How to turn Imposter Syndrome to your advantage

  • Perhaps you started a new job and believe you have less experience than you need, despite being the perfect candidate
  • Or maybe your boss trusted you with an assignment that you feel totally unprepared to lead, regardless of your flawless track record
  • Or maybe everyone appears way more knowledgeable, experienced than you do despite you being the expert in the room

The commonality in all of these is that there is no rational reason to believe we are incapable, but we feel it nevertheless

There is a name for this feeling: Imposter Syndrome. And it’s a contentious subject. Not least as it’s labelled a “syndrome” which denotes some form of medical issue

Imposter Syndrome is often linked to our sense of self- worth and self-belief. The Scientists who coined the term back in the seventies, claimed there were three critical attributes of the phenomenon:

  • Thinking that people have an exaggerated view of your abilities
  • The fear of being exposed as a fraud
  • The continuous tendency to downplay your achievements

I’d argue that the third point is an outcome of the first 2. If you undersell yourself and your achievements, you are managing down the expectations of others

Imposter Syndrome typically shows up when we decide to take on new roles or new responsibilities, and it can result in feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and guilt.

Those who experience imposter syndrome may end up sabotaging their own success, as I have on occasions, obsessing over minor mistakes, or working twice as hard to prove themselves and their worth

Some argue that Imposter Syndrome is a function of organisational cultures rather than being specific to an individual, in truth it’s probably a bit of both

Regardless, failing to manage it, can have a detrimental impact on your performance, long term career prospects and lead to burnout, depression and under achieving

Many of us tend to downplay our achievements. Women are particularly guilty of this, we brush them off by saying our success was just a product of “luck” or “good timing” or “just doing my job”

This reductive dumbing-down of our successes has two negative outcomes especially if you are already fostering feelings of self-doubt

  • You convey your lack of self-worth to others
  • You destroy your credibility in the eyes of your stakeholders

The alternative is to be intentional about realising and documenting your wins through an Affirmation Log.

This is a habit-forming exercise which helps reverse the negative narrative by making us reflect on what we have achieved during the day no matter how small. Writing it down, vocalising it further cements the realisation that every day we have small wins which ladder up to significant achievements

Changing the negative narrative also requires a shift in mindset from ‘what if it all goes wrong” to ‘what happens when it all goes right”

Ask yourself: Is there any reason to expect you will fail? Have you failed at this task before? If yes then what did you learn and how can you put that to work in your favour. If no, then why would this time be any different?

Ultimately very few Managers will set us up to fail because it is a reflection on them. Chances are your boss believes in you and trusts you to do good work, that’s why you’ve been asked

Convert apprehension to excitement. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone requires bravery. Bravery requires letting go of certainty. This task you are catastrophizing is actually an opportunity to grow and progress. That’s a good thing not something to worry about

Finally. A big part of developing your Personal Brand is about knowing your unique strengths. The winning combination of your strengths, expertise and personality are the pillars of your brand. We can mitigate imposter syndrome by taking steps to regularly reflect on and remind ourselves of our strengths


Discover how to


Download your free copy of ‘How to Start building your Personal Brand for Visibility & Impact’