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The true impact of imposter syndrome

Updated: Aug 19






IMPOSTER SYNDROME - the term first came to light following interviews with 150 highly successful women at university level who ‘despite their earned degrees, scholastic honours, high achievement...praise and professional recognition’ reported feeling no internal sense of success and considered themselves to be impostors. [ Dr Pauline Clance & Dr Suzanne Imes : leading clinical psychologists study in 1978 ]



5 visible results of this psychological experience :


  • the fear you are both intellectually and professionally fraudulent ( a fake )

  • the conviction that others have inflated perceptions of your abilities

  • underlying fear of evaluation + exposure as “fraud”

  • nagging anxiety about the perceived inability to replicate success

  • increasingly negative impact on workplace relationships due to comparison + criticism


So - how do you know if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome ?


5 warning signs :


  • you discount and diminish valid praise for your efforts or success

  • you tend to be overly self-critical

  • you attribute achievements to external factors like luck, contacts or assets, rather than internal qualities such as ability, intelligence or skills

  • you drive yourself and hold others to unreasonable standards of perfectionism

  • to cover up you fall back on : pretence, proving, performance, pleasing, perfectionism


What does this look like practice ?


Experience of working with those with Imposter Syndrome or Phenomenon shows that it can be felt regardless of age, gender or professional background. There are however, some patterns about the personas that are most often recognisable : these 6 are - the perfectionist, the performer, the soloist, the Einstein, the competitor and the saboteur.

1. THE PERFECTIONIST : never good enough, constantly crafting impossible goals + standards for yourself & others


2. THE PERFORMER : juggling more tasks than anyone else, always busy, always “on”


3. SOLOIST / PROVER : never able to share success, need to keep going one-better alone, only accept solo effort


4. EINSTEIN : undermining success by claiming it is genetic, or the result of an academic environment


5. COMPETITOR : fuelled by need to compare achievements, always finding someone smarter or brighter


6. SABOTEUR : secrecy is a hallmark of Impostor syndrome & refusal to be honest shoots you in the foot.


The impact of Imposterism on your business is both immediate and accumulative :


- increases your isolation as a founder

- results in a loss of impetus at critical times

- will kill your pitch and impact what investors really think

- often leads to self sabotage

- can result in volatile behaviour which leads to loss of engagement from team

- in worst cases leads to addictive patterns of behaviour

- followed by anxiety

- and finally burnout


Founder coaching gives you the tools to ACT fast.


A = acceptance

C = commitment

T = transparency


Founder Coaching gives you the space and the time to reflect on how to increase acceptance, commitment and transparency into your daily practice. This starts with exploring :


- what it look like if you accepted your limitations and weakness

- what new behaviours and practices you can commit to

- how being transparent really is in the best interest of everyone on your team ( including you )


We are all practising something all the time, whether we know it or not.


Coaching can help you shift your mindset from “perfection” to “new insight + new commitments = new actions”.