How to Stop Thinking Like an Imposter

The imposter syndrome is real and relevant.

All of us at some point or another question our capabilities and competence. It’s easy to start down the path of wondering how you got hired or promoted over others and end up  waiting for people to discover how little you know or how lacking your skills are.

It can happen to anyone—especially the smartest and most successful—but we live with our thoughts and have to be careful what we tell ourselves. And if you say too many self-effacing things out loud, you project a lack of confidence. Both the internal and external voices can do damage, and you need to shut them down.

Here are the most common forms of imposter thinkingsee which are the most familiar to you and learn how to pivot your thinking.

“I’m not as capable as they think I am.” This thinking is damaging not only to your self-esteem but also to your professional relationships. Think back to the last time someone in your workplace made a mistake or didn’t know an answer. Unless it’s a truly toxic environment, it’s unlikely that they were shamed and made to feel inferior for it. Trust your abilities, understand your limits and work to always know more.

“I got this position because I was just in the right place at the right time. Someone else would do a better job.” Remind yourself how you got the job. If you were hired from outside, think about how hard you worked to prepare for the interview and how many people you beat out. If you were promoted, remember how hard you worked to earn it. Even if you were in the right place at the right time, don’t forget the unspoken part of that equation—you were there with the right preparation and the will to make it happen.

“I don’t really like talking about it when I get a promotion or receive some kind of recognition.” Discomfort with being recognized for your accomplishments can stem from a sense of unworthiness—it’s not about the recognition but how you feel about yourself. Instead of dwelling on what you do and don’t deserve, focus on accepting what you have to offer and finding ways to use it productively.

“I only got the assignment because everyone else was too busy.” Imposter syndrome can prevent you from seeing yourself as special in any way. You may be constantly telling yourself and others, “Oh, that was nothing. I’m sure anyone could have done it.” When this thinking strikes you, focus on doing your absolute best. Sure, lots of people can hit a baseball, but you’re the one who actually stepped up to the plate.

“My success is nothing but luck.” If you attribute your accomplishments to luck, you may fear that you won’t be able to continue your success, which ties in to the idea that your achievements have nothing to do with your  competence or capabilities. Luck does play a role in every success story. If you’re reading this, for example, you’ve had access to education and technology—which puts you ahead of many people right out of the gate. Be grateful for your good fortune, but recognize too that what you’ve done with those gifts is equally important in your success.

“It’s all my fault this didn’t turn out right.” Perfectionism and impostor syndrome often go hand in hand. The only cure for perfectionism is to remind yourself—as often as it takes—that perfection is a myth. If you’re human, you’re imperfect. Give yourself a break, acknowledge your imperfections, celebrate your wins and work on the things that you want to improve.

“It’s all been a mistake.” The feeling that your success is in error is another way of discounting your own abilities and efforts. To help take ownership of your achievements, deconstruct them and think about all the learning and hard work that went into them. Those weren’t mistakes.

Lead from within: The imposter within you has to start believing in yourself and stop thinking about what others are achieving if you want to succeed.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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