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Imposter Syndrome: Exposing the Lie and Unlocking Your Potential

Imposter Syndrome

At some point in our careers, most of us encounter a gnawing feeling that we don't truly deserve our job or accolades. This psychological phenomenon, known as Imposter Syndrome, manifests as a pervasive sense of self-doubt, a fear of being exposed as a "fraud," despite our evident success and competence. 

If you're battling these feelings, you're not alone, and it's crucial to confront them head-on.

In this Building Your Legend (BYL) blog post, we will try to understand Imposter Syndrome, explore strategies based on the BYL ethos to overcome it, and ways to enable you to recognize and embrace your achievements and to step confidently towards your full potential. Read on!

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is more than a momentary feeling of self-doubt; it's a complex psychological pattern that can hinder personal and professional growth. This syndrome affects individuals across various professions, age groups, and levels of success, indicating that it's a widespread issue that deserves deeper understanding.

Origins and Prevalence

The term "Imposter Syndrome" was introduced by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes in 1978. 

Initially, it was thought to primarily affect high-achieving women, but subsequent research has shown that men are equally susceptible. People who are perfectionists, high achievers, or have a neuroticism personality trait are more likely to exhibit symptoms of Imposter Syndrome.

Psychological Mechanisms

Imposter Syndrome is rooted in a variety of psychological mechanisms, but three specifically stand out:

  1. Cognitive Distortions: Irrational thoughts and beliefs that reinforce negative thinking and emotions. For instance, a person with Imposter Syndrome might engage in all-or-nothing thinking (believing they are a complete success or a total fraud, with no middle ground).
  2. Dysfunctional Attribution Style: Individuals with Imposter Syndrome often attribute their successes to external factors such as luck or think they deceive others into thinking they are more intelligent or competent than they actually are.
  3. Internalized Ideal of Success: People suffering from Imposter Syndrome often have an unattainably high standard for success. When they inevitably fail to meet these standards, it reinforces their beliefs of inadequacy.

Impact on Professional Life

In a professional setting, Imposter Syndrome can lead to significant consequences:


Fear of being exposed as a fraud can lead individuals to underprepare or over-procrastinate.

Avoidance of Promotion Opportunities

Individuals might avoid seeking advancement due to fear that increased responsibilities will expose their perceived incompetence.

Stress and Burnout

The constant stress of being "found out" can lead to anxiety, depression, and even physical health issues, which can culminate in burnout.

Cultural Factors

Cultural background also influences how Imposter Syndrome manifests.

For instance, in cultures where there is a strong emphasis on communal achievements and humility, symptoms might be more prevalent and socially reinforced.

Additionally, minority groups may experience heightened feelings if they are underrepresented in their field or workplace.

BYL's 'Deeper Dive'

Discover strategies for setting and achieving goals to counteract self-doubt in

"Goal Accomplishment and Peak Performance: A Blueprint for Mastering Your Day". 

This blueprint will help you create a clear path to success and build confidence in your abilities

Navigating Through Understanding Imposter Syndrome

By understanding the multifaceted nature of Imposter Syndrome, you can better recognize the symptoms and underlying causes in your life.

This insight is the first step toward overcoming the irrational beliefs and behaviors paving the way for a healthier self-perception and more fulfilling professional life.

"Trust your gut. You know yourself, so don't let somebody else tell you who you are."
Tatiana Maslany

Recognize the Signs: Uncovering the Traits of Imposter Syndrome

Recognizing the signs of Imposter Syndrome is critical in overcoming it, as awareness can help you understand how it manifests in your thoughts and behaviors.

Here are several common indicators:

Traits of Imposter Syndrome

Persistent Self-Doubt

Constant second-guessing of your abilities, even when there is ample evidence of your competence.

You might question your decisions, fear making mistakes, or undervalue your contributions, often feeling like you're not good enough to deserve success.

Fear of Not Meeting Expectations

An intense fear of not meeting the expectations of others, which can include your boss, clients, colleagues, or even yourself. You might feel like you're constantly on the verge of being found out or exposed as a fraud.


Overachieving often arises from the desire to mask feelings of inadequacy by doing more than necessary to prove your worth. You might take on excessive workloads, push yourself to exhaustion, or become a workaholic, striving to demonstrate competence.

Sabotaging One's Own Success

You might unconsciously sabotage your own success, either by underpreparing for opportunities or by procrastinating until it's too late to perform well. This self-sabotage is often rooted in a fear of success and the increased expectations that follow.

Setting Unrealistic Goals and Feeling Disappointed

People with Imposter Syndrome often set unreasonably high standards for themselves. When they inevitably fail to meet these lofty goals, they interpret it as proof of their inadequacy, reinforcing their belief that they're not good enough.

Discounting Praise and Compliments

If you tend to dismiss compliments, attributing your successes to luck or external factors rather than your own abilities, this can be a sign of Imposter Syndrome. Downplaying praise is a way to deflect positive feedback, further reinforcing feelings of unworthiness.


Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome often go hand in hand. The pursuit of perfection can leave you feeling like a failure if you're not meeting unrealistic standards. This mindset can make it challenging to recognize and celebrate achievements, as you focus on perceived flaws instead.

BYL's 'Deeper Dive'

For more on overcoming career stagnation and pushing past self-imposed limits, read

"From Plateau to Peak: Your Guide on How to Move Beyond Career Plateaus".

This guide provides actionable steps to help you move beyond feeling stuck and achieve your full potential.

Understanding these signs is essential in addressing Imposter Syndrome effectively.

By recognizing these patterns, you can start to challenge the limiting beliefs and behaviors that hold you back, and gradually replace them with a healthier, more positive mindset.

"Really, when you take a step back and you really know yourself, you're able to make better decisions." 

     - Omarion

Share Your Feelings: Opening Up About Imposter Syndrome Using BYL Principles

Opening up about feelings of inadequacy or fraudulence can be a powerful step in overcoming Imposter Syndrome, especially when aligned with the principles of Building Your Legend (BYL).

Sharing alleviates the burden of carrying these feelings alone; also, it facilitates personal and professional growth through community support and self-acknowledgment.

3 Reasons Why Sharing Helps


  • Hearing that your experience is common can be incredibly relieving. BYL emphasizes the power of community and shared experiences in personal growth.
  • Knowing you're not alone in these feelings can normalize your experience and reduce the stigma you might have attached to these feelings.


  • Friends, mentors, or colleagues may offer insights that challenge your self-doubts. According to BYL principles, feedback is a cornerstone of growth.
  • They can remind you of your accomplishments and the real value you bring, helping you see yourself through a more realistic and less critical lens.


  • Opening up allows others to provide support, in line with BYL’s emphasis on building networks.
  • Whether it's through encouraging words, advice, or just listening, knowing that there are people who believe in you and your abilities can significantly boost your confidence.

How to Share Effectively

Choose the Right People: Share your feelings with people you trust who understand the context of your work or life, as BYL teaches the importance of surrounding yourself with a supportive network.

Be Honest and Specific

When sharing, be clear about what you're experiencing. Expressing specific concerns invites more actionable support and aligns with BYL’s principle of authentic communication.

Seek Constructive Feedback

Encourage those you confide in to provide honest feedback. BYL values the role of constructive feedback in personal development, helping you internalize your successes and areas for growth.

Professional Guidance

If feelings of being an imposter are overwhelming, consider speaking with a professional counselor or therapist. This step is in line with BYL’s approach to seeking expertise when needed to overcome personal barriers.

"I just want to remind people that you know yourself better than anybody else and if you don't believe in yourself, then who will?"

     - Camille Kostek

Assess Your Competencies: Building Confidence and Skills

Questioning your abilities? Plagued by self-doubt, even when others applaud your work? You're not alone. 

Assessing your competencies is a powerful tool in dismantling those doubts and embracing your true capabilities. This process highlights your strengths and gives you a realistic perspective on your skills, paving the way for meaningful personal growth.

Let's explore how you can build confidence and take control of your professional "legend" by understanding and appreciating your true skills.

Key Benefits

What are the benefits to you of assessing your skills?

Boosted Confidence

Understanding your skills will help you operate from a place of confidence.

Which in turn, help you to make informed decisions about your development and leveraging your strengths.

Accurate Self-Appraisal

Regular competency assessments counter the distorted perceptions caused by Imposter Syndrome. Thus, presenting a realistic view of your abilities.

Targeted Development

Knowing your strengths and areas for growth allows for efficient and effective skill enhancement.

Steps for Competency Assessment

Incorporate BYL Principles by being proactive in using and developing your skills and using your competency insights to navigate setbacks.

Regular assessments will affirm your achievements and strategically build your professional identity, reinforcing confidence as you continue to grow.

Document Achievements

List all major achievements, including successful projects, feedback, promotions, and awards—evidence of your capabilities.

Skill Inventory

Catalog your skills by category (technical, leadership, communication, etc.) and rate your proficiency based on performance reviews and self-analysis.

Seek External Feedback

Obtain perspectives from colleagues, mentors, or supervisors to gain external validation and possibly uncover unrecognized strengths..

Reflect on Challenges

Analyze past challenges you've overcome, focusing on the skills used and lessons learned, enhancing your understanding of your adaptive capabilities

Set Goals

Based on your assessment, set specific development goals to advance your skills, potentially through courses, mentorship, or challenging projects.

Ending Comparisons and Reframing Your Thoughts

Photo Courtesy Allayne C. Sundt. © all rights reserved.

To help in overcoming Imposter Syndrome, two critical steps are involved, ending the cycle of comparing yourself to others and actively reframing your thoughts.

By addressing both, you can cultivate a healthier mindset that fosters personal acceptance and professional growth.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

The habit of comparing your career or achievements to those of your peers can be incredibly damaging, especially in today's digitally connected world where everyone's highlights (real or not) are on display. This comparison often overlooks the unique challenges and efforts behind each person's story and can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

Key Strategies:

  • Focus on Your Path: Concentrate on your own goals and progress. Recognize that everyone has a different journey and different timelines for success. BYL's Principle of Purposeful Action drives you to design your path.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Make it a habit to acknowledge and celebrate your own successes, no matter how small they may seem. This aligns with BYL's Philosophy of Continuous Learning and Holistic Success...build a sense of accomplishment and self-worth that is independent of others.
  • Limit Social Media Consumption: Reduce the time spent on social media platforms (I know, easier said than done...but focus) that prompt you to compare yourself unfavorably to others. Be you-for you...BYL's Philosophy of Purposeful Living promotes this.

Reframe Your Thoughts

Reframing your thoughts means altering your mental approach to how you perceive your achievements and challenges. Instead of viewing tasks or roles as opportunities where failure could expose you as a fraud, see them as chances to learn and grow.

Key Strategies:

  • Adopt a Growth Mindset: BYL's Principle of Strategic Growth Mindset teaches you to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. Shift from thinking "I must not fail" to "I will learn something new."
  • Practice Positive Self-Talk: Replace self-criticism with supportive and affirming language. Support yourself- BYL's Principle of Self Awareness and Authenticity says instead of saying "I don’t deserve to be here," remind yourself, "I was chosen for my skills and potential."
  • Visualize Success: Spend time visualizing yourself succeeding in your tasks. Develop your BYL Principle of Strategic Growth Mindset, apply it as a mental rehearsal that can boost your confidence and reduce anxiety about your performance.

BYL's 'Deeper Dive'

Enhance your understanding of financial communications and their impact on decision-making by exploring "Earnings Calls Demystified: From Basics to Boardroom Strategies".

This post dives into interpreting earnings calls, which can strengthen your leadership toolkit and improve your emotional intelligence skills.

By combining the strategies of stopping comparisons and reframing your thoughts, you can create a supportive mental environment that enhances your ability to tackle Imposter Syndrome head-on. This approach reduces the power of self-doubt and empowers you to take charge and embrace your true potential.

Accept That Perfection is Unattainable

Perfectionism often fuels Imposter Syndrome.

Accept that making mistakes and facing setbacks is part of the growth process. Every leader, no matter how successful, has experienced failures and setbacks.

"Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it."

     - Bruce Lee

Seek Professional Help

If your feelings of fraudulence are overwhelming, consider seeking the help of a psychologist or therapist. Professional guidance can provide strategies to change your underlying beliefs about yourself and your success.

Here are some valuable resources for mental health support and finding professional help:

  1. American Psychological Association (APA): Provides a directory to help you find licensed psychologists across the United States. APA Psychologist Locator
  2. BetterHelp: Offers online counseling and therapy services with licensed therapists. You can access support from anywhere at any time. BetterHelp
  3. Talkspace: Another online therapy platform that connects users with licensed therapists for a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression related to workplace stress. Talkspace
  4. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Offers support, education, and advocacy for individuals with mental illness and their families. NAMI provides information on how to find support and treatment. NAMI
  5. Psychology Today: Features a comprehensive directory of therapists, psychiatrists, therapy groups, and treatment facilities across the U.S. and Canada. Psychology Today Therapist Finder

These resources can help you find the right support for dealing with feelings of impostor syndrome and other mental health concerns.

"Your harshest critic is always going to be yourself. Don't ignore that critic but don't give it more attention than it deserves."

     - Michael Ian Black


You will never eliminate self-doubt entirely; we all have moments of uncertainty where that inner voice casts a shadow on our world. The trick is not to argue with it or ignore it, but rather to learn to dance with it.

Acknowledge your feelings without letting them steer your life. Remember, feeling unqualified and being unqualified are entirely different realities.

By applying these strategies and embracing the BYL principles, you can begin to recognize your achievements and your rightful place in your career.

So, shake off the doubts and embrace your success—you've earned it!

John Sundt - Contributing to Your Legend

Navigator of Success | Career Strategist | Business Mentor

 John is your trusted guide through the dynamic world of business. With over 30 distinguished years of combined experience, He has not only navigated the intricacies of the U.S. Army for over a decade but also risen through corporate ranks for 22 years.

As the authoritative voice behind 'Building Your Legend,' John shares the invaluable lessons learned from successes and the wisdom gained from overcoming challenges. He's not just a career strategist; he's your business mentor, providing a toolkit for success shaped by real-world experiences.

 Welcome to 'Building Your Legend'—where success is meticulously crafted, mistakes are turned into stepping-stones, and legends are born.

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