Is the imposter syndrome holding you back?


This article is contributed by Li Hui. Writer and creator at heart, she firmly believes that every Monday should be a Happy Monday.

Ever feel like you are not worthy of an achievement? Or feel that you are a fake and worry about being exposed one day? The times you feel like you are not good enough, or think that you do not have what it takes to succeed? 

That is the imposter syndrome talking. The imposter syndrome is a belief that you are a failure and not as capable as others perceive you to be, despite the evidence indicating your skillfulness and success.

For many years, I was also afraid to embrace the warrior woman inside of me because I was terrified of being called out as a fraud. I hid in the shadows both at work and in my personal life believing that I was not good enough. Every time, I stood near a light, I was anxious that the world would see the inadequate side of me.

We are most certainly not alone in feeling this way. According to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, an estimated 70% of people experience these imposter feelings at some point in their lives. Even the very successful people battle constantly with imposter syndrome. When COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg was in school, she constantly worried about embarrassing herself in class. Every time she did not embarrass herself or excelled in what she was doing, she felt that she had fooled everyone again and one day, she would be found out.

For most of my life, I have been experiencing imposter syndrome without knowing what it really is. I have always wanted to write, but I struggled with publishing my writing online because I was afraid that the article was not polished or unique enough.   

When I received a promotion or an opportunity in life, I credited that success to everything but my own abilities. I felt like it happened only because I was lucky, or it was the effort of everyone else (but mine!) in the team.

Never once did it occur to me that it was my negative self-talk at play until one day, I attended a talk by Jean Balfour on the imposter syndrome. It was liberating when I could finally give my fears and insecurities a name.

Valerie Young, author of the book on imposter syndrome “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women” found these patterns in people who experience impostor feelings:

  • The Perfectionist: Setting extremely high expectations and the feeling that you need to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time. Small mistakes make you feel incompetent.

  • The Expert: The need to know EVERYTHING before starting on a new project or speaking up because of the fear of looking stupid without an answer and being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.

  • The Soloists: Feeling that you have to accomplish a task on your own and that asking for help equals failure or reveals your inadequacy.

  • Natural Genius: You feel like you have to be naturally good and able to do things quickly or fluently. Taking the extra time to master something or not getting things right on the first try to bring about shame.

Do the patterns sound familiar? Take the impostor syndrome test to find out if you have any of these characteristics and if so, to what extent you are suffering.

Now that you know your enemy, here are some ways that are helping me to overcome it when faced with moments of doubt:

  • Be mindful of the negative voices in your head: Notice when you are having internal negative thoughts and acknowledge it for what it is - negative self-talk! Realise that these are limiting thoughts and feelings. They are not a true reflection of reality and they have no power over you.

  • Create a distraction: When you start feeling overwhelmed by your internal negative self-talk, step out of it by doing something you love. Listen to your favourite song or go for a workout. Be mindful of being distracted for too long and not going back to what you were doing before

  • Act as if: We become what we think. According to Amy Cuddy, known for her TED talk on how our body language may shape who we are, we can trick ourselves into becoming more self-confident by approaching each new situation with a little more confidence. Eventually, we become the person we were trying to be.

Give it a try, one day at a time. Choose to be stronger than your insecurities because remember, you are not pretending to be something we are not - we are all born to be warriors and we have it in us to succeed.


You might also enjoy reading of "When You Say YES to Someone Else, You Say NO to You", "How Women Are Reclaiming Power In Their Careers" and "Happy Mondays in a Complex World" 


And if you feel the warrior in you has awakened needed some additional ideas and tips on how to take action, drop us a line at or connect directly with our founder, Sandra Quelle

sandra quelle