Are You an Impostor?

See if this sounds familiar:

When it comes time to help a client, or discuss your work, or promote your practice… you hesitate. Sometimes just a little, sometimes more, sometimes you balk all together.

You ask yourself, “What it they figure out I don’t really know what I’m talking about?” or “What if I don’t know enough?” or “What if mess up because I’m not really worthy? or “What if they find me out?”

Do you ever feel like a fraud, an impostor?

Studies show that at times, you probably do. In fact, that feeling is so prevalent that it has a name: “Impostor Syndrome.” In our hearts, most of us think we are frauds.

We’re in good company! Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Kate Winslett, Michelle Pfeifer, Seth Godin, Sonia Sotomayor…. From celebrities, to politicians, authors, and musicians, the feeling that we aren’t quite worthy of respect or simple appreciation, much less adulation or acclaim, is just as commonplace as feeling hungry or sleepy. For most of us, it’s just part of our DNA.

I’m not here to tell you to forget about it, or even to just get over it. If it’s in our DNA, we can’t get past it any easier than we can change our hair color or eye color…. but…. wait…. we CAN change those things, right? Even if it’s temporary, we can dye our hair or wear color-changing contact lenses. It may not be easy, and it may be uncomfortable, but if it’s important, we can do it…

We can mask these other parts of what our DNA has produced…. So why not work to mask some of our impostor syndrome, too?

As business owners, learning to mask some of our feelings of not being worthy is a must. In fact, I believe that if you can’t cover up your impostor syndrome, you won’t succeed in self-employment. Period.


Getting past that feeling of being unworthy is required for many aspects of our work: discussing contracts, asking for money, public speaking, media interviews, sticking up for our clients in the faces of roadblocks and difficult people; these tasks and requirements, and others, require chutzpah and confidence regardless of how you feel inside.

The key is that we need to learn to fake it till we make it. Just as we might wear colored contact lenses, or dye our hair (no one has seen my real hair color since I yanked out the first gray ones 20 years ago!), we can cover up some of our feelings of inferiority, too – and move forward.

So I’ve poked around, talked to a few folks, read MUCH, and I’ve come up with a list of resources and ideas to help all of us who feel like the frauds we aren’t, to cover it up – even if it’s only an occasional “get over it.” I hope you find some help in here:

10 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

  1. Own up to being an impostor! Tell someone you feel like a fraud, about your feelings of not being the all-knowing expert. Discuss it with a loved one. Once you air it, it will begin to sound silly to you, and it will be easier to get beyond it.
  2. Learn to say “thank you.” This is not as simple as it sounds. Here’s a post from last year to help: Oh, It was nothing, really.
  3. Realize that it’s usually the people who DO have the most knowledge who suffer the most from Impostor Syndrome. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the truth is, those who are most knowledgeable are usually the same people who also realize how much they DON’T know. So – if you feel like an impostor, then stop to realize that in reality, you’re actually extremely knowledgeable.
  4. If you can’t get over it for yourself, then remind yourself that for each person you fail to reach out to as a result of your worry, means another person who won’t get what they need from the healthcare system. Does it follow that the giving in to your fears leads to more suffering on someone’s part> It certainly may. Don’t let that happen. Read more: The Paralysis of Analysis
  5. Look at your history and appreciate how much more you know today, and can therefore share today, than you knew last month or last year. Included in that history are the many personal journeys that no one else has experienced exactly the way you have. Sharing them will help others – and you owe it to them to do that sharing.
  6. Save emails and testimonials from people who have shown appreciation. Read them often. They will help boost your confidence. Revisit them as needed.
  7. Don’t compare yourself or your skills to others. You are better at the YOU things, and they might be better at the THEY things, but comparisons waste energy. The profession of advocacy needs everyone and the skills we all bring along with us. Instead of making comparisons, connect with those whose skills complement yours. Read more about connecting and working with others.
  8. Remember that we all make mistakes, but that doesn’t make us impostors. Making a mistake isn’t fraud – it’s a mistake. It’s also an opportunity to learn. And if it’s made publicly, it’s an opportunity to apologize, fix the mistake, and move on – which will engender respect and appreciation, and help people see that you ARE as smart and special as they think you are. Read more: Confessions of a Failure
  9. Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Then always follow it with “But I’ll find out.” It’s the finding out that will make you even smarter than you were before someone asked the question you didn’t know the answer to. Read more: It’s Fair to Say “I Don’t Know”  and When It’s Time to Use IDK.
  10. Listen to the podcast of last month’s APHA Expert Call-in where our expert, Peggy Klaus, talked about her book, Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It. It’s a good primer on getting past the fear that comes from needing to promote ourselves and our work.

Don’t let your fear of being found out stand in the way of your success. Keep moving forward, even in the face of your fears that you aren’t “all that” – because – to someone – a client, his family member, the next person who needs help – YOU are the hero they need.



This week we spotlight Nancy Ruffner, from
Navigate NC in Raleigh, North Carolina

Learn more about Nancy in her AdvoConnection Spotlight

Search term: misspelling of imposter

1 thought on “Are You an Impostor?”

  1. Love this! As a new startup business owner, I am out marketing daily and it is new terrain for me! A nurse by trade, I am used to mastering the art of persuasion, but owning and marketing a company in a field where you are the new kid in the block can be intimidating to say the least. Some days I do fine, others I struggle with negative thoughts and wonder, “Why am I doing this when there are so many other qualified professionals already doing it>” I was just in this mindset the other day after a long week of networking and marketing when I bumped into a client from the past at the store. Their feedback and happiness with my help gave me just the boost I needed to get up Monday morning and get ready to pound the streets again.
    Thank you for this encouragement, it is true, we must press on through the doubts, because there are soooo many people out there that need quality advocacy and advising. We can’t give up!
    Thanks again and Happt Holidays to all of you!
    Erica Smalley, LVN,CDP, CSA
    A Hand To Hold Senior Care Coordination

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