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Battling The Imposter Syndrome

I noticed that some of the smartest bloggers that I follow have addressed the impostor syndrome in recent months.

This gives me some partial solace since I find myself, like many others, having to tackle this challenge on a regular basis.

What is the impostor syndrome?

Mark Schaefer in a recent blog provided a definition along with his assessment on how it affects his blogging: 

The clinical definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” It means you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea of what you’re doing.

Guess what? None of us do. Ask anybody creating content out there and they’ll tell you the truth. They don’t know where their best stuff comes from. They just show and do their thing every day.

It turns out that the Impostor Syndrome is fear that strikes a lot of us. It can force us to ask some uncomfortable questions:

  • Am I good enough?
  • Will others discover this and see me as a phony?

This is powerful and if not addressed can completely disable someone.

Mark Schaefer in his blog goes on to say:

Author and business leader Ann Handley has written about this idea a number of times. “Impostor syndrome is a feeling that despite getting accolades, professional recognition, and maybe tons of money, glory, and success, you nonetheless feel like you’re tricking everyone and you’re actually not very good at anything,” she said.

What can be done to address this?

First, acknowledge that the impostor syndrome exists and face it head on. There were probably many times in your career when you were indeed an impostor:

  • Starting a new job
  • Starting a new project
  • Being a new parent
  • Trying something new

All of things can bring up the self-doubts. This is normal. What you need to do is work past that and begin to recognize and validate your continual mastery of your new challenge. Quoting further from the Mark Schaefer blog he references more of what Ann Hadley says on this:

“Age, time, successes, and failures have greatly diminished my sense of impostor syndrome,” Ann said. “But, every once in a while, the familiar doubt still rises within me. But I’ve come to embrace it as less of a handicap and more of a good thing, for three reasons:

  1. Impostor syndrome is evidence that you’re still growing as a professional and as a person.
  2. Impostor syndrome is evidence that you’re not an arrogant jerk.
  3. Impostor syndrome can be a useful divining rod or guide telling you that the new path you’re taking (in life or career) just might be the wrong one.

“So, impostor syndrome is useful. It’s an asset – a tiny critic that prods me to produce my best work and that keeps me from being an arrogant, insufferable know-it-all.”


I remember one of my more memorable Imposter Syndrome moments.

It was my first team meeting after taking over The Frontier Group. When I looked out at all of the anxious faces all I could think was how they were all wondering how quickly I would kill off the business. I had to work hard at showing self-confidence, be open to listen and learn, and work quickly to begin to learn what the key drivers of the business were. It all worked out and seven years later The Frontier Group has established itself as a leader in outplacement and executive coaching.

Laurie Ruettimann, another great blogger that I highly recommend, put the imposter syndrome this way:

Everybody wears a mask. We are all imposters to some extent. And as long as you’re not a psychopath, I think its okay to pretend to be someone you’re not. In fact, I think it’s better to be someone you’re not. You are probably boring.

Just don’t be an imposter to yourself.

The takeaway from all of this is we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. The self-criticism does help to a point but then it is time to move on and get to work.