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‘The Imposter Phenomenon’

Written by: Andrée Funnell, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


I was asked to talk at an event recently as a panel speaker on the subject of ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

Before the event, we had a debate as to whether people understood what it is or whether they suffer with this phenomenon?

Imposter phenomenon was first referred to by psychologists in a 1978 paper, entitled ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women’. Hewlett Packard did some research more recently on the subject and identified that it tends to be a female-centric issue. However, it is clear that some men suffer with it but dare not admit to it due to conditioning or social expectations that they should be strong and not show their feelings or vulnerabilities.

What does this mean?

Definition from Wikipedia:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud".

Also 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.

For perfectionists, it appears that perfectionism and imposter syndrome go hand-in-hand. Often the perfectionist sets such high standards for themselves. This requires them to work hard to achieve their standards and goals, so when they don’t make the mark they feel like a failure or an imposter in their own skin.

High Achievers

Often high achievers have a secret they hide away from the real world. Even though they have achieved success in their lives and/or career or both, deep down they feel like a fraud and put things down to luck. They believe they are ‘not good enough’, ‘not worthy’ or incompetent and a failure, despite the success they have achieved and evidence to support this.

So do you suffer with Imposter Syndrome, take this small test to find out. Just answer YES or NO to the questions below:

  • Are there times when you feel you don’t deserve your success and achievements?

  • Do you worry that people will find out you are a fraud or secretly not worthy?

  • When you have a success, do you dismiss it as just a fluke or that it’s just luck?

  • Are there times when you don’t stand up for yourself as you feel that you have nothing to say of value?

  • Do you believe that you are not worthy of success?

  • Do you feel like a fraud – like you have tricked others into thinking you are more successful than you actually are?

  • Are you often finding yourself apologising to others?

  • Do you find yourself ‘dumbing down’ your success so as not to appear big headed or arrogant?

If you answered YES to more than two of these, you might be experiencing a level of impostor syndrome.

Ten Tips to Avoid Imposter Syndrome

Here are 10 key tips on how to avoid Imposter Syndrome and start living authentically, with clarity, confidence and courage to live the life you truly desire.

1. Break the silence. Talk about your feelings and emotions. Shame keeps many of us from ‘confessing how we feel and the fraudulent feelings we experience day to day. When you are authentic and transparent, you will attract others who feel the same way and find that you will build deeper, more sustainable relationships.

2. Highlight the positive. If one of your core values is Integrity then you are likely to live by this rule which means you are passionate and care deeply about your standard of work and about the feelings of others. When things go wrong, be kind and forgive yourself. Concentrate on what went well in other words the positive outcomes and achievements not the negative.

3. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid and these feelings are often irrational and there is no evidence to back this feeling up... It happens to us all from time to time. Tell yourself that just because you are feeling stupid – doesn’t mean that you are. Just one full stop required after feeling up.

4. There is no such thing as failure. By developing a healthy response to mistakes and failures you can change how you react, feel and behave. You can learn from your mistakes to change the outcomes for the future just by shifting your mindset. Take the sporting world for instance, not everyone can win all of the time. Sports people reflect on what they did well and what they could do differently in terms of technique etc. Value the loss and treat it as a gift – you can always learn from it and improve and succeed the next time around.

5. The beliefs or rules we hold onto. Such as “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” to start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance. You are human and not Superman/woman.

6. Comparator syndrome and Social Stereotyping. Stop comparing yourself to others, especially nowadays with the influence of social media and reality TV programmes. Recognize that it might be a normal response to being on the receiving end of social stereotypes about competence and intelligence. Say to yourself ‘I am unique’ and have a different set of skills, style, intelligence and experience’. Being different is a positive thing and helps you stand out from the crowd. Stop being an imposter and living by others rules, social norms, expectations – be authentic and be YOURSELF!

7. Develop Empowering Beliefs a new script. When you find yourself in a situation that triggers your Imposter Syndrome, be aware of the inner critic the voice in your head and what it is saying to you. Change the language and script to a positive one that encourages you to think positively leaving you feeling motivated, confident and courageous.

8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do – they visualise themselves at the winning post or on the winners podium. Invest time before your event picturing yourself making a successful presentation or being congratulated on your success. Stop picturing disaster and failure as that is what you will attract also known as the Law of Attraction.

9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation from others. Be kind to yourself and learn to congratulate yourself on your successes and give yourself a reward when they do.

10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants and think on our feet. Many high achievers are able to turn things around quickly by thinking on their feel, being courageous, taking risks. In other words, put yourself out there even if you feel it’s not the finished article. You have to learn to let go and give it a go and learn from it. Some people call it ‘winging it”. Don’t wait until you feel it’s perfect or you feel confident enough to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behaviour first and allow your confidence to build.

Want to do a deeper dive into Imposter Syndrome?

Then grab a copy of my self-help book called ‘Behind the Mask’ about living authentically and not as an imposter in our own skin

The book helps you to look deep into your current life and provide clarity, confidence, self-belief and courage to live the life you truly desire. It takes you on a journey of self-discovery to help you find your authentic self and give you tools and techniques to assist you to eradicate the imposter in your life. It’s an interactive book that provides you with lots of opportunities to do some self-reflection and analyse your current and future self by looking at your:

  • Core Values

  • Limiting Beliefs (inner critic)

  • Level of Emotional Intelligence

  • Your future self without your mask

  • Goals and Action Plans

Alternatively, you can come and work with me as your Confidence Coach to help you live your purpose and passion with clarity and confidence to succeed in life as you desire it.

Living authentically and not as an imposter will enable you to build stronger, deeper lasting relationships with yourself and others and live confidently, happily and give you the fulfilment and success you deserve.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, connect with me on LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Andrée Funnell, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Andrée is a multi-award-winning Coach, Learning & Development Consultant, best-selling author, and speaker. She is the founder and driving force behind the success of Aspiring Future Competence (AFC). Since its inception in 2002, AFC has helped clients across a wide range of business sectors to get visible, get heard, and get ahead by applying inspirational ways to bring about positive change and empowerment. She has over 20 years of HR & training experience working in corporate organizations and a further 18 years delivering development solutions that make a difference to people’s careers and lives. She is a qualified coach, professional trainer, and NLP Practitioner. She discovered that Authenticity is the key to happiness, fulfillment, and success and is keen to get the message out there to others. ‘Behind the Mask’ is Andrée’s literary debut about ‘Authenticity.’ It’s an essential interactive step-by-step guide to turning your life around and achieving the kind of life you deserve by living authentically.



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