Let’s get rid of imposter syndrome

When we pay attention to the sensations, we are giving them an opportunity to deactivate themselves

Behavioural scientist and mentor to senior leaders wanting to master their mindset, Darren Fleming believes changing your mindset can banish imposter syndrome from your professional life – for good. 

According to a 2020 KPMG study, imposter syndrome affects approximately 75% of female executives. Males don’t appear to be as affected by it as much – a Workplace Insights article from April 2023 puts it only at 12%, while others put it as high as 20%. Interestingly, one of the reasons cited for the lower stats for men is their reluctance to talk about it. Surely that’s a sign of imposter syndrome right there! 

Most strategies fail at overcoming imposter syndrome
Did you know that the process below is automated and can’t be changed? Your brain chooses the thoughts it believes will give it the most accurate assessment of the situation. By the time you realise you want to have different thoughts you’re too late. 

And this is why most actions for overcoming imposter syndrome fail. When you are told to think differently, you are trying to replace automatic thoughts with manually generated ones. You will always lose with this strategy. 

A strategy that works
The only reliable way to move away from imposter syndrome is to work with the sensations the brain sends to the body in relation to it. We work with them by experiencing them and paying attention to them, all without reacting.  

Here’s how it works… When you feel the sensation in your body that causes you to feel as though you are an imposter, give your 100% close attention to the sensation. Don’t have any thoughts about it at all. If thoughts come up, ignore them and go back to the sensations, even while the thoughts scream loudly in your head. Just focus on the sensations.  

And here are some rules to remember as you go: 

  1. Don’t make the sensations wrong by thinking: ‘I should feel more confident’.  
  2. Don’t justify them by thinking: ‘I have a right to feel this way’.  
  3. Don’t try and own them by thinking ‘I always feel this way in these meetings’. 
  4. Don’t label them by giving the sensations a name like ‘nervousness’. 
  5. Don’t try and suppress it by ignoring the sensations.  

In short, just pay attention to the sensations and see what they do. 

Darren, a behavioural scientist and peak performance specialist, is a speaker, trainer and mentor to senior leaders wanting to master their mindset. With a background in psychology, elite sport and entrepreneurialism he has authored seven books on the topics.