’re dealing with an Imposter anyway aren’t you? So if it’s not really you, then it shouldn’t be too hard.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

The wonderful thing is, there comes a point when you don’t have to try anymore. This is when the incongruity in your mind levels out and you start to believe what everyone else already knew to be the truth:

You are deserving.

You are more than capable.

You are the best person for this job.

Now all that’s left to do, is go and be you, at what you do best.

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