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10 Ways To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

10 Ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome

You know how you feel when you get a new project or a whole lot more responsibility and suddenly you feel you’re in the wrong job? It’s as if you have to step into someone else’s shoes every day as your own just aren’t good enough.

You’re not alone – that feeling is Imposter Syndrome.

We all get it – men and women.  Someone says something, or you attend a meeting and it all goes over your head and suddenly you feel like a right idiot, in completely the wrong place and company and in no way worthy of being a project manager, or any other type of manager.  It’s only a matter of time before someone notices that you are not up to the job and fires you.

Roll with it: it’s not just you. Dr Valerie Young is an international expert on imposter syndrome. Here are her 10 ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome.

  1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing.
  2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
  3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or minorities in your field or work place it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider.
  4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most. Don’t persevere over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens.
  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human for blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on.
  6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” 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.
  7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tapes that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project for example, instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”
  8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress.
  9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
  10. Fake it ’til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behaviour first and allow your confidence to build.

Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally recognized expert on Impostor Syndrome. She has delivered her often humorous and highly practical approach to overcoming impostor feelings at such diverse organizations as Boeing, Facebook, BP, Intel, Chrysler, Apple, Bristol Meyers-Squibb, McDonald’s, Emerson, IBM, Merck, Ernst & Young, Procter & Gamble, Motley Fool, Raymond James, Space Telescope Science Institute, American Women in Radio and Television, Society of Women Engineers, Women in Trucking, Lung Cancer Partnership, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and many more.

 Her career-related advice has been cited in popular and business outlets around the world including BBC radio, Yahoo Financial News, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal, USA Weekend, O magazine, Entrepreneur, Science, Elle, Redbook, Woman’s Day, and The Chicago Tribune, The Sydney Morning Herald.

 And her award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive In Spite of It (Crown/Random House) is now available in five languages.

Thanks to Sue Black for initially bringing the work of Dr Young to my attention.

Overcoming Imposter SyndromeIf you liked this article you will enjoy my ebook, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Ten Strategies To Stop Feeling Like a Fraud at Work. Find out more and buy your copy here

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. This really put into perspective a substantial amount of my life. I’ve always been on track, taking and accomplishing my priorities and basic “American goals” for my age of 24. Reading these made me a bit emotional because the veil of uncertainty that has been running in veins for so long I can’t remember when it even came has dramatically been extracted. I tell the truth, I love as much as I feel I can logically possible and I do what’s right as much as I can. Really awakened how I should Kingly I should be feeling instead. Thank you so much for this. Peace and Love.

  2. I was under the impression that an “Imposter” was a negative term used for someone whom might try to imitate someone else, and might do so illegally, i.e, someone pretending to be a policeman by renting a uniform from a costume shop, or a person to pretends to be a professional, but has no professional papers to prove it. I have met a lot of people like that!

    Your description is of someone who does not have any self-confidence, but actually knows a lot more than they think they do. That is very confusing! How do you justify that????

    • Marilyn, it’s about feeling like an imposter rather than being an imposter. If you feel out of place at work, as if you haven’t got the skills and someone will one day realise that, it’s feeling like an imposter. I didn’t come up with the term. Check out the work of Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. Describing these feelings as ‘Imposter’ is recognised language that has been around for decades.

  3. Thank you thank you thank you! I recently struck out on my own as a freelancer and have been fighting Imposter Syndrome SO much. It made me feel better to know it’s a common feeling.

  4. I’m experiencing exactly this syndrome right because of Jon transition. It perfectly describes what I’m going through and yes, it’s really hard. Thank you I read this


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