Imposter Syndrome By Sara Penter, Head of Coaching Practice

‘Of all the judgements we pass in life, none is more important than the judgement we pass on ourselves’ Nathaniel Branden


The subject of Imposter Syndrome is often found interwoven in coaching conversations – the feeling that we are not as good as others think and that eventually we will be found out!


Early research focused on the prevalence of Imposter Syndrome among high-achieving women, but more recently it has been recognised as affecting both men and women almost equally, with 70%* of us experiencing Imposter Syndrome at some stage in our careers.


The classic symptoms of Imposter Syndrome include:


  • Being unable to recognise and acknowledge your successes
  • Assuming that those around you are looking at you through rose tinted glasses – ‘if only they knew!’
  • Identifying any personal wins with being lucky
  • Fear of being ‘found out’ – a permanent sense of ‘being on probation’
  • Focusing on the ‘gaps’ you feel you have rather than your strengths
  • Consistently using catastrophising language … ‘I never get this right’ … ‘Everyone is better than me’ etc


Experiencing Imposter Syndrome can create high levels of stress and anxiety as we focus our attention on perceived lack/failures, which can lead to a limiting self-belief that we are never ‘good enough’.  Although this feeling/belief may manifest itself in more effort, which can lead to greater success, we may not feel any sense of personal achievement or belonging.


Coaching can support you to recognise the impact of Imposter Syndrome and help you to redirect your inner critic – to becoming your inner coach.


Here are some of the things you can do to redirect your attention to create a fresh more balanced perspective:


  • Create a list of your core strengths and qualities. If you need help in doing this you can complete the Clifton Strengths Assessment on-line by visiting Gallup website
  • Recall peak moments in your career and reflect on how they came about. Watch out for any inner critic talk that may put the success down to luck! Consider all the strengths and skills you used
  • Recall and record the positive feedback received from others
  • If you find you cannot mine the past for the positives, consider asking 5 key people in your life the following 5 questions (extracted from 5-5-5 Technique, The Coach’s Casebook, Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan):
    1. What one word or phrase describes me best?
    2. What do you think is my greatest achievement?
    3. What do you value most about me?
    4. What one thing could I change for my own benefit?
    5. What do you believe to be my greatest strength?


Finally, if you want to explore the 5 different ways Imposter Syndrome manifests itself go to


Full disclosure … mine is the perfectionist … so I will now need to read and spell check this article for the umpteenth time!


*Margie Warrell (2014). Afraid of Being ‘Found Out?’ How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome.

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