Afraid of being found out? How to cope with Impostor Syndrome

Ever had that dream where you turn up at work and you’re suddenly naked?

Weird right?

Well here’s what Dream Moods has to say about it; “With all eyes on you, you fear that some flaw will be brought to public attention. You fear that people will see through your true self and you will be exposed as a fraud or a phony”

And that pretty much sums up Impostor Syndrome (or to give it its correct title Impostor Phenomenon).

First identified by in 1978 by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes it is essentially a feeling that somehow you are about to be found out, or that people will see through you or that if you just have one more qualification then you’ll be ‘good enough’.

Typically people will be unable to take praise, somehow feeling that their achievements are not noteworthy or they are unworthy of someone’s admiration.*

If this sounds like you then you’re in good company because people like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou have also reported feeling like this

“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented.  I’m really not very good.  It’s all been a big sham.” – Michelle Pfeifer

So if Michelle Obama and Tom Hanks don’t think they are good enough then you certainly aren’t right?


Now I’m not going to go into detail about the proposed causes of this but let’s just say, the things that your mind is telling you are very likely to be wrong wrong wrong.

So what can you do about it?

Here’s a few things that you can do that may well help.

First off you need to try practising accepting praise.

People are pretty miserable nowadays and so if someone tells you that you’ve done a good job then you can be pretty sure you have.

Accept the praise, feel good about it. I can promise you are not ‘getting a big head’ just because you take justifiable praise for a job well done.

It takes work but you need to keep at it.

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ “ – Maya Angelou

Secondly reframe the things your mind is telling you.

So when your brain says ‘I’m not sure I can do this’ then reframe it into ‘I know I can do this’.

Again this takes work and discipline but after all you can do this!

Third – try mentoring someone.

When you are able to impart your knowledge and experience to help someone on their way it does at least two things; it gives you a tremendous sense of satisfaction that you are doing something worthwhile and it proves in a practical and visible way that you do know what you are talking about.

Of course mentoring someone also gives a great new skill that you will be brilliant at.

Tip four – get a mentor.

This can help massively because they will be able to give you clear guidance as to what you actually need to do to improve which probably won’t be the things that you think you are awful at!

Word of warning though, make sure you get a mentor that is supportive and positive and that you feel comfortable with.

The bit where I realise I should have called this entry “12 ways to stop imposter syndrome”

Five – stop comparing yourself with A.N.Other. It makes no sense.

This is particularly important if you use Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or any other social media that shows you EDITED HIGHLIGHTS of other people’s lives.

Trust me, people haven’t got more friends, a better job, more money, a faster car than you and even if they have who cares?

Six – Write down the stuff your brain tells you.

This is like magic because when you see it on the page or screen you suddenly realise how crazy it sounds.

Seven – Give yourself the ability to be wrong.

Imagine the thing you are doing is a test, or a trial or simply a suck it and see. Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t but if it’s just a test then it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong.

Eight – Turn the situation around and ask how hard you would be on someone if they did what you did or if they were anxious about what you are.

Would you give them a hard time? Would you laugh? Would you refuse to talk to them ever again?


Nine – remember this is just impostor syndrome.

Give it a name.

Then when you see it rearing its head just say to yourself ‘oh that’s just Colin being a dick. Stop being a dick Colin’.

Ten – tell people what you don’t know.

I learned this from a professor at University but the way he phrased it made me realise what a massive idiot I had been.

You see I assumed that when people said I was an expert at something I had to know everything about that particular subject.

In the middle of a lecture, where he clearly was an expert, the prof told us of a massive big black hole in his understanding of a subject and how he was really looking forward to finding out about it

Did I think any the less of him.


I was enthused by his joy of learning.

11 – Refuse to listen to negative people.

I promise, there are plenty of people out there that really only ever want to tell others how awful things are and how things are all going to be bad.

The Two Andys (Cope and Whittaker) called these people ‘mood hoovers’ and that’s the best description ever.

These people will hoover up your self belief and pride in your accomplishments.

Don’t let them.

And finally – Do something for charity.

Maybe you have some skills that would be useful, maybe you could run a course or paint their office or do their books or redesign their website.

Whatever it is we should all give something back and going and doing something valuable, for free for someone that needs it is a great way of defeating Colin.

Let me promise you that if you told me all the things you’d achieved in your life I would be amazed and think you were brilliant. You are.

Good luck.

And finally finally…

Here’s what Colin told me about this blog

No one wants to read it

No one WILL read it

They will think you are just making it up (I am)

You made a mistake in the numbering and changed format at 11

You should write more formally

You writing is boring

No one cares

No one will comment

I bet the SEO if awful (it is but I don’t care. Did you know my subheading distribution is terrible?)

Don’t tell them about the MBA they will think you are showing off

I bet you made a spelling mistake because your attention to detail is soooo bad.

*So a few years ago when I went and graduated with my MBA I convinced myself that it was no big thing, despite getting great marks, really enjoying it and putting in heaps of effort and learning loads along the way.

One of my best friends got his on the same course on the same day from the same university and I thought he was amazing.

See how illogical it is?

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