Identifying imposter syndrome

Do you ever experience self-doubt? Or have the tendency to downplay your achievements? You may be suffering from imposter syndrome – the nagging psychological feeling that you are performing inadequately in certain areas of life, despite your evident achievements. It's thinking that people have an exaggerated view of your abilities, or fear of being exposed as a fraud. The term that was first coined in 1978 is that sneaky internal voice telling you that you're not as competent as others believe, even in areas of your expertise.

Guess what? According to Psychology Today, about 70% of people are likely to experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives and careers, and it can mess with your team’s growth as well. So, recognising and tackling this issue is crucial for creating a positive and empowering work environment. Overcoming your imposter syndrome is key to working smarter and feeling more confident in the abilities that you bring to the table. Being open to recognising and acknowledging your strengths and achievements helps you to enhance your work efficiency, and in turn, contributes to personal and team success.

Recognise your imposter archetype

There are different ways imposter syndrome can show itself in our ways of work: perfectionism, expertism, natural genius, solitude, and superhuman. Step one in beating this mindset? Being self-aware, recognising and admitting self-doubt, and understanding your imposter type.

The imposter workplace cycle

Imposter syndrome brings with it a cycle of perfectionism, over-preparation and self-destructive habits like procrastination. "Imposters” often procrastinate out of fear of not meeting high standards (Source: Forbes), or over-prepare, thinking they need to work extra hard for success.

Recognise and tackle imposter syndrome

Ready to break the cycle, develop yourself, and redefine your professional success?

  • Recognise and acknowledge self-doubt: Embrace it as a proactive part of the process
  • Flip the script: Reframe negative thoughts into positive learning experiences
  • Seek support: Share your feelings with professionals, mentors, and friends to help you gain perspective
  • Initiate change: Implement a plan to boost self-confidence and promote growth within yourself and your teams

Tackling your imposter syndrome type


Try ‘Imperfect Affirmations’: Whenever you’re feeling like a perfectionist, keep a positive affirmation in mind or written down in your workspace, for example: “It’s OK to be 75% done and not 100%” or “It’s better to do it well now than wait and do it perfectly later.

Give ‘Incomplete Drawing’ a go: Take out a pen and paper and set a timer for two minutes. Start drawing with an idea in mind e.g. a person, your home, or even a pet. Aim to get as much detail in as possible, but don’t draw too quickly. At the end of your timer, look at the drawing. If you didn’t finish, that’s great! The goal is to embrace your unfinished work with complete acceptance.

Set realistic goals: If you keep a list of your goals, give it a once-over. Are they realistic, or are you overachieving? Aim for practicality both in your expectations of yourself and your deadlines. Also keep in mind other factors that might realistically lead to setbacks.


Natural genius

To overcome your genius complex, the most effective technique is to cultivate a growth mindset.

This is the belief that with effort, you can improve your abilities, skills, and talents. It’s the opposite of a fixed mindset, which believes that people are born with talents or skills rather than earn them.

When you have a growth mindset you’ll start believing in the power of putting in concentrated effort toward your goals. You can practise this by becoming curious about the learning process and reminding yourself of your potential to learn.

When faced with a new subject, set time aside to grasp the basics. Reflect on what you know now and what you are yet to learn as you delve deeper. Position your knowledge using the word ‘yet’, for example, “I can understand this but I’m yet to understand that’. This narrative implies a belief of potential much more so than thinking ‘I can understand this, but I can’t understand that...”



Experts should recognise there’s never an end to knowledge! So instead of always accumulating more knowledge or skills, try to accumulate them only when you need to.

This means focusing 100% on accumulating one skill at a time instead of dividing your attention to learn everything.



Chances are, if you’re running in superhuman mode, you’re also a people pleaser. You strive to do good for yourself and others. You want to impress, and taking on extra responsibility is often your ideal way to get there. Practice saying “no” in situations where you’re already overcommitted and need to set some boundaries. If you feel weak by admitting you “can’t” do something, say “I don’t want to take this on” instead. “I don’t” is a much more powerful response than “I can’t”.



Often, the reason why you may be reluctant to ask others for support is because you haven’t found the right people. Ask yourself: “Who are the top five people I spend the most time with?” If they are dream builders and not dream crushers, then you’d naturally want to learn from them.


Try joining a “mastermind” group, this is a group of peers who meet, virtually or in person, to give each other advice as a trusted network. You may find a group that specialises in particular topics, or a more general professional support group filled with incredible people you’d want to seek advice from. This approach makes the prospect of sharing problems and ideas way more enticing, and you get the chance to help others too. Don’t assume that everyone already knows what you do, the joy of these groups is in the collaboration, so share!

You could also attend a Business Builder mentoring event to help you connect with like-minded entrepreneurs who face similar challenges to yours.

We (NatWest Group plc) can't accept responsibility for any decisions or actions you take based on this article. It’s for information only and not meant to offer specific advice. And although we think it’s reliable, we haven’t independently checked all the information in it.  You also shouldn’t copy the article anywhere without our consent. All views and forecasts in it are ours and can change.

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