5 Strategies to Manage “Imposter Syndrome”

Have you ever heard of “Impostor Syndrome?”

What is “Impostor Syndrome?”

It isn’t new. It was coined by two clinical psychologists back in 1978.

Despite evidence of competence, if you have “Impostor Syndrome,” you are convinced you’re undeserving of your success and may feel like a fraud. Drs. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes defined it as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”

It may be why we reject compliments. “That was an AWESOME program!” “Oh I didn’t do as well as I should have.”  “You looked great for that presentation!” “Oh no I didn’t; I looked frumpy.” “You’re so SMART!” “(Oh no, I’m not really. I’m just lucky, and I fooled you all.)” That’s you, thinking to yourself with damaging self-talk.

Is It Terminal?

It doesn’t have to be constant to feel very real. And it isn’t incurable.

It’s common among high-achievers like entrepreneurs. You may have read Sheryl Sandberg discuss it in her book, Lean In. And Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor suffers as did Maya Angelou! “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'”

It isn’t limited to women, but we have specific indicators that characterize how we may exhibit the syndrome:

  • Perfectionism (my personal favorite)
  • Overworking
  • Fear of Failure
  • Undermining Your Achievements
  • Discounting Praise

Sound familiar?

What To Do

There are a number of strategies to manage the impacts of Impostor Syndrome. If we don’t manage the effects, it can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-doubt, or even more. It can prevent you from having the courage you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

Some strategies for your consideration:

  • Don’t Suffer in Silence
    Reach out to someone you can say “I feel like a fraud” to. Women who are going or have gone through similar feelings as you may be a good resource. Reach out to a mentor for support and it’s likely she’ll share similar feelings and experiences.
  • Name It
    Say outloud “I’m experiencing Impostor Syndrome.” It’s remarkable how something so simple can go so far to reducing the power of the syndrome.
  • Remember Compliments
    Whether it’s in your journal, or merely in your memory, think about times you’ve received a compliment. We all recognize, in our heart of hearts, when praise is authentic.
  • Recognize You’re Not THAT Special
    By that I mean this syndrome is so common, you’re in very good company of 70% or more who’ve experienced the fear and doubt.
    You know the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo? I’ve seen it more than I care to admit. Just to hear Dory say, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Well, practice being courageous. Practice “acting as if.” Practice believing all those compliments. It gets easier, and one day soon you’ll notice you’re charging forward with newfound confidence.

What About You?

Have you had the opportunity to share with a younger friend/sister/daughter who’s going through a period of doubt? What advice have you shared? What has worked for you?

If you have insights you’re willing to share with your sisters here, we welcome your comments.



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