How to bury Imposter Syndrome

Most women experience Imposter Syndrome at some point – that little voice that tells you ‘you can’t’, you’re not good enough. It’s time to bury that doubt for good.

Imposter syndrome


You have probably heard of the imposter syndrome. Your imposter is the voice in your head making you doubt yourself. Sometimes called your “Inner Critic” or your “Chief Doubting Officer” you receive subliminal messages that undermine your qualifications, experience and ultimately your confidence. The voice goes:

  • They will hire someone with a better degree
  • I don’t have enough experience
  • I am too fat for that dress
  • I’m not intelligent enough for…
  • Why did they pick me – I can’t do this

First identified as far back as the 1970s The Impostor Phenomenon first came to light in 1978, when psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined it as a feeling initially associated with women. They identified a pattern of thinking in a group of  high achieving women:

Even though they are often very successful by external standards, they feel their success has been due to some mysterious fluke or luck or great effort; they are afraid their achievements are due to “breaks” and not the result of their own ability and competence. They are also pretty certain that, unless they go to gargantuan efforts to do so, success can not be repeated. They are afraid that next time, I will blow it.

The reality is that men also struggle with feelings of inadequacy, but are culturally restrained from sharing their anxieties by a double bind of expectations around our notions of manliness. In her book “Presence,” Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy describes a shift in the perception of the impostor phenomenon — also known as the “impostor syndrome” or “impostorism.” Seemingly, feeling like a fraud is a gender neutral condition.

Read: On Confidence, or Putting On My “Big Girl” Pants

Self-limiting beliefs

Impostor syndrome impacts many areas of our live as we hold ourselves back for fear of failure. Outward signs include stress, anxiety, stagnation, and loss of confidence. Invisible problems can be health, sleeping issues, addiction problems and weight issues as we try and make ourselves worthy against a notional and exaggerated benchmark. Minor mistakes become big deals.

How to kill off your Imposter Syndrome

1. Name and fire your Imposter voice

The most important thing is to identify your Imposter and name him or her. Very often the voice will assume the personality of someone from your childhood, frequently a critical parent or teacher.  The next step is to recognise that the role the Imposter has played in your life. Perhaps making you mindful of risks or circumstances that might have been harmful at one point in your life which are no longer relevant to a fully functioning and capable adult .

“Be careful on that slide – you know you’re not great with heights”

“Don’t play with those tools  you are clumsy and they are your father’s”

“Study hard for the test  – you don’t want to end up working in a factory like….”

Now you are a professional woman (or man) you can make your own decisions based on rational analysis of the facts. You can invite the Imposter to leave the metaphorical building, clear their desk or whatever implies a severance deal to you. Some people as part of a coaching program even send a letter of dismissal. Others write a letter and burn it or even bury it. The significance is you are letting the critical voice go.

Read: Women Executives Offer Their Experience

2. Find a Mentor

Find a mentor to discuss your concerns.  The chances that he or she has walked in your shoes are high! Even very successful people report feeling like frauds and wondering what they are doing in the spotlight and that they will be found out. If you need help finding a mentor contact 3Plus.

3. Record your greatest hits


Look back at your career and make a record of your greatest hits: your successes and achievements and the skills required to achieve those results. Use the CARS or STAR formula and create a list. Update your LinkedIn profile and CV with 3 success stories in each role.   See how great you are! This is a challenging exercise and if you get stuck see a coach! 

Read: Why women receive confidence as arrogance

4. Done is better than perfect

Your imposter will thrive on hesitancy and positively delight in you holding back. Nothing works better to de-rail the Imposter than to feel the fear and do it anyway. Reward yourself for each mini-success achieved with your new thinking. Do something which delights you. Have a glass of fizz, take a walk, or a long hot bath.

Impostor syndrome can grind you down. But letting go of perfectionism, overcoming procrastination and crossing the finishing line in some way – doesn’t matter how or in what place, will all be nails in your Imposter’s coffin.

Time now for the wake!

Ready to build your female talent pipe line? Contact 3Plus now!

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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