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Rethinking Imposter Syndrome

I really dislike the term “imposter syndrome”.

It sounds chronic and suggests that there is something wrong with us.

That there is something we need to deal with, or get rid of.

Have you ever thought about imposter syndrome as a nuisance? Or as something you need to “get rid of” in order to be “successful”?

Have you ever heard someone say “I suffer from imposter syndrome. The feeling of being an imposter keeps rearing its ugly head. I just wish it would go away.”

May I humbly suggest that the way we think about “imposter syndrome” is a big part of the problem.

To rise above the feeling of being an imposter we must rethink what it is, and where it comes from.

When we shift perspective from seeing it as something we need to get rid of, to recognising it as a plea for support from a less empowered part of ourselves – we can rise above it.

First let’s take a look at a few different definitions “imposter syndrome”.

The Oxford definition of imposter syndrome is “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved, or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” VeryWellMind.com defines it as “the internal psychological experience of feeling like a foreigner in some area of your life, despite any success that you have achieved in that area.” BetterUp.com describe impostor syndrome as “the condition of feeling anxious and not experiencing success internally despite being high performing in external objective ways.”


It can be far more empowering to think of the experience of feeling like a fraud or an imposter as the experience of being hijacked by a ‘part’ of ourselves that does not feel like they are enough.

When we reframe “imposter syndrome” in this way, it becomes possible to separate from this part of ourselves a little – and to take care of it.

It also means that the experience of feeling like an imposter is no longer perceived as problematic symptom of a chronic condition we need to “get rid of”.

Instead, we see that it’s really a cry for help from a less empowered part of ourselves – a part of us that needs our care, appreciation, reassurance and support.

Here are some alternatives to the disempowering belief “I suffer from imposter syndrome.”

There’s a part of me that sometimes feels…

  • Like they are not <?> enough
  • Like they need to prove that…
  • Like they are somehow inadequate
  • Like they are an inconvenience
  • Like they don’t belong

To lead others well, we must first learn how to lead ourselves – and that includes taking really good care of the parts of ourselves that sometimes feel like an imposter.

Until we learn how to embrace all aspects of ourselves – until the many different ‘parts’ of us feel like they belong – we may continue to feel a vague sense of homesickness, not really feelings a true sense of belonging anywhere.

By reconnecting to our deepest selves we liberate our highest potential and serve the greatest good. I’m a trusted guide for curious big-hearted leaders who want to honour the truth of who they are. I offer coaching, plus a range of programs, workshops and keynotes. 

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