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  • Writer's pictureNathalie Cordell

Impostor Syndrome: Will the Real You Please Stand Up

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Unmasking the master of disguise (by Nathalie Cordell)

A person holding a black mask in their outstretched hands
Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Do you ever have that nagging feeling that you just aren't good enough? That, despite your accomplishments, you're a fraud who's been bluffing your way through life? Don't worry, you're far from alone. This uncomfortable pattern of thinking has been called 'Impostor Syndrome'. But, despite the name, it's not an illness, but a shared experience that affects many of us.

Society can sometimes be an unkind judge, especially for many women. Societal stereotypes, expectations, and the still stark underrepresentation of women in certain fields can stir up a whirlpool of doubt within us. Have you ever wondered whether your success is just a result of dumb luck? Or perhaps you're afraid you have somehow deceived others into thinking you’re more capable than you really are. Let's dive into these thoughts and feelings together and understand their roots and as well how to overcome them.


Impostor Syndrome Unmasked

This so-called 'syndrome' is a complex array of feelings that make us question our worthiness of our achievements.

Interestingly, this phenomenon was initially identified in high-achieving women[i], but it has since been recognized in a variety of individuals from all walks of life[ii]. So, it's important to understand that having these feelings doesn't mean there's something inherently wrong with you.

The name ‘syndrome’ certainly doesn't help as it seems to imply some sort of medical condition that needs to be treated. it seems to have appeared out of nowhere and more and more people are disputing it[iii],[iv],[v] as it is most definitely not a pathology! In fact, the feelings of being an impostor are much more common than you may think!


Meet Your Inner Critic: The 'Judge Saboteur'

We've all got that little voice in our head that loves to critique every single thing we do, right? That's your 'Judge Saboteur', a concept taken from Shirzad Chamine's New York Times bestselling book

Close up of a gavel about to be slammed on its block by a judge

Positive Intelligence®. This inner critic is often at the root of our self-doubt, undermining our achievements and whispering that we're not good enough.

But the Judge Saboteur doesn't work alone. It has accomplices like the perfection-obsessed 'Stickler' and the relentless 'Hyper-achiever'. These characters are born out of our subconscious desire to overcompensate for feelings of inadequacy, and together, they form a potent team that fuels our Impostor Syndrome.


Challenging Your Inner Critic

This internal critic is a leftover from our childhood, originally designed to keep us safe and guide us. However, as we mature into adults, this once helpful voice becomes a relentless critic that perpetuates self-doubt, fuels self-criticism, and undermines our achievements.

It's important to remember that the presence of an inner critic is not a sign of personal failure, but a normal part of human psychology. By understanding this, we can begin to challenge our inner critic and diminish its influence over our thoughts and feelings.


Overcoming Impostor Feelings

Challenge the negative self-talk that your Judge Saboteur loves to indulge in. Replace it with positive affirmations and be mindful of the clear evidence behind your accomplishments.

There are many ways to tackle and overcome impostor feelings. This is not about 'fixing' individuals and ignoring the very real biases and discriminations that exist culturally. But there are some things we can all do, individually, to empower ourself to make a change. It's about fostering personal growth and promoting diversity and inclusivity.

Here are some steps you can take to help you untangle yourself from the clutches of impostor feelings:

1. Acknowledge and Normalize: The first step is always to accept that you have these feelings. It's perfectly normal to experience self-doubt, especially when you're stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things, which actually fosters personal growth.

2. Intercept the Judge Saboteur: Recognize when your inner critic is speaking and challenge its narrative. Remember, you are not defined by your thoughts or feelings.

3. Reframe Negative Self-Talk: Challenge the negative self-talk that your Judge Saboteur loves to indulge in. Replace it with positive affirmations and be mindful of the clear evidence behind your accomplishments.

4. Practice Self-Compassion: Cultivate self-love and kindness. Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you would offer to a sister or your best friend.

5. Embrace Failure and Growth: Shift your focus from black-and-white perfectionistic thinking to that of continuous progress. Every mistake is a chance to learn, and every challenge is an opportunity to grow.

6. Celebrate Achievements: Your achievements are a direct result of your hard work, talent, and perseverance. So, give yourself some credit and celebrate!

7. Seek Support: Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who can encourage and inspire you. This can help you navigate your feelings of self-doubt and build emotional resilience.


Remember, Impostor Syndrome is a common experience fueled by both societal factors and our inner critics. But by acknowledging, understanding, and learning to navigate these feelings, we can slowly chip away at the illusion of inadequacy and begin to embrace our true authentic selves.

Woman standing outside, hands under her chin, looking at the sky, with mountains in the background
Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Ladies, it's time to shake off the impostor mask and silence the inner critic. It's time to celebrate your achievements, embrace your worth, and allow your true self to shine through. You are more than enough – you're exceptional.


Intrigued by the concept of the Judge Saboteur and eager to learn more?

Together, let's debunk your inner critic and empower your authentic self.

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[i] Clance, P.R. and Imes, S.A. (1978) ‘The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention.’, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 15(3), pp. 241–247. doi:10.1037/h0086006.

[ii] Bravata, D. et al. (2020) ‘Commentary: Prevalence, predictors, and treatment of Imposter Syndrome: A systematic review’, Journal of Mental Health and Clinical Psychology, 4(3), pp. 12–16. doi:10.29245/2578-2959/2020/3.1207.

[iii] Anderson, L.V. (2016) ‘Feeling Like an Impostor Is Not a Syndrome’, Slate, 12 April. Available at: (Accessed: 23 July 2023).

[iv] Tulshyan, R. and Burey, J.-A. (2021) ‘Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome ’, Harvard Business Review, 11 February. Available at: (Accessed: 23 July 2023).

[v] Palmer, C. (2021, June 1). How to overcome impostor phenomenon. Monitor on Psychology, 52(4).

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