Is Imposter Syndrome Holding You Back?

By Carol Phillips

Have you heard of imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome is a term used to describe the feeling and belief that we are “not good enough” or inferior to others. For example, a supervisor announces that the company is inviting employees to apply for a newly created position, which would be a promotion. Imposter syndrome can cause a person to immediately believe that their co-workers will be more likely to secure the promotion, despite evidence to the contrary.

Our feelings drive our thoughts, which drive our behaviors. Some people are aware of their own self-defeating thoughts and how they hold them back from thriving in life. Others don’t even realize they are talking themselves out of acting on life’s opportunities. Whether we consciously recognize imposter syndrome as a significant problem in our lives or we find ourselves lacking confidence every now and then, these feelings of inferiority can negatively affect our wellness, including increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Many people describe the problem as feeling like a fraud and not deserving of any of their achievements, be it in the workplace, with their families and friends, or in the community.

Years ago, I was given an opportunity to apply for a promotion. Several co-workers were also applying for the same job. Although I wanted to apply for the position, I found myself focusing on the many reasons why I would not be chosen for the position (most were untrue). Once I recognized that I was being my own worst critic, I told myself that I needed to embrace all the qualities and experience that would help me be the top choice. Subsequently, I applied for the position, focused on exuding a positive, confident attitude, and earned the promotion. If I had applied, but with insecure, negative energy surrounding me, I believe I would not have been successful.

How can we recognize imposter syndrome in our own lives and how can we counter this problem? Here are five simple steps you can take to identify any issues you may have and gravitate toward a path of self-confidence:

  1. Listen to yourself. What are the daily thoughts and feelings you have that drive you to make certain decisions in all areas of your life?
  2. Try to determine the root cause of your thoughts and feelings of inferiority. Have you always doubted your competence? Did you grow up in an abusive home and/or were you surrounded by highly critical people? Were you bullied at school? Sometimes others have treated us poorly and we never learned to get those false messages out of our heads.
  3. Start changing the narrative. Begin to purge all the self-destructive thoughts that hold you back. Learn to catch yourself when you’re being “not so nice” to yourself and remind yourself of all your strengths. People who are filled with negativity cannot live a positive life and are less likely to exercise, eat healthy, reduce stress, and find joy in their daily lives. Mentally kick the bully out of your head!
  4. Find ways to increase your self-confidence. Once you go through steps 1–3, you will be better equipped to notice all the opportunities in life to improve your self-confidence. Each time you shut down the negative self-talk and identify the endless ways to start loving yourself, your self-confidence will begin to flourish.
  5. Focus on embracing success. Learn to take the time to congratulate yourself for your successes, large and small. Say the positive things to yourself that you would say to a best friend who just shared an accomplishment. This step literally will make your brain feel good and you’ll want to experience that feeling again and again!

Simply being aware that you are having these thoughts can be the start of learning to shut down the negativity and embrace a winning strategy. Your mental and physical health will thank you!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at