Imposter Syndrome: What it is and why you might be surprised to learn you've experienced it

Picture this. You’ve worked hard to develop an offer you know your clients will love. You’ve crossed every T and dotted every I. You’ve spent way more hours on it that you ever anticipated. You’ve tweaked it and revised it, and you know this offer will make a huge difference to your clients so you’re super excited. But then it comes time to share your offer with your clients and suddenly, you’re doubting yourself. You start to think that the offer isn’t as good as you initially thought it was, that you need to add a couple more features, that you should reduce the price of it, and really, who the hell are you anyway to be trying to teach this stuff to people?


Have you ever experienced something like that? If you have, you’re in company with around 70% of the population who at one point or another have experienced Imposter Syndrome.


So, what exactly is Imposter Syndrome? Put simply, Imposter Syndrome is a belief that you’re inadequate, not as competent as others think you are, or that you’re a failure despite the evidence that proves otherwise. It makes you feel like you’re a fraud and that you’re just waiting for the day that someone finds out you don’t really know what you’re doing and are going to call you out on it.


People experiencing Imposter Syndrome often feel like their success is purely from luck and not from their skills or talent so they work harder and longer to ensure they can meet the expectations they believe others have of them; and when that success comes, they don’t feel worthy of it.


Over time, experiencing Imposter Syndrome can create a cycle of anxiety and guilt and can lead to excessive procrastination (check out my blog on Procrastination here). As you set the bar higher and higher for yourself, you continue to doubt you’ll be able to reach the expectations you think others have of you (spoiler alert – they don’t have expectations as high as you think they do!) which cements your feelings of unworthiness. You continue to work harder and longer hours, and you end up feeling burned out and overwhelmed.


Imposter Syndrome keeps you stuck in that cycle of working harder and longer, and then procrastinating on delivering your efforts to your clients or the team. You’ve probably got lots of finished or half-finished projects that you’ve created but then never offered to your audience because you changed your mind on what you wanted to deliver or decided that it wasn’t actually good enough for what you wanted to share. You get mad at yourself for procrastinating and wasting time (hello cat videos!) and then that further ingrains your feelings of unworthiness; because if you were really as good as people think you are, you’d be able to smash out your work and deliver it in no time, right?


And while you’re continually going through this cycle, your business is stagnating even though you’re working more hours than ever before. Is any of this sounding familiar to you?


The good news is that because Imposter Syndrome is based on how you think, you can change your thoughts patterns around how you feel and start to push your Imposter Syndrome to the side.


Here’s a couple of techniques you can try:

  • Start to recognise when your imposter syndrome is popping up. A client just gave you great feedback and you downplayed it? Hello Imposter Syndrome! The first stage in changing anything is awareness, so the more you become aware of when your Imposter Syndrome is rearing its head, the more you can interrupt the thought and change it to a better one.

  • Break the cycle of negative self-talk. When you hear you’re starting to criticise yourself, call yourself out on it and add a positive statement instead. Something along the lines of ‘Stop! I no longer choose to think like that. I love that my clients are always super excited by what I deliver’.

  • Remember to celebrate your success. It’s easy to brush off your success with thoughts like ‘anyone could have done it’, or ‘it’s not that great really’, but by taking the time to acknowledge yourself after you’ve completed something, received good feedback, or even just had a good client session, you start to internalise your success which can help break the Imposter Syndrome cycle.

  • Let go of perfectionism. When Imposter Syndrome creeps up on you, it makes you think your work must be 100% perfect, but that’s just a lie it’s telling you. You don’t have to lower your standards, but you can adjust your standards for success. Sometimes there’s not just one way to reach a great outcome, and just because you don’t meet the expectations you set for yourself, doesn’t mean the outcome is a failure. Look for opportunities to learn, to change how you do something next time, and most importantly, recognise the success within the achievement, even if it didn’t go totally to plan.

  • Look for evidence. When your Imposter Syndrome doubts start popping up, ask yourself whether there’s any facts or information to support those thoughts. Then ask yourself whether there’s any information to support that you’re actually really great at what you do. Majority of the times you’ll find information to support that you’re totally awesome and it will help to interrupt those negative thoughts.

  • Imposter Syndrome can range from an annoyance every now and again, through to being crippling and stopping you from ever really reaching your dreams.


If you’re finding that Imposter Syndrome is impacting your ability to reach your goals or stopping you from moving forward, send me a DM on Facebook or email me at info@donnaboylen.com so we can have a chat to see if working with me as your coach would be a good fit for you.

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