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Recognizing the First Signs of Impostor Syndrome

coaching leadership mindset neuroscience Dec 04, 2023

"When will they discover I'm a fake?" Do you ever have that thought, even when there is evidence to the contrary? You might think, "How long before they discover I'm not worthy of this?" Is the face you show the world one of self-confidence when it is a mask that covers your true feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and not being worthy of recognition?

If any of this sounds familiar, you might be suffering from imposter syndrome.

"The impostor phenomenon" was a term researchers Suzanne Ament Imes and Pauline Rose Clance created in 1978 to describe this condition. It exists in some high achievers who think they succeeded by sheer luck. They might believe they are unintelligent, far from capable and deserving of recognition, even though the opposite is true.

They feel like an impostor, a fake, an actor. People suffering from imposter syndrome might be the highest achievers in their fields. Even so, they often battle thoughts that they are simply lucky and undeserving of their achievements.

Early Warning Signs of Impostor Syndrome

Have you ever reached a level of success you hadn't experienced before? You may have worked very hard to nail a promotion at your job. You may have spent hours every night on schoolwork to get decent grades. Maybe you've met the person you believe is your soulmate, and you have a dreamlike relationship.

Impostor syndrome can have you believing you are not worthy of these wonderful realities. Certainly, you aren't smart enough, deserving enough, or fill-in-the-blank enough for some success, recognition, or love.

One of the first signs of this false belief happens after a previously unattained success.

Your hard work and pursuit of an achievement pays off. This is the first time you have experienced anything like this. Because this is all new to you, it's common to feel doubt, uncertainty, and inadequacy.

It’s never happened before, so why now? Surely, it is just luck. You had better hang on tight as you’ll soon be exposed as the fraud you know you are.

Negative self-talk is another sign that this belief system can develop. If the conversations you have with yourself begin with phrases like "I can't," "I never," "I'm not," and "I won't," you are programming yourself to feel like you don't deserve good experiences, fulfillment, and success.

"I've Got to Work Harder"

Have you ever thought this? It might be a good thing. You may recognize that you aren't doing your best at work. This is often the idea of someone who already succeeds at a very high level. Since they don't believe in themselves, they work harder and longer to prove they are worthy of their accomplishments.

Impostor syndrome is a stress-building machine. If allowed free reign, it can ruin your relationships, both personal and professional. You limit your experience and never truly feel fulfilled because you don't credit yourself for your accomplishments. This is, unfortunately, a belief among many capable people who are worthy of success.

Ready to go deeper? You can take my online course "The Imposter Syndrome Solution" and I will guide you through the complex maze of Impostor Syndrome, shedding light on its intricacies and equipping you with effective tools to dismantle it.


Are you interested in coaching, leadership development or organization consulting support? Lets set up a call, I love to help leaders like you!

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