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Having worked with many aspiring and established talents, in particular within creative industries – entrepreneurs, actors, designers, artists, writers, models – it has become clear that most of us at some point suffer from an impostor syndrome.

“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented.  I’m really not very good.  It’s all been a big sham.” – Michelle Pfeifer

What is Impostor Syndrome

“When I won the Oscar, I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take it back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, “Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.”” – Jodie Foster.

Never heard of that? Impostor syndrome is term describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalise their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Rings a bell or two?

You suffer from the Impostor syndrome if despite external evidence of your competence, you remain convinced that you are a cheat, fraud and don’t deserve the success you have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking you are more intelligent and competent than you believe yourself to be.

‘In a lot of ways, I’m quite proud that I’m still getting jobs. Because of falling into a job, you always feel like you’re a fraud, that you’re going to be thrown out at any second.’ – Robert Pattinson

Despite common belief that the issue affects mostly women, there are vast numbers of men who also feel that way. The issue is absolutely endemic in creative industries, where the merit of performance and excellence is very subjective and years of experience don’t necessarily translate into ‘success’ or level of the income; where talent does not necessarily translate in the amount of publicity one gets… or not.


Celebrities about Impostor Syndrome:

“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey

“Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud.” – Emma Watson

“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this.  I’m a fraud.” – Kate Winslett

“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

“I was 34 before [fame] hit. And I’d failed a lot. And having failed a lot I understood how lucky success was. Because it’s not just about your brilliance. Luck has a huge hand it in.” – George Clooney

“When you go and watch a rehearsal of something you’ve written and it stinks, the natural feeling is ‘I stink.’ I’m a fraud. I need to go and hide,” – Chuck Lorre, writer of Two And Half Men.

“Every day feels like the first day and every day you think, “They’re going to fire me; I don’t know what I’m doing here; I don’t know how to do this; I don’t know why I’m here; Everybody’s going to find out.”” – Michelle Williams

The phenomenon affects young and old, rich and poor and permeates our lives, impacting on our life choices. I decided to write this article after conversation with PA of an aspiring actor, who has now stopped seeing their friend – a high caliber casting agent – because they what to feel like they have achieved everything themselves. Assuming that otherwise they would have gotten roles they don’t really deserve. I dread to think how many opportunities this person might miss.

“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert.  How do these people believe all this about me?  I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.” Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization

In a nutshell, impostor feeling relates to an inability to internalize past and current success as well as to look at own talents and achievements realistically. Being successful or famous does not alter how you feel about yourself and does not alleviate feelings of inadequacy.

When he’s on the set Michael Uslan says, “I still have this background feeling that one of the security guards might come and throw me out.”

Dealing with Impostor Syndrome like a pro

There are myriad of advised on how to deal with the impostor syndrome and things like writing down the positive feedback and your personal achievements do help with having an impartial hard core data. I recommend it to everyone as a takeaway ‘homework’ as it does bring some good results. It however, doesn’t change the state of mind that leads to feeling like a fraud. As Einstein once said: “You can’t solve the problem on the same level as it was created,” and here I will offer you a few tips to start exploring the real reasons and making long-lasting changes. To start with, ask yourself these questions.

Top life coach questions for Impostor Syndrome

  • When did you decide that you are a fraud?
  • Which of your successes are you not taking ownership of?
  • Which of your beliefs about success are holding you back?
  • Which of your strengths are you overlooking?
  • Imagine for a moment that you have indeed overcome the impostor syndrome…
  • How does it feel like now?
  • What have you lost as a result of your transformation?
  • What you can finally let go of, now that you have overcome the impostor syndrome?
  • What will you be doing differently now?

Some valuable learning might have come out of these simple questions. Note your responses down and let’s get on to the next level.

Using NLP to deal with Impostor Syndrome

Below are my two my most favourite techniques, bursting with some great Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) goodness. These techniques to deal with Impostor syndrome offer better visibility and bring instant results.

Disclaimer: The techniques linked below are perfectly suitable for carrying them on your own and will bring instant results. If you want better, long-lasting results, it might be worth considering going through these with trained life coach or NLP professional.

Timeline Technique – Link

Follow the link above to open the step by step guide. Please note the technique can be used in myriad of contexts. In this particular instance, you should be working with the moment when you decided you are a fraud or when you first felt that way.

Perceptual Positions – Link

Follow the link above to open the step by step guide. Please note the technique can be used in myriad of contexts. You are free to explore the unlimited possibilities of this exercise. Start by exploring the point of view of various persons you interact with on a daily basis – the ones that are most important to you.

As a life coach and an NLP practitioner, I would also recommend to explore the Belief Change technique. Please note that it requires more systematic approach and I recommend to do it together with a qualified life coach.

Finally, learn to see credentials for what they are. They don’t mean much. “Expert” means someone decided to call them that. “Influencer” means hardly anything these days and is being constantly misused. “PhD” doesn’t mean someone knows more than you, it means they spent more time in university than you.

Good luck! Let me know what worked for you.