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Mood and Mind

Do you have Imposter Syndrome?

Shortly after concluding the Harry Potter series, Emma Watson revealed to Rookie Magazine that she has Imposter Syndrome. ‘It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases,’ she said. Feel like you’re about to be found out, too? Life coach and hypnotherapist Sloan Sheridan-Williams gives tips on how to overcome your inner critic and recognize your own accomplishments.

emma watson academy awards, imposter syndrome by

Imposter syndrome revolves around people who have little confidence in their own abilities and find it hard to recognise their achievements. It can affect anyone who listens to their ‘inner critic’ with regard to their accomplishments. The term was first used in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in an article based on their studies of high-achieving women.

It can affect anyone who listens to their ‘inner critic’ with regard to their accomplishments

What causes Imposter Syndrome?

Causes of Imposter Syndrome vary from parents giving frequent praise that the child feels is unjustified to the child believing they are undeserving because of overly critical parents to limiting beliefs in adulthood because of low self-esteem. It’s a phenomenon relating to perception of yourself and as such it can affect anyone who allows it to, but can also be treated successfully with long lasting results.

causes vary from parents giving frequent praise the child felt was underserving to overly critical parents

Signs you have Imposter Syndrome

Those affected by Imposter Syndrome are unlikely to say directly that they feel like an imposter but they are quick to relate to the phenomena when they read about it. If you relate to one or more of the following signs, you could have Imposter Syndrome.

  • You feel like a fake
  • You feel inadequate
  • You think others will find you out
  • You think any success you have is down to luck
  • You have low self-esteem
  • You downplay success
  • You find it difficult to accept compliments
  • You are highly critical of yourself

Who gets Imposter Syndrome?

Public Speaker

Imposter Syndrome is often found among extremely skilled and accomplished individuals. It’s more commonly reported in highly successful women than their male counterparts, but in my experience, I have seen equal numbers of men with similar concerns. The difference is that females tend to be more upfront and ask for coping strategies whereas men report it less, which is why they need a life coach to help bring imposter syndrome concerns to the surface before dealing with their issues.

It often occurs around promotions or when there is a shift in job role and responsibility

It often rears its head around times of career progression, promotions or when there is a shift in job role and responsibility, such as making partner in a firm. I find clients graded subjectively who have less structured roles are more likely to raise this as an issue because there are no tangible results for validation. For example, looking at postgraduate students as a demographic, I have seen it present more so with soft science subjects rather than the harder sciences. Likewise, salespeople and others who rely on charm and rapport often find it harder to internalise their success which in turn makes them feel like an imposter. It is important to be able to say within yourself that you are successful otherwise you are always looking for signals from the outside to feel successful and as such you are giving away your power and self esteem.

It’s important to be able to say within yourself that you are successful otherwise you are always looking for signals from the outside to feel like a high-achiever

5 ways to help overcome Imposter Syndrome

1. Deep breathing – Before a presentation or other incident that brings up feelings of inadequacy, inhale and exhale to the count of three until you feel calmer and once you’ve done that, close your eyes and visualise a positive outcome to the situation.

2. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy CBT is a type of therapy that helps stop negative thought patterns in their tracks. It can help you put your thoughts on trial and can be applied whenever negative thoughts arise before a big event. A good CBT exercise is to put your own thoughts on trial and ask yourself how likely is it that your negative self-talk is true based on facts.

3. Anchoring This is an technique from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which enables you to change your perception and can be fired off just minutes before any situation that causes anxiety. It helps you stay calm, collected and focused no matter what happens. It’s best to go to a life coach or a hypnotherapist though to get an anchoring technique strongly embedded into your subconscious.

4. Write a gratitude journal This can help redirect negative thinking towards a more positive outlook. Every morning immediately after waking, write down three things you’re thankful for. These can be big or small. The important thing is to focus the mind on helpful thoughts as this helps by giving you perspective. allowing you to see life as it is not worse than it is.

5. Act ‘As If’ There is a wealth of scientific and anecdotal evidence in support of ‘faking it until you make it’ including research conducted by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy and Berkeley business school professor Dana Carney. If you are ready for change the best way to achieve it is to act like you already have. I often tell my clients, if you want to appear more confident, then imagine how the confident version of you would stand, talk and carry themselves, then do it. Positive thinking will only get you so far, you have to apply the strategies a life coach gives you.

Imagine how the confident version of you would stand, talk and carry themselves, then do it

Science has already proved that you can change your psychology by changing your physiology. Small changes such as standing with your head held high and shoulders back, or maintaining regular eye contact or using relaxed open gestures can heighten biological and behavioural patterns enabling you to exude confidence.


Perception is key to combating any negative opinion of yourself, whether it comes from within or an external source. Clinical hypnosis can help you ‘fake it til you make it’ and is a great starting point for those who have difficulty doing such on their own.


For more information on Sloan Sheridan-Williams please visit; follow Sloan on Twitter and Facebook.


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