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5 Ways To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

5 Ways To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

There is a curious psychological phenomenon common amongst many high achievers; the beautiful and talented actress and UN Ambassador Emma Watson has been reported as saying she feels like a fraud. Other high achievers such as Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Penelope Cruz, Chris Martin, Renee Zellweger say they feel their successes were down to luck and are uncomfortable owning their accomplishments, or their accolades.

Marketing expert Seth Godin has published 18 best -selling books yet he wrote in “The Icarus Deception” that he feels like a fraud all the time.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, author and billionaire says “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud”

Kate Winslett says Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud”

According to International Journal of Behavioral Science 70% of us suffer from “The Imposter Syndrome”


Two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, gave it a name in 1978:   ‘The Imposter Syndrome’ describing it as a feeling of ‘phoniness in individuals who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement’.

They interviewed more than 150 successful women, who has university degrees and were high earners at the top of their game. They found that many of them did not believe that they were successful, skilled and talented.

Imposter syndrome isa common reaction to doing publicly visible and publicly criticised work; it’s a feeling that you haven’t earned and aren’t qualified for the status you or your work have and a fear of failing publicly and being discovered to be an impostor.

It is very prevalent among smart women, whom have been socialised to value other’s opinion of their work above their own.


If you were bullied, criticised or ridiculed for having your own opinion or ideas as a child you may have grown up feeling uncomfortable speaking up, fearing confrontation and needing to be seen as perfect. This way you avoid being criticised, shamed or ridiculed. You have very likely internalized the negative emotions which you are unable to regulate resulting in the imposter syndrome.

  1. You Can Often Feel Uncomfortable When People Praise You, as You Fear You Won’t Live Up To Their Expectations.
  2. You Are a Perfectionist and Feel You Have To Work Harder Than Others.
  3. When You Succeed at Anything, You Have Doubts About Being Able To Do It Again.
  4. You Feel Your Success Is Due To Luck.
  5.  You Seek External Validation, Yet Don’t Fully Believe It When It Comes.
  6. You are Intelligent and Competent and Sometimes Take Jobs Below Your Abilities, and Aspirations.
  7. You Have Achieved Success, but Feel Burned Out, and Stressed.
  8. You Appear Confident on The Outside But You Suffer From Lack of Self – Belief, Anxiety, Low Confidence and Self – Sabotage.

Imposter syndrome can keep you from progressing in life, and maximizing your potential.  You use unconscious coping strategies to avoid being found out; procrastination, perfectionism, withholding talents, skills and opinions,  overcompensating, shrugging off compliments, justifying and over explaining, earning less than you deserve and not being recognized in your field as you deserve to be.


Whilst there are many ways to overcome the imposter syndrome, I have compounded 5 of the most effective ways, which can be learned.


Start internalizing success. Focus daily on your positive qualities. Keep an achievement log. If you are an entrepreneur and you have testimonials from happy clients or customers, read them over regularly. If you are a corporate executive and have had appraisals from your boss or positive feedback from your colleagues, collate them on a  doc and read them every few days. If you are a boss and have had helped your team or employees flourish and have managed them well and they have told you so, write them down in a journal and read them weekly.

In order to feel good you have to program yourself to work on your mindset every single day.


You don’t need to justify yourself to anyone. This demon is an underlying belief that you will be rejected or punished or blamed if you don’t do what everyone wants you to do, and so you end up giving away your power.

We are a product of our thoughts and our thoughts are driven by our self limiting beliefs. For example if you feel a fraud you may feel you have to take responsibility for everyone else’s feelings and so you always explain yourself when you don’t want to or can’t do what someone asks of you.

If you have the imposter syndrome, its likely you are afraid of being judged, or want to avoid conflict and therefore strive to be seen as accommodating or accessible to everyone else.

You don’t need to provide lengthy explanations when its not necessary, or give a ton of background information to support your decision.

By over explaining, justifying and defending yourself you will lose credibility, it devalues what you are saying and it gives people the wrong impression, making you feel less empowered.

Place value on your own choices, thoughts and decisions, practice speaking less and also evaluating what it is that makes you feel uncomfortable for example to say ‘Thanks for thinking of me, but I am unable to make it on Friday’ rather than going into any explanation as to why.  If you want to explore this further you may like to check out my book ‘the confidence factor’ available now on kindle.


Perfectionism can permeate every area of your life.  It lives and breathes in your fear of making a mistake. Being afraid of what may happens means you don’t always make the best choices in life.

Do you hold unrealistic expectations of yourself and then berate yourself if you don’t live up to them?

Perfectionism can hold you back from crushing it, achieving your goals and reaching higher levels of success as you will constantly be worried that if you make mistakes  others will reject you. You feed your perfectionism when you look for others to validate you, dependent on their opinions to give you a sense of your value.

To overcome it you need to go for good enough, realize that you hurt yourself by buying into the myths of perfectionism. Keep reminding yourself that you are advertising your lack of confidence as your perfectionism behavior displays to others you don’t feel good enough, and/or you don’t feel your work is good enough and you need their approval, so simply put it disempowers you. Its not a winning strategy. 


Worrying what others think about you can have a constant negative effect on your life. It makes it hard for you to be comfortable with who you are and be at ease with those around you.  What others think of you is none of your business.

You are the only person who needs to approve of you. What’s right for others may not be right for you so it’s a futile exercise to seek their approval. Each one of us is unique.

Truth is most people are thinking about themselves the bulk of the time. They filter their world through their ego, so their thoughts are on themselves virtually the whole time.

Try to understand more about what it is that makes you care so much what others think of you,

Make a conscious effort to let go. It makes you compliant, a follower, not a leader worrying about others opinion of you.

None of us are that important, few people care, they don’t have the bandwidth to worry about us as they are way too busy worrying about their own insecurities and shortcomings  to worry about ours.

Challenge your thoughts, focus on yourself and becoming the best version of yourself, you possibly can so you feel good about you.   Practice more self love and self acceptance through daily mediation, journaling, eating healthily, exercising more, practicing mindfulness and finding your tribe who champion you and spur you on.


Firstly remember you are not unique, this is universal. Secondly lighten up, its so good to go easy on ourselves, when you feel it coming on, laugh and say ‘o yeah I’m an imposter’, this will hugely help it start loosing it’s power.  The Imposter Syndrome likes to try to control us, our lives, our thoughts, our actions, our beliefs and it LOVES to keep us small, shrinking in to fit in with everyone else and playing the role of the underdog.

Isn’t it time to kick it to the curb?

We tend to line up events to fit the narrative we have created. That narrative then becomes the foundation on which we build and maintain the relationship we have with ourselves.

What if you changed that relationship?

What if you developed a new script with a new story and tell yourself over and over you are not an imposter, you are the real deal? How different would you feel? How different would your life be?

Regardless of your story, it is still a narrative, and it can be changed.

See yourself as a scriptwriter of a movie, stepping out of the role you are playing as a fraud. Create a new character, one who is completely comfortable with themselves, proud of who they are, happy, fulfilled and stands in the light happy to be seen and heard with complete conviction.

Your new story can be the blueprint for your life.

If you enjoyed this article, please comment below and remember to share with your friends when you have a moment.

Do you struggle with the imposter syndrome? If so, what’s the biggest challenge you’re struggling with right now that I can help you with?

I’m Annie Ashdown, Author, Success coach, Cognitive Hypnotherapist,Speaker, based in London. I write about everything I’ve done wrong as a woman personally and professionally whilst out there in the trenches.

Clients hire me because they’ve been running so fast, in the fast lane with their GPS on, running on a treadmill expecting to move forward.  I help them get their ship pointed in the right direction so all their energy can go towards their bigger future. Fuzzy targets don’t get hit. Clarity equals bigger future. I impact people’s lives by giving them the success tools that tap into their full potential and go to the next level.

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