GTP20: Three top tips for combating imposter syndrome

Helga Henry Ltd

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2020 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2020 this involves 8 free workshops taking place between 2nd March and 27th March, culminating in a full-day Growth Through People conference on 2nd April. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Prime Accountants Group, Aston University, Curium Solutions and CIPD - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

As a consultant and executive coach, I have supported start-up businesses, medium-sized enterprises and coached high-powered executives.  At some point in our work together, regardless of how senior or experienced, the client admits to a feeling that they will be “found out”.

The prevalence of this “imposter syndrome” is astonishing .  My experience is that men and women alike can experience the traits (identified by Dr Valerie Young) such as :

*Minimising achievements or dismissing them as “luck”

(“Oh anyone would have done the same” said a woman who was so moved by the plight of a sick child she saw on television she raised £12,000 for this stranger through organising events.)

* Feeling that when you do succeed, you’ve “fooled them again.”

(“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” – Maya Angelou.  Yes.  That Maya Angelou.)

* Agonise over the trivial flaws in your work or are crushed by criticism even if it is constructive and useful.

(“Why didn’t I think of that – that’s so obvious!! How stupid am I??!!”).

So, other than take comfort that everybody seems to fall prey to the sense that they are not good enough and that they will be “found out”, what can be done about Impostor Syndrome?

  1. Identify your key strengths and write them up somewhere prominent in your workplace. Impostor syndrome preys on our perceived weaknesses rather than celebrates our strengths.
  2. Next time you find yourself assuming someone else’s opinion (“I’m not as smart as anyone else here”) find a way of instantly challenging that assumption. Ask yourself “Is that true?”.
  3. Focus on something good that you have done for others: value you have added or service you have given. Sometimes the Impostor Syndrome can be a reminder to focus on others and not on yourself.

Helga Henry
Helga Henry Ltd

Helga Henry is a consultant and coach working in the cultural and creative sector.  Bringing strategy to life, she has a range of services that develops the world of work and leadership in a way that works for you.  Find out more at