Feeling like a fraud? How to master imposter syndrome

Apr 11, 2024

Have you ever felt like a fraud?

Like, you’ve never had to work for anything you’ve ever achieved — and it’s only a matter of time before people work it out?

If so, you’re not alone.

Imposter syndrome impacts all of us from time to time, regardless how experienced and successful you are. It usually rears its ugly head whenever you’re starting something new.

I see it all the time in my coaching work, helping high-achieving leaders advance or transition their careers. I’ve also experienced it myself, especially in the early years of my career and business.

Imposter syndrome is one of the biggest barriers to career progression. A lack of confidence leads you to disregard your successes, fear failure and avoid stepping outside your comfort zone.

This has major consequences for your career. It holds you back from being paid your worth or reaching your full potential.

Struggling with imposter syndrome?

Read on to learn why you’re experiencing it, the unexpected consequences and how to break the cycle — once and for all. You’ll discover 6 simple strategies to stop those ‘fraudy feelings’ so you can get unstuck and move ahead.


Imposter syndrome is that dirty little secret you carry round – the fear of being ‘found out’.

Otherwise known as ‘imposter phenomenon’, it’s a psychological term established in a 1970’s study of professional women. Research revealed these women couldn’t internalise their successes and accomplishments, only their failures. Instead, they put their achievements down to luck, being in the right place at the right time or believing they never had to work for it.

Imposter syndrome has two key aspects:

1. It’s feeling like a fraud despite evidence of your accomplishments and success; and
2. Feeling unworthy despite those achievements

Further research and more recent public discussion on imposter syndrome has primarily centred around women. This is for two reasons.

Number one, women are frequently the minority in the business world. Think — fewer female executives or leaders in male dominated industries. Number two, due to social conditioning, men are more likely to put themselves out there and ‘fake it until they make it.’

For example, in my former recruitment career, I found men generally threw their hat in the ring for a new job or promotion, even if they met few of the key criteria. Women on the other hand, were more likely to hold themselves back if they didn’t tick all the boxes.

However, imposter syndrome affects everyone — including men and women equally.


Imposter syndrome is common amongst high-achievers who value mastery, integrity and excellence. It’s caused by an internal fear of not being good enough, or feeling like a failure, regardless how experienced and successful you are.

Like your fears, imposter syndrome occurs in response to a perceived threat. It’s a survival function, designed to keep you safe — to protect you from being exposed as a fraud. Imposter syndrome prevents you from taking action, makes you doubt yourself and your abilities.

In response, you adopt a number of unhealthy strategies to cope with imposter syndrome. These include perfectionism, procrastination, comparison syndrome, people pleasing and struggling to put boundaries in place. Perfectionism in particular is highly prevalent amongst high-achievers — and often the root cause of those ‘fraudy feelings’ and not feeling good enough.


Imposter syndrome often shows up when you’re beginning something new or doing it for the first time. For example, when you’re starting out in a new career, role or industry and have unrealistic expectations about competency.

It can cause stress, anxiety, lack of self-belief and feelings of shame. Your diminishing confidence stops you showing up in a meaningful way — and you begin to see your self-doubt as confirmation that you’re truly incapable.

Imposter syndrome creates a number of false thoughts and limiting beliefs. You might tell yourself:

  • You’re not ready yet — you need more experience, training, or to do another course before you launch your business
  • That your previous success was a fluke and you’ll never be able to repeat it
  • You don’t have anything interesting, unique or of value to say
  • You’re going to fail

All of these thoughts keep you stuck and out of action — which is exactly what imposter syndrome is trying to achieve.


I’ve learnt how to keep those ‘fraudy feelings’ in check most of the time. Here are my go-to strategies to disrupt the cycle of imposter syndrome.


A number of limiting beliefs accompany imposter syndrome — but you ALWAYS have a choice about what to believe and how you respond to them.

Next time you notice these unhelpful thoughts, flip the script. Ask yourself — is this true? What evidence do I have of this?

Then, replace it with a more supportive belief. Here are some examples…

  • ‘Everyone is going to figure out I have NO IDEA what I’m doing’ becomes ‘I’m doing this for the first time — it’s normal to feel self-doubt’
  • Changing ‘I’m not ready yet’ to ‘I have everything I need to succeed’
  • ‘I’m not good enough’ becomes ‘I am worthy’ 

When you start with awareness, you can consciously choose to change your thoughts.


The fears associated with imposter syndrome can hold you back from taking action. Fears aren’t ‘bad’ — they’re trying to protect you and keep you safe.

However, you must do the internal work before you can move ahead. So, face the fear, acknowledge it and understand what it’s trying to tell you. Then, decide what you need to take on board and forget the rest.

Because when you have the courage to face your fears, you will overcome imposter syndrome.


If you’re stuck in self-doubt, remind yourself of your past successes and what you’ve already achieved. Find evidence of a time where you wanted to accomplish something difficult — and did.

Then, ask yourself: What did you learn from this experience? And what beliefs and actions allowed you to be successful?

 The lesson for you is this. When you give your brain the evidence it needs, you will conquer imposter syndrome.


When experiencing imposter syndrome, you’re unable to internalise success and fear failure. Creating habits and practices to acknowledge and celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes is crucial to effectively manage imposter syndrome.

This is particularly important if you’re also experiencing perfectionism. Celebrate your progress and focus on doing work which is ‘good enough’ rather than trying to be perfect. Instead of beating yourself up for making a mistake, reframe failure as an opportunity for learning.

Here are two structures to support you with this. First, review your successes and mistakes by writing them down on a regular basis. I do this by creating a monthly task list which I update quarterly and annually. This allows me to look back on what I’ve achieved throughout the year, as well as where the gaps are and what I’ve learnt from them.

Second, gather proof. Keep a running list of compliments, positive feedback and client testimonials. Review these anytime you’re feeling like an imposter as a reminder of your achievements and abilities.

When you acknowledge your successes and learn from your mistakes, you will master imposter syndrome.


Imposter syndrome stops you from putting yourself out there, which leaves you isolated from the people around you. Sharing those fraudy feelings with others is key to overcome it.

Shame stops people from speaking up. As Brené Brown says: ‘Shame derives its power from being unspeakable’.

Feelings of shame can be overcome through vulnerability and courage. You can do this by talking to others about your imposter syndrome — friends, colleagues, a mentor or coach. When you share your imposter feelings, you’ll know you’re not alone and will show others they aren’t either.


Limiting beliefs and ‘fraudy feelings’ will always be there, so the answer isn’t to stop or overcome them.

You control where you focus your energy and attention. When you take action, you’re too busy to think about imposter syndrome. If you get stuck in limiting thoughts, move into action.

Don’t wait until you ‘feel confident’ before putting yourself out there. Confidence comes through courage. When you have the courage to take action, you will reduce imposter syndrome and BECOME more confident over time.

We all suffer from imposter syndrome at some point, regardless of how talented and accomplished we are. Feeling like a fraud can hold you back in your career, yet it’s possible to manage it.

These strategies have helped me and many of my clients break the cycle of imposter syndrome and move into action. I hope these tips assist you too!

Want help to overcome imposter syndrome and create the career you desire?

Click HERE to book a free 30 minute consult to find out how coaching with me can support you!

Stacey Back is a globally recognised and certified career coach, speaker and facilitator. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.