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Embracing the imposter within

Have you ever felt like a stranger in your own skin?

Ever doubted your abilities or felt like you don’t belong, despite others believing in you?

I know I have, and I still do at times. It’s called imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome affects many of us, leading to self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and the fear of being exposed as not good enough. Interestingly, studies suggest that around 70% of people experience this phenomenon, especially high achievers.

Sometimes it can feel like a suffocating prison, holding us back from reaching our full potential.

Here’s the thing: a shift in perspective can change everything.

Imposter syndrome often arises when we grow, expand our comfort zones, and face new challenges. It’s natural to doubt ourselves in these situations.

However, while others may believe in us, this imposter insecurity comes from within.

If imposter syndrome accompanies growth, then I say, “bring it on”.

In an article, organizational psychologist Adam Grant explains, “Doubting yourself doesn’t mean you’re going to fail. It usually means you’re facing a new challenge and you’re going to learn. Feeling uncertainty is a precursor to growth.”

In other words, imposter syndrome can be seen as part of the experience of progress and moving forward.

Starting a new job, getting a promotion, venturing into entrepreneurship, public speaking, or going on a first date—all involve stepping into the unknown.

Initially, we may feel out of place or unworthy, but these feelings are normal for anyone wanting to grow.

It’s more valuable to frame these experiences as a natural part of growth rather than as a fraud.
Because if we play small or stay safe, imposter syndrome has no role to play.

We often wait for the perfect time, seeking more qualifications or experience before acting.

But waiting until we’re fully prepared could mean missing out on countless “firsts” in life—experiences that can happen at any age, even in familiar activities being done in new ways. We’d never take our first newborn home from the hospital, start our first job at Mcdonald’s, or have said “I do” to our first spouse.

Research shared by Jeff Haden in Inc. Australia reveals that individuals who feel like imposters tend to overcompensate by working harder to prove themselves worthy. And they tend to become masters at shifting attention onto others by honing their listening and questioning abilities. All things which can make you more “interpersonally effective”.

I believe asking questions has been my antidote to imposter feelings and that genuine curiosity truly is a superpower.

During my time as a senior consultant at MLC, I remember meeting with the new head of my department, and it went well (so I thought).

However, my direct boss later shared an interesting comment by the department head that I asked a lot of questions. My boss chuckled and replied, “Well, she’s a consultant. Asking questions is her job.”

Imposter syndrome is a complex concept with significant consequences.

However, by normalizing and reframing it, we can transform it into an opportunity for growth and learning.

In my latest podcast episode of Courageous Me, I explore how you can reframe and embrace imposter syndrome as a chance to grow. You can listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

In the words of motivational speaker Les Brown, “If you’re not willing to risk, you cannot grow. And if you cannot grow, you cannot become your best. And if you cannot become your best, you cannot be happy. And if you can’t be happy, then what is this life thing all about?”

If being an imposter means growth and a happy life – I say, “bring it on!”

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