Tackling the Imposter Syndrome

Josh Dykes

Imposter Syndrome: Conquering the Internal Critic and Unleashing Your True Potential

In the bustling realm of personal and professional growth, the fear of being exposed as a fraud, a mere imposter, often creeps in, casting a shadow over our achievements and dimming our inner light.

This phenomenon, known as imposter syndrome, is a pervasive experience, affecting approximately 70% of individuals at some point in their lives.

A 2011 study by Valerie Young and Bonnie A. Leslie: This research, published in the journal “Journal of Vocational Behavior,” surveyed 1,683 professionals and found that 70% of them reported experiencing imposter syndrome at least once in their careers. The study also explored the relationship between imposter syndrome and various personal and professional factors.

The Grip of Imposter Syndrome

Imagine a scenario where, despite your accomplishments, a nagging voice whispers doubts, questioning your abilities and attributing your success to luck or external factors. This internal critic, the hallmark of imposter syndrome, can severely hinder personal and professional growth, preventing individuals from embracing their full potential.

Delving into the Imposter Syndrome Narrative

A study by Clance and Imes, the pioneers who coined the term “imposter syndrome,” revealed that individuals grappling with this phenomenon often share common experiences:

  • The Perfectionist Trap: Setting unrealistic standards and relentlessly striving for flawlessness, leading to constant self-criticism and a fear of failure.
    • The perfectionist trap is a vicious cycle of setting unrealistic standards for ourselves and then falling short, leading to a constant sense of inadequacy and self-doubt. We relentlessly strive for flawlessness, believing that anything less is unacceptable. This relentless pursuit of perfection can paralyse us, preventing us from taking risks and pursuing opportunities for growth. Furthermore, the fear of failure associated with perfectionism can lead to avoidance behavior, further hindering our progress.
  • The Attribution Shuffle: Attributing successes to external factors, such as luck or good timing, while downplaying personal contributions and exaggerating flaws.
    • The attribution shuffle is a common cognitive distortion that individuals with imposter syndrome tend to engage in. When we experience success, we tend to attribute it to external factors, such as luck or good timing, rather than our own abilities or hard work. This can lead to a sense of unworthiness and a belief that we are not truly capable. On the other hand, when we experience failure, we tend to internalise it, blaming ourselves excessively and exaggerating our flaws. This can lead to a pattern of self-criticism and a fear of trying new things.
  • The Fear of Exposure: Dwelling on the fear of being exposed as a fraud, believing that others will eventually discover their inadequacies.
    • Individuals with imposter syndrome often live in fear of being exposed as frauds. They believe that their success is a fluke and that they will eventually be discovered as lacking in competence. This fear of exposure can lead to a reluctance to take risks, share our ideas, or put ourselves out there in general. It can also prevent us from seeking help when we need it, which can further hinder our progress.

Dispelling the Imposter Syndrome Myth

The pervasiveness of imposter syndrome often stems from societal pressures, cultural expectations, and an overemphasis on achievement. However, it’s crucial to recognise that imposter syndrome is not a reflection of one’s competence; rather, it’s a distorted self-perception that can be challenged and overcome.

Defeating the Imposter Syndrome Villain

Embrace these strategies to silence the inner critic and unleash your true potential:

  • Reframe Your Thinking: Reframing thoughts into more positive and realistic perspectives. Acknowledge your accomplishments and focus on your growth journey.
  • Challenge negative self-talk. When we catch ourselves engaging in negative self-criticism. This can be challenging, but it is essential for breaking the cycle of self-doubt and insecurity.
  • Acknowledge our accomplishments. No matter how small they may seem. Maintaining a journal to document our progress can help us to see our growth over time and remind ourselves of our capabilities. It is easy to overlook our successes when we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. However, it is important to take the time to appreciate our achievements, big and small. Celebrating our successes can help us to build self-confidence and motivation.
  • Embrace Imperfection: Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. Embrace imperfection as a natural part of the learning process and focus on continuous improvement rather than flawlessness. This can lead to greater creativity, innovation, and personal growth.

“Don’t let feelings of inadequacy stop you from becoming who you are meant to be.” – Roy T. Bennett

This quote by Roy T. Bennett emphasizes the importance of overcoming self-doubt and embracing our potential. It reminds us that imposter syndrome should not prevent us from pursuing our dreams and becoming the best versions of ourselves.

Personal Story of Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

On my path to develop as a coach, I’ve grappled with the imposter syndrome, constantly questioning my abilities and doubting my potential. I used to have self talk that would say ‘You don’t need to go to that event, you could just go home instead’. This felt save and easy and I had to catch myself from listening too intently. You sometimes will have to do things that scare you but if it is in line with where you plan to be, you’ll almost always grow from the experience and appreciate going through it.

On our public speaking training courses I have seen hundreds (maybe thousands) of people take to the stage in spite of their nerves and 95% of them would tell me how amazing the experience was. Often, things feel scary as we approach them but in hindsight, it is those things that we need to do in order to progress.

I’ve come to realise that my perceived inadequacies are often driven by unrealistic expectations and a fear of judgment. By embracing imperfection and focusing on personal growth, I gained confidence in my abilities and self.

“Your biggest obstacle is often yourself.” – Paulo Coelho

This quote by Paulo Coelho highlights the fact that our own self-perception can be our biggest barrier to success. It encourages us to challenge our limiting beliefs and recognize our own strengths and capabilities.

Conclusion: Embracing Authenticity and Unleashing Potential

Imposter syndrome may be common, but it doesn’t have to define your journey. By challenging negative self-perceptions, celebrating successes, and embracing imperfection, you can overcome the imposter syndrome narrative and unleash your true potential. Remember, authenticity and self-acceptance are the keys to unlocking your brilliance and making a significant impact on the world.

If you’re ready to overcome your limiting beliefs and become a successful coach, I encourage you to attend one of our 1-Day Coaching Diplomas to start your coaching journey. It’ll help you to develop a plan to achieve your goals and build a successful coaching business. You can also find our beginners guide to becoming a coach here.


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