Imposter Syndrome

How uncomfortable is your ‘’comfort’’ zone? 

October 30, 2023

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Hands up, I’ve never really understood the term.

Because when you have imposter syndrome it doesn’t feel comfortable where you are, ever. OK maybe for a short period of time when you ace a presentation, or you get a distinction, or an award. 


But that doesn’t last long, because your inner imposter starts straight up again – ‘ha, fooled them that time, now what?’ Or ‘I missed out that detail and they asked me about it, I shouldn’t have missed it out’ 

Because imposter syndrome means you never feel like you’ve done a good enough job, that sometime soon ‘they’ are going to find out you’re actually not good enough, that you’re a fraud. 

Constantly worried you’re not up to the mark, dismissing any evidence (and there will be plenty) you are actually incredibly accomplished, capable and smart. A level of constant stress is the result. 

I’ve been there, as have so many of my clients. You have to get everything right, be the expert, and be competent immediately on trying some new skill. When you then start in leadership, or get promoted it can get worse because you can’t be the expert anymore, you can’t know everything leading a team. 

You can try to, to know it all, and make sure everything is perfect, but delegation and empowerment of others is rarely the result… And as a brilliant conscientious leader you know when it’s not working out for the team, with you correcting and becoming a bottleneck. And for you? Exhaustion and overwhelm. 

And so I think it’s actually a discomfort zone. Or sometimes it feels like a stuck zone – wanting to do something different but knowing how to start. But I’m going to call it a ‘familiar zone’ because there is a way out, a different way. 

Which there is. 

But here’s the rub – actually doing something about it feels more scary than the constant stress of imposter syndrome. 

Weird eh? 

Because our brains don’t like change. It’s a potential threat, it’s safe where you are because it’s familiar. Risk is uncertain, you know you can deal with what’s happening now, you’ve done it before and survived. A familiar, if uncomfortable, zone.  

So changing, challenging yourself, doing something new feels difficult. 

And that’s normal. Know you’re not on your own, it’s simply the way your brain works. But that’s one thing – what to do about it, and then taking the scary action to move you forward, is quite another. 

It could be dangerous, your brain says. At least you can cope with hiding the fact you’re an imposter – but who wants to test, to really test out, the possibility that you’re actually not? 

So, you’re in an uncomfortable but familiar zone, and your brain is telling you that the alternative is scarier. 


But there are ways to move out of it. For us Quieter Leaders it might be slower than we’d like, but small steps are the key. So your nervous system and brain are challenged but not freaked out by the change.

Taking the leap, ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ sounds fabulous, but for quieter leaders it can mean whatever step you want to take feels overwhelming. So it’s little stretching actions – speaking up in a meeting where you feel comfortable first not the big scary Board meeting – that give you confidence. 

The first step is getting to know your inner imposter, the second presenting him or her with the evidence of your capabilities. The third, taking those small steps out of your familiar zone. All of which is what I help my clients to do. 

And for that first step, getting to know your inner imposter, the key I find is separating him or her from you, so you can see them as a voice, an entity you are aware of, not your whole self.

With that as our goal, here are 3 questions to start you on the way to overcoming your imposter syndrome – 

  • Who does your inner imposter remind you of? 
  • If you had to give your inner imposter a name, which would you choose?
  • What does he or she look like? How does he or she move their body?

Next time you’re doubting yourself, dismissing successes or compliments, or worried you’re not as talented as ‘they’ think you are, try to envision your inner imposter saying those words. 

What changes?