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Managing the Imposter in your life

It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all had moments in life where we’ve questioned our capabilities or achievements. In fact, living in a society where there is huge pressure to achieve can make it seem unavoidable.

For a lot of millennials, however, the associated feelings of doubt, worry, or lack of worth hinders confidence – to the point of feeling like a “fraud” or “phony”.

Introducing, Imposter Syndrome: a term first described by psychologists in the 1970’s and said to occur among high achievers who aren’t able to internalize and accept their success.

Those who have Imposter Syndrome experience intense feelings that their achievements are undeserved and fear that others will eventually unmask them as fraud.

While not an official diagnosis in the DSM, it has been acknowledged to be a very specific form of self-doubt.

While Imposter Syndrome doesn’t discriminate, it does tend to play out a little more heavily when it comes to our careers and professional lives. Which means before we can uninvite “the Imposter”, we need to understand some of the contributing factors:

  • Internal expectations and pressure we place on ourselves to achieve.

  • Unconscious bias from senior collogues which can make us feel like we need to try harder to meet expectations or beliefs.

  • Technological growth, which is forcing us to learn something new, and in turn, minimizing how experienced we feel we “should” be.

  • Comparing ourselves to our colleagues, or other professionals, including on social media (e.g., via LinkedIn pages).

  • Unhelpful internal dialogue we have with ourselves as a result of the above: “I don’t deserve this raise,” “How did I manage to get this senior role?” “I can’t lead this team as well as the other managers,” “I don’t know what I’m doing,” “I feel like such a fraud”.

So how do we manage ourselves when “the Imposter” shows up? While awareness is the most critical factor, there are some simple things we can do:

  1. Own your achievements. Take the time to pause, reflect and take stock of everything you’ve achieved. That promotion you got, you earned it. Everything happens for you, because of you.

  2. Focus on the value you provide. We all have something of value to share or contribute. Identify the value in what you bring to the team either through your skills, or experience and be proud of that.

  3. Stop comparing yourself to others. None of us has the same set of circumstances, lives, or stories which is why comparisons don’t work. Same your mental energy.

Recognize your worth, own your value and close the door on any thoughts or feelings that don’t serve a place in your life.


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