Reading time: 5 minutes

Picture the scene you finally get the opportunity you’ve been waiting for!

Then suddenly you’re walking into the office on day one, and that confidence you were full of earlier has disappeared…

Has this happened to you?

I know it’s happened to me on more than one occasion throughout my career

Being authentic, I have had more than my fair share of imposter syndrome symptoms.

I started in the admin team and then moved into sales then before I know it I’m the MD!

I’ve had my fair share of IS, as I like to call it.

So what is imposter syndrome all about and what can we do to move through it and be the best version of ourselves?

So imposter syndrome? Is it fact or fiction? Rubbish or Reality?

What are the tell-tale signs that you’re a victim and more critically: How do you move through it?

To frame today’s podcast, current estimates suggest that up to 70% of successful people have experienced imposter syndrome at one time or another.

That’s an awful lot of people who are in roles they don’t feel worthy of!

Though why I don’t know – when you hear so many stories about highly successful people and their experiences, and how imposter syndrome can appear out of nowhere when someone challenges you out of the blue or makes a statement about you that knocks your confidence.

There’s one story that really surprised me. It was about Meryl Streep and the fact she was rejected for a part in the remake of King Kong.

She shared it on Graham Norton’s chat show here in the UK. At the time she was only 27 and was rejected for being ‘ugly’. So, of course, she began to doubt herself, thinking who am I to think I could ever be an actress worthy of a leading part.

thankfully she ditched the imposter syndrome she had going on! If she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been treated to her exceptional performances over the years.

For any Imposter syndrome suffers out there here’s something to think about, Meryl Steep has been nominated for more academy awards than anyone in history, oh and she has also received over 30 Golden Globe nominations, winning 8! So, more nominations than anyone and from someone who thought she wasn’t good enough forty years ago!

I rest my case, if you let imposter syndrome get the better of you people will miss out on the amazing talents you can bring to the world.

So as we Segway into this fascinating topic let’s look at the data.

Imposter Syndrome was recognised as a phenomenon over 40 years ago by two psychologists, Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes from Georgia State University.

Their research centred around high performing women, who seem to suffer from the syndrome more than others and being British I know we don’t always like to own our success compared to other countries.

Imposter Syndrome is a natural occurrence in humans from childhood to, unfortunately, the grave; you can blame evolution for that.

Survival of the fittest means all humans live with degrees of anxiety – including the kind that can cause imposter syndrome.

Also, think back to your childhood? Who hasn’t played down their abilities in order to ‘fit in’, we feel it’s so important at the time!

After the initial imposter research from Georgia State, Dr. Val Young categorised various subgroups of imposter syndrome for women.

We do love a label!

I’m not going to dive too much into this, and fundamentally it’s recognising certain competence traits, as Dr. Val identifies them.

They are the perfectionist, the superwoman, the natural genius, the soloist and the expert — these ‘traits’ link to how imposter syndrome might show up in our lives.

As an example, let’s look at the first subgroup of imposter syndrome suffers known as superwoman.

You might have someone like this in your office, or maybe it’s you ?

As people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they’re not the real deal compared to others in their team, they push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up.

Then the work overload may harm not only their mental health but also their relationships with other people and then often everything spirals out of control and burnout happens.

You might remember we have written about burnout before.

The thing is it’s important to recognise that imposter syndrome can happen to any of us, so what can we ‘do’ about it?

I’m going to get a little bit deep here…

We all live in a world that is constantly changing and if the planet and our civilisations are going to survive the ‘best’ people for the job need to stand up and step out: Imposter Syndrome or no Imposter Syndrome.

The fact is……..imposter syndrome is a mind trap we can fall into that prevents us from believing in ourselves and adding to this amazing planet we all live on.

I love Sheryl Sandbergs thoughts on the subject and I am going to share a quote from her;

“When imposter syndrome creeps up on you it’s time to lean in.”

[By the way, this suggestion is a title from her excellent book.]

What Sheryl means by leaning in relates to recognising what is happening to you when doubt creeps in about who you’re and what you’re capable of.

So, when the emotion or feeling appears, recognise it for exactly what it is.

…the feeling is the imposter not your ability to deliver in the role.  Lean into the feeling and do it anyway.

The mind and body are connected so this feeling might appear as stomach churning or a sick feeling.

We’ve all felt it!

Now it’s time to take control.

It might sound strange – talk back to the feeling going on inside your body and head. Some people call it the script, or the ego mind or the saboteur.

Tell ‘it’ everything is fine, and you can handle things just fine!

Sometimes it’s important to ‘cut yourself some slack’ accept you’re not the finished article, we never will be!

As I record this podcast, I’m a few short months into my new MD role.

Remember I was an administrator 14 years ago.

I’ve adopted the JFDI attitude “Just F***ing Do It!”

So as I finish up today’s podcast here are a final few thoughts.

At some point, imposter syndrome is likely to happen to you so be prepared and ready.

Stop being so hard on yourself; you’re a work in progress.

Look at your values.

When you know what you stand for, you know what you uniquely have to offer, so you won’t pretend you’re something you’re not, just to fit in.

Imposter syndrome can be a gift if you use it to create more helpful, mindful, less toxically stressful ways of living and bringing your gifts to the world.

I’m wondering how many of you listening to this podcast have had an attack of imposter syndrome and importantly what you did about it?

I’d love to know, drop me an email on Rachel.Hewitt-Hall @


Rachel Hewitt-Hall

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