Why Imposter Syndrome Isn’t Real, and How To Let It Go

Everyone I work with as a coach and consultant has been faced with imposter syndrome at one time or another.

It loves to pop up when we are putting ourselves out there in a bigger way, taking on something new or stepping into a position of authority.

“Who do you think you are? These people know more than you. You have nothing to teach them!” It goes on and on. Blah, blah, blah.

But try this on for size: imposter syndrome is not real.

Let’s look at the definition of the word imposter, from Oxford.

“A person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.”

So, by this definition, you would have to be pretending to be someone else in order to be an imposter. So I guess if you are taking on a fake identity and duping people for your own gain, well, in that case, you are indeed an imposter! But I’m willing to bet that’s not the case.

You cannot be an imposter if you are yourself.

Let me repeat that. You can NOT be an imposter if you are yourself.

There’s only one you. And it is your unique combination of strengths, education, interests, personality, and lived experience that informs your work with others. And people need to hear what you have to offer.

So now that we have looked at the word imposter and have determined that you are not one, let’s look at imposter syndrome.

“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.”

Why wouldn’t your success be deserved? Did someone hand it to you? Was it some freak accident? Did you get mixed up with someone else? Are you a member of the royal family who was born into a title? (And if so, you have to tell me how the heck you stumbled onto my blog!)

You did the work, right? You made the connections, got the degree or the job, put in the work, created the thing, followed the opportunities, YOU. Not an imposter. Not you pretending to be someone else.

So there we have it. Imposter syndrome is not real, and you are not an imposter.

I remind myself of this every time my own imposter syndrome flares up. And of course it does, because I’m human. It asks me “who are you to be teaching CEUs? Creating this course? Coaching and consulting? Writing this blog right now?”

And I remind myself, I am me. As long as I am me, I’m good.

What has imposter syndrome cost you? How is it holding you back? And what could be possible if you let it go?

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