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Imposter Syndrome: That Icky Feeling That Makes You Feel Like A Fraud

Have you heard of the term “imposter syndrome”? Even if you haven’t, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the feelings that it can present you with.

It's that icky feeling inside that makes you feel like a fraud. Like people are going to find out that you’re not as good at something as they thought you were.

This is your inner imposter and it can show up for you in a number of ways including:

  • You not stepping out of your comfort zone, holding you back from reaching your full potential and doing what you love.

  • Comparing our lives to other people’s.

  • Make you feel alone, guilty, shameful and embarrassed and like you’re quite literally “small” in your body.

An inner imposter is something that all of us have. It works on a brain/ego level, not a body level and we can end up talking ourselves round in loops in our overthinking brain. When it’s talking, there’s a clear discord between our brain and our body.

There are 5 types of imposter syndrome which may show up for you:

1. The Perfectionist - you feel like everything has to be 100% perfect all the time or you're not going to bother. You may work hard to make everything perfect and see mistakes as a failure rather than a growth to learn. You may also blame yourself a lot. This can look a lot like procrastination and you may be telling yourself you’re lazy and unmotivated. You have super high standards which you can’t meet so you feel like there’s no point in even trying.

2. The “Superwoman” - you are a workaholic, perhaps working extra hours at work to provide for yourself. You put a lot of pressure on yourself and equate success on your productivity and what you can externally achieve. You may burnout but will not admit defeat or ask for help, even when you’re feeling rundown by all the pressure.

3. The Natural Genius - you have typically found things quite easy in the past so now you equate success based on how easy you find things. If you’re doing something new and it doesn’t come naturally, you criticise and reprimand yourself for not being able to do it first time.

4. The Expert - you’re somebody who never has enough certificates or qualifications. You may obsessively take trainings and say things like “I’ll do this thing once I have the qualifications.” You need all the information but never reach the level where you know everything (no one can!)

5. The Soloist - you don’t like to receive help and feel like you have to do everything all on your own. Asking for help may seem weak.

Which of these resonate with you the most? You’ll likely resonate with elements of a few of them.

All of these come from a place of defining success as a validation for our self worth. What we achieve externally = our self worth. This is the story/conversation that has been ingrained into us from a child. For example, praising children for their productivity/achievements rather than the act of trying. Society further creates this picture by creating the message that if you work hard then you’ll achieve external success. The problem with imposter syndrome is that it’s often highly intelligent people who suffer with it most and may effect people who are really talented and gifted but are holding themselves back because of their own self limiting barriers.

Remember that success is subjective. What looks like success to one person isn’t the same for someone else. Almost all of us are dealing with these feelings, however outwardly “successful” they look.

When I feel the imposter syndrome gremlins show up, I find it really useful to name it (literally - you can give it a name). Acknowledging it for what it is and saying, "thank you, but I’m ok" can help keep it at bay.

You may also like to journal on it and shine light to these shadow areas that we don’t want to think about.

It’s important to also check in with your body when you feel your imposter syndrome. Name where you can feel it in your body. Breathe into that area with love and compassion and give love to that inner child part of ourselves. Try not to criticise and tell yourself off.

And finally, feel the fear and do it anyway. The fear of something is 9/10 a lot worse than the reality. So ask yourself, “What’s the worse that can happen?” and “What have I got to lose?”

My free guide to journaling with 10 writing prompts to help you get started with journaling can be found here:

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