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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Apr 18

Exploring what imposter syndrome is and who it effects, with tips for overcoming imposter syndrome and famous quotes as well as the effect on company culture.

Cave with crystals to visualise imposter syndrome

What is imposter syndrome?

Coined in the 1970s by psychologists, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, imposter syndrome is a phrase which has become widely recognised in the context of business.

Key characteristics involve doubting one’s own ability and believing that one’s own achievements are a result of luck rather than skill or hard work.

Imposter syndrome can be succinctly defined as “persistent feelings of inadequacy despite evidence of success or competence”.

The impact of imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome can have a significant negative impact on mental health and well-being as consistently striving to prove one’s worth can lead to additional stress and eventually burnout impacting on wellbeing at work and beyond.

The self-doubt that arrives as a symptom of imposter syndrome can also prevent you from taking on new challenges or opportunities which can reduce job satisfaction, hinder personal development and prevent advancement.

Does Imposter Syndrome Effect You?

  • Yes - Significantly

  • Yes - Sometimes

  • Rarely

  • Never

Leadership and imposter syndrome

No one is immune to imposter syndrome, even successful leaders within your organisation. In fact, feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy can be exacerbated for high performing leaders as they face greater pressure to deliver and maintain high standards.

Leaders experiencing imposter syndrome often benefit from external leadership coaching which provides them with a safe space to acknowledge and address these feelings and develop strategies to support them with imposter syndrome and become more effective leaders.

Many people facing imposter syndrome fall into a trap of believing they are the only one feeling this way, but this is not the case!

In fact, there are several Imposter syndrome quotes from those who have openly discussed their experiences with imposter syndrome, including successful business leaders and entrepreneurs to Nobel Prize winners and best-selling authors.

Imposter Syndrome quotes

“Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.” – Quote by Howard Schultz, entrepreneur and former CEO of Starbucks.

“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler” – Albert Einstein, Nobel Prize winner and theoretical physicist.

“I still have a little impostor syndrome… It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.” – Michelle Obama, attorney and best-selling author.

Team around a table representing company culture

Imposter syndrome and the effect on company culture

Company culture plays a crucial role in shaping individual experiences and perceptions around imposter syndrome. Cultures which foster unrealistic expectations and comparison amongst employees can exacerbate feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, preventing individuals form accessing support.

A culture which values feedback, transparency and personal development will create a supportive environment where individuals feel empowered to bring their whole selves to work. Providing access to support in the form of mentoring or coaching programmes can also give individuals to develop the tools they need to achieve greater success.

How to overcome imposter syndrome

By raising awareness, providing support and fostering positive organisational culture workplaces can create environments in which each individual feels empowered to overcome imposter syndrome and recognise that they are not alone in their feelings of doubt or insecurity.

If you’d like to explore imposter syndrome further, download our free takeaways from coach Sarah Teagle from our Espresso development session or explore many ways to level up with your team in our Learning at Work Week sessions.


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