You Deserve This: How to Defeat Imposter Syndrome

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You Deserve This: How to Defeat Imposter Syndrome

We’re all fighting to get ahead. The basic career path has shifted from stability (40 years at the same company) to progression, where you are expected to constantly drive forward and seize new opportunities. 

Eventually, almost all of us reach a point where we feel like we’re in too deep. We’re given a position that we don’t believe we’re qualified for or are surrounded by people and experiences that we never thought possible. 

When the little voice shouts, “How did you get here?” that’s imposter syndrome. Or, more accurately, the imposter phenomenon since it’s not a clinical diagnosis. 

However you refer to it, this feeling is nearly universal. A 2020 meta-review found that up to 82% of people experience the imposter phenomenon at some point. Those numbers are highest in people who are underrepresented in whatever field they find themselves in. 

I recently spoke to Elena Cardone, author of Build an Empire: How to Have it All and founder of 10X Ladies, about the imposter syndrome she has felt in her impressive career and how to deal with it. 

Her advice? Assume the role. Become what you want to be. You deserve it.

Fearing the unmasking

I want to focus on one thing. Imposter syndrome isn’t just something that happens to people at the bottom of the totem pole. It affects everyone, all the way to the top. 

“There’s an ongoing fear that’s usually experienced by high-achieving individuals,” says clinical psychologist Audrey Ervin, “that they’re going to be ‘found out’ or unmasked as being incompetent or unable to replicate past successes.”

That idea of unmasking resonates with me. When prepping for a significant interview on the Success Story Podcast or meeting with an entrepreneurial icon, I often used to find myself putting on a mask. 

Even as my career flourished, I sometimes felt inadequate when face-to-face with successful individuals. At one point, I would dress differently (full suit), act differently, and speak in a way I thought they would connect with—or perhaps respect more. 

I was always worried about being unmasked. 

I would second-guess every decision, every word, every action. I was constantly terrified of making a mistake, saying something wrong, or presenting myself in a way that would not live up to the expectations of those around me. 

This fear of being exposed as a fraud or an impostor would often be so overwhelming that I would miss opportunities or shy away from challenges to avoid the possibility of failure. 

But one day, I realized something important: the people on the other end of the phone were doing the same thing.  

Even those seemingly confident and successful individuals I admired experienced this feeling at some point in their careers. Some of them were experiencing it still. 

Effects of the imposter

These feelings don't just cause us to hesitate or second-guess ourselves. They can have real, tangible impacts on our performance and our mental health.

Imposter syndrome has been linked to:

  • Decreased job satisfaction

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

  • Burnout

It can lead to self-doubt, lower self-esteem, and a constant fear of failure. This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy; you're unlikely to put your best foot forward if you don't believe you're capable.

It can hold us back from taking on new challenges and opportunities, stunting our personal and professional growth.

The “no big deal” problem

The next time I hear one of my friends or colleagues downplay their success to 'luck' or ‘being in the right place at the right time,’ I will have an intervention. 

Stop saying it’s no big deal.

Disregarding your achievements and attributing them to external factors is another symptom of imposter syndrome. You’re undermining your self-confidence and limiting your potential. 

It’s time to shift the narrative and give yourself the credit. 

You didn’t get the promotion because Jim retired. You got it because you've worked diligently and demonstrated your ability to excel. 

It wasn’t luck that doubled your revenue this quarter. You put in the hours, strategized, took risks, and made it happen. Appreciate your contribution to success. 

Making peace and overcoming imposter syndrome

Admitting that you’re not the only one that feels this way is the first step, but that's not where it ends. Here are a few simple techniques to help you remove the mask and trust that you’re where you are for a reason.

Acknowledge and recognize

Addiction counseling has taught us that the first step in overcoming any problem is recognizing it exists. 

Rather than trying to suppress your feelings of inadequacy or fraud, confront them. 

Change the narrative

The stories we tell ourselves matter. Instead of convincing yourself that you're not deserving or capable, rewrite your internal script. 

Focus on your accomplishments and skills. Emphasize the hard work, commitment, and ability that got you where you are today. You are not an imposter but a competent and talented individual who has earned their position.

Sweat the small stuff

Every success, no matter how small, is worth celebrating. 

Got a compliment from a client? Made a small but meaningful contribution in a meeting? Finished a project on budget and on time? 

Pat yourself on the back. These 'small wins' can boost your confidence and help dismantle the imposter feelings.

Turn down the critic

We are often our own harshest critics. Pay attention to your internal dialogue and how you speak to yourself. Replace any negative self-talk with encouraging, positive words.

Remember, everyone makes mistakes, and perfection is an unattainable goal. Don't let your inner critic keep you from appreciating your worth and abilities.

Grow from it

Imposter syndrome can actually help personal and professional growth if channeled correctly. It's a humbling experience that reminds you that there's always more to learn. It keeps you on your toes and prompts you to continue improving. Embrace it, learn from it, and grow throughout the process.

Assuming the role

Fake it ‘till you make it.

I hate how this phrase has been twisted. Now it conjures images of Instagram influencers with rented cars and fabricated lifestyles. But there’s wisdom behind those words that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t scam. 

But let’s put it this way: You’re not faking your abilities or experience—that’s outright deception. Instead, think of it as acting out the part you want to play until you genuinely inhabit it. 

Don’t think of it as portraying a character. Rise to the occasion. Prove to yourself that you have what it takes. 

You aren't an imposter—you're a work in progress. And the more you embrace this growth mindset, the easier it becomes to quiet that little doubting voice in your head.

Final thoughts

If you want to see more from someone who has mastered her inner critic, check out the full podcast with Elena. There are few people I’ve met who can better accept who they were, who they are now, and who they will be. 

We spoke for over an hour about maximizing your potential and finding professional success without sacrificing your relationships. 

For now, just start giving yourself a little more credit. You deserve it. 

If you enjoyed this article, I’d love to hear from you.

Write me at or tweet at me @ScottDClary and I’ll do my best to get back to everyone!


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