Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

imposter syndrome

Have you ever felt like you were a fraud, like you didn’t deserve the accomplishments you’ve achieved, or simply like you didn’t belong? These are all signs that you have experienced Imposter Syndrome, and if you have, take heart -- while Imposter Syndrome can hold you back, it can be overcome! On this episode of ProjectHR, we are joined by Jen Coken, international executive coach, Fortune 500 speaker and best-selling author who also happens to be an Imposter Syndrome expert, and here, she explains:

  • What Imposter Syndrome is, and how prevalent these feelings are.
  • The negative impacts of Imposter Syndrome.
  • Why perfectionism, high standards and "playing a big game" can be signs of/can contribute to Imposter Syndrome.
  • The importance of identifying the root causes of these feelings.

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What is Imposter Syndrome?

  • In the 1970’s two researchers coined the phrase “Imposter Syndrome.”
  • This name is somewhat of a misnomer because Imposter Syndrome is not a psychiatric diagnosis.
  • They found that it applied to people who experienced self-doubt.
  • Dr. Valerie Young examined the research and found that there are different characteristics of Imposter Syndrome.
  • Some of those characteristics include: 
    • Setting high standards for yourself
    • Failure to delegate
    • Refrain from asking for help
    • Thinking things should come easy


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How Common is Imposter Syndrome?

  • Most people experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives, whether it is personally or professionally. 
  • Imposter Syndrome is not something that will just “go away.”
  • “If you don’t have some aspect of Imposter Syndrome, you aren’t playing a big enough game.”
  • Imposter Syndrome occurs when someone feels threatened. 
  • It is not limited to one gender or a certain type of person, everyone can and likely will experience it at some point or another. 
  • When trying to analyze an individual’s Imposter Syndrome experience, it is key to identify the originating incident.
  • The human brain produces about 50,000-60,000 thoughts per day and 80%-85% are negative thoughts. The other 10%-15% are repetitive and positive.
  • Each person is different, so it is important for each person to identify their triggers of Imposter Syndrome. 
  • Different people have different triggers.
  • Often there are small events throughout someone’s life that may be their originating incident. 

Negative Impacts that Stem from Imposter Syndrome

  • We often store negative emotions within ourselves.
  • This can be seen in muscle memory, meaning that if/when a certain muscle group hurts or aches, that could possibly be a factor in your Imposter Syndrome. 
  • Imposter Syndrome can manifest itself differently in each person. 

Overcoming the Feelings of Imposter Syndrome

  • There are few different ways those feelings can be overcome.
    • Do not try to just tune out the feelings - move through the feelings of Imposter Syndrome.
    • Check in with your body and notice any physical stimuli that could be caused by those feelings.
    • Try to move from the reactive feelings to the creative feelings that can solve those issues.
    • Begin to identify your mood, mental state, bodily feelings, etc. to know when Imposter Syndrome may be kicking in. 
  • Curiosity is key to understanding what your individual Imposter Syndrome factors may be.
  • Introspection and identifying the originating incident is also incredibly important. 
    • The use of a coach or mentor can be helpful. 

Separating Authentic Thoughts from Imposter Syndrome

  • Allowing yourself to be present to understand what you are thinking and feeling will lead to knowing what you are feeling.
  • The next step is to separate fact from fiction when it comes to those feelings. 
    • Are those feelings ones of Imposter Syndrome or are they true feelings that can be dealt with in a different way?
  • When you become able to separate the facts from the fictionalized stories people tend to tell themselves when experiencing Imposter Syndrome, you are able to become present and more aware of the authenticity of those feelings. 

Outside Factors that can Impact Imposter Syndrome Thoughts

  • Social media is something that could definitely have an impact on Imposter Syndrome thoughts.
  • Very few people are authentic on social media and only the positives are posted. 
  • This leads to constant comparisons from person to person and even person to themselves. 

Leaders and Imposter Syndrome

  • We all have to begin with ourselves when it comes to identifying Imposter Syndrome feelings. 
  • From there, we can share from our own experiences that will help others identify their feelings of insecurity. 
  • Leaders should share personal stories and experiences that can help others.
  • If someone is terse and/or arrogant at work, it is likely due to Imposter Syndrome and leaders should be able to identify this.
  • From there, there needs to be a level of trust established to understand what is happening with that employee. 

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Coaching Package

  • This is coaching that is for individuals that features a quiz to understand what their personal characteristics of Imposter Syndrome are. 
  • Within three sessions, Ms. Coken can help you to understand and identify your feelings of self-doubt. 
  • The quiz she offers is located on her website here.
    • This quiz is your “foot in the door” to begin thinking about Imposter Syndrome.
  • Once the quiz is completed, Ms. Coken will get back to the originating incident and from there she will help you practice understanding your personal feelings and how to overcome them.

Ms. Coken’s Speaking Engagements

  • She loves discussing three different topics.
    • Imposter Syndrome
    • Are You Willing to Fail Spectacularly?
    • The Art and Mastery of Presence: How to Stop Reacting and Start Creating the Life You Want to Live.
  • Jencoken.com is Ms. Coken’s website - Front here you can book a session, take the quiz, purchase the webinar, purchase her book, and much more. 


Purchase Ms. Coken’s book - Embrace The Ridiculousness - here.

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