Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

by 25th November 2020

What is the expectation of yourself?

It is important to have an idea about the kind of future you want, as it helps evoke motivation and engage us to conquer the challenges of life and achieve our goals.

Do we have an expectation of ourselves and our environment so that we can plan our future?

It is important that the expectations we set are based on reality rather than setting unrealistic expectations that are impossible for us to live up to. If you have an expectation of how you ‘should’ be, it shouldn’t be rigid. Rigid expectations can cause problems which can be avoided. Remember, the two ways to be happy are to improve your reality or lower your expectations.

As humans, we often have this rigid expectation of ourselves, that we should be able to cope with the unknown and with uncertainty. The rigid expectations may be due to something hoped for, or wishful thinking, which may become idealised. This often happens when a great deal of hard work and effort has gone into achieving the goal which was wished for. The rigid expectation, however, means that, if reality does not meet these expectations, it can feel like a major problem and failure, rather than realised in a way that was different to what was expected. There is a saying, “a wonderful gift may not be wrapped up as you expected.”

Living Away From Home

Living away from home to start the next stage in your life naturally generates both excitement and anxiety. Involve academic study, work, or meeting new people and those emotions only heighten! Some people quickly embrace these new challenges and thrive, but for others, it could lead to feelings of panic, homesickness and uneasiness. There is often a yearning and even grieving of loss when there is a reflection on life at home, in the comfort of the familiarity and with parents. More than not, these unsettling feelings come from the change of people and routine.

There are two processes involved in any transition that involves loss or gain. Leaving your old familiar life behind can be either exciting or unsettling. Coping With new things, people, and places, can be thrilling, daunting and terrifying all at the same time. However, there will be new opportunities to engage in new experiences, and new rewards to redeem.

We all have different intolerance levels to change and individually learn many ways of coping with varying situations.

What can make this transition so hard?

In familiar places, with familiar people, we feel accepted and secured, and therefore are able to function and meet new challenges successfully.  Away from the familiar, we are away from the usual source of support and in unfamiliar surroundings, so our normal methods of coping and working are challenged. This can result in a fear of failure and/or self-esteem and confidence dropping. The person who would normally have taken it in their stride can suddenly seem quite out of depth, with new challenges feeling impossible. 

Strategies that can help in the process of transition.

  1. Talk to someone – if you have not made friends yet join a local group or a support group.
  2. Keep good contact with people you have left behind, and arrange to go home of a weekend.
  3. Invite familiar friends to come and stay for a visit with you.
  4. Remember, other people may be feeling the same. They may look fine on the outside but on the inside maybe the feeling the same issue. Seek comfort and support in that.
  5. Remember, you can feel sad about the things you miss, however, never feel guilty about enjoying your new life; it is not being disloyal to the people you miss back at home.
  6. Be realistic about you what you expect from life. Establish a balance between work, rest, and leisure. You are not expected to work all the time; you will burnout. On the other hand, if you do not put enough effort in to your work you will quickly fall behind which only adds more stress.
  7. If you find work difficult do not be ashamed to ask for help.
  8. Remember to look after yourself – get enough sleep, eat well, and keep yourself hydrated.
  9. Build new likeminded friendships by joining clubs in subjects of interest to you.
  10. Expect bad days. Life is not always a bed of roses, so you can learn the skills to manage these situations rather than let them overwhelm you.
  11. Give yourself time to adjust. Remember, Rome was not built in a day. Do not make hasty decisions which could affect your long-term future.
  12. Seek help before a problem grows out of proportion.

Overcoming impostor syndrome.

It is said that defined by social psychologists in the 1970s, 70% of us will be faced with impostor syndrome at some point in our lives, and it is more common in women. As we know, impostor syndrome stems from being afraid.

With impostor syndrome, people are constantly stressed about being found out that they do not deserve success. People that are perfectionists or feel that they constantly need to prove themselves feel that everything they do is never good enough.

People often use it as an unconscious social strategy, “if I play down my strengths people will not expect too much of me.” They use it as a form of protection. To play down our strengths is to take off the pressure. Impostor syndrome can cause significant stress which can lead to burnout, and it can inhibit achievements due to procrastination. It can prevent you from making valuable contributions if you believe that whatever you do is not good enough and you will deprive yourself of your full potential in life.

Key features of impostor syndrome

  1. Feeling that people have an exaggerated perception of your ability: you feel others think you are better than you really are “if people only knew the real me, they know how useless I was”.
  2. A fear that your true ability will be found out: you feel a fraud and worry that people will make you feel ashamed, resulting in negative emotion. Combined with this is the feeling of dishonour, unworthiness, embarrassment and humiliation, which will lessen your dignity and pride within yourself. No matter how much you have achieved and succeeded, the next time you try to achieve something you have the feeling that this time you will be finally found out.
  3. An inability to internalise success even though you have had external objective evidence: external positive feedback is not digested appropriately. All success is attributed to external factors.
  4. A persistent tendency to attribute success to external factors such as luck or accident: unable to accept personal responsibility for your own success and achievements, which can be undermined by stalemate such as “it’s because he/she likes me“ or “They mixed me up with someone else”. All previous achievements are perceived as accidental, easy, lucky etc.
  5. Constant anxiety about standards: being perfect or the need for perfectionism and the inability to self-assess any constructive criticism is seen as an attack and results in internal comparisons to sloppiness, “If I don’t do my best then I can blame that on my poor performance rather than my true ability being revealed”.
  6. Dreading or avoiding evaluation: unable to seek help and support as this shows weakness in oneself. You delay or avoid submitting work to avoid contacting people, and not arranging meetings with colleagues’, tutors, or line managers and supervisors.
  7. Lack of ability to enjoy accomplishments:  low moods manifest when joining in with celebrations. Limited laughter, smiling reduced, self-care lacking when in the context of the celebration of success. Undervaluing your success and achievements and overestimating the importance of getting things wrong.
  8. Self-sabotaging behaviour: I have already done for blogs on self-sabotage and this is a result of procrastination, poor time management, not relaxing, overstressing and being unable to deal with what is a priority by displaying distracting and avoiding behaviour.

Strategies to interrupt impostor syndrome

  1. Break the silence and talk to others about your concerns to help you get a sense of perspective. Talk to friends family, colleagues, or peer support. Failing that, find a good NLP coach that can help you.
  2. Separate your feelings from fact. Just because you may ‘feel’ stupid does not mean that you are. Ask yourself a simple question – Is it true or is it false? – in relation and response to your belief’s ideas and thoughts.
  3. Ask a good friend if you are not sure. Decrease the distance between self-image and an objective view. How can you see yourself the way others see you?
Self-doubt is part of the process of not knowing. Then going down avenues of exploitation to find out realistically where should you be at, at specific stages of learning. It’s time to reframe failure, or not knowing, as an opportunity to learn. Henry Ford said failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. Remember you should be believing in yourself as much as you do in your best friend.
Perfectionism – Aim to do well and attempt to achieve excellence. However, this is not to be confused with perfection, which is in most cased impossible to achieve and often delusional. Do a good job when it matters, however, the perfect solution for routine tasks is just to get it done.

Set Targets – Consider SMART






This can certainly help with the impostor syndrome. Write this out and have a realistic and flexible plan. If you need help, please do fill out the form below to speak to me.

I am going to leave you with this from David Burns:

“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person.”


About Karen Baughan

Karen Baughan is an NLP Master Practitioner based in Bromsgrove, UK. Having used NLP to affect her own personal transformation, she now helps clients, from around the world, to transform their lives and achieve their dreams.

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Get in touch today and find out how Karen can help you to start achieving the results you want.