Advice on coping with Imposter Syndrome

Most of us have experienced feelings of doubt and feel like we’re not good at our job, but these feelings are often based on fear rather than reality.  When your accomplishments are a result of your own knowledge, hard work, and preparation and you still feel inadequate you’re probably suffering from impostor syndrome.

Researchers estimate that up to 70% of people have suffered from it at one point or another, and while it might be of some comfort that you’re not alone, it’s no less damaging to your confidence and your career.

Symptoms of impostor syndrome can vary from person to person, but there are some common indicators, such as

  • Extreme lack of self confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Feeling you’re a fraud, comparing yourself to others who look competent and successful
  • Not trusting your own judgement and capabilities
  • Negative self-talk
  • Setting yourself impossibly high standards with a fear of failure
  • Finding it hard to accept praise
  • Neglecting self-care – not taking the time you need to recharge because you’re too busy or too drained from working long days
  • You feel like you ‘got lucky’ when you actually prepared well and worked hard.
  • Taking on extra work to make sure you’re ‘doing it all’

Sound familiar? You may have symptoms of impostor syndrome, a psychological phenomenon that causes people to believe they’re inadequate and a secret failure, despite strong evidence otherwise.

So how can you cope with Impostor Syndrome?

1.     Know the signs

Recognising the signs is the first step. Listen to yourself.  If you find your own success or praise from others makes you uncomfortable, do some reflective thinking on where those types of thoughts came from and what it means in your professional life.

2.   Focus on the facts

The best way to fight imposter syndrome is to separate your feelings from the facts.  When your interpretation of an event is based on feelings, it doesn’t mean they are any less valid. Combatting impostor syndrome isn’t about ignoring your emotions, but to acknowledge that you’re feeling bad.

Use a simple framework to notice, name, and acknowledge impostor syndrome which puts you back in control of your feelings. ‘Is there something real to work on here, or is it just self-doubt?’

3.   Anticipate impostor syndrome to reduce its effects

You might notice that you always experience impostor syndrome when a specific thing happens, eg taking a new class, experimenting with a new style. If that’s the case, prepare thoroughly in advance of that situation so you can combat the effects.

4.    Share how you’re feeling

Impostor syndrome is a very isolating, but these feelings are really common.  Sharing your thoughts and experiences with someone else will help you deal with your impostor syndrome.

A mentor can give you practical advice and support by helping you to talk about your struggles with impostor syndrome, while giving you a more objective point of view. In addition, many organisations provide confidential helplines for support or have qualified mental health first aiders.  EMD UK supports its members with mental health and wellbeing support via its Individual Assistant programme from Health Assured.

5.     Know you’re not alone

Be reassured and encouraged by reflecting on how many hugely successful people have built amazing careers even while regularly coping with impostor syndrome.

6.     Let go of your inner perfectionist

While perfectionism can be helpful in certain situations, it can also be a major stumbling block.  When you feel like a fraud, it’s usually because you’re comparing yourself to some ‘perfect’ outcome that’s either impossible or unrealistic.

At some point, you need to take a step back and ask yourself: When is good enough good enough?  Read this blog post to see what a formula for “good enough” might look like.

7.     Be kind to yourself

If you often suffer from negative thoughts, start monitoring your inner voice.  Practice positive self-talk which can help relieve your anxiety and build the courage to try new challenges

How do you do that?  When you have a negative thought, take time to think is that really true?   Was it a lucky break or did I prepare and work hard to achieve that goal?

This technique won’t have immediate results, but over time it helps you approach situations in a more positive light.

8.     Track and measure your successes.

One of the hardest things to grasp is how much you contribute to your own successes.  Keeping track of your progress will help prove to yourself that you’re actually doing well.

If you use social media or blogs to promote your business, you could use Insights to keep track of key indicators such as Likes or Comments on Facebook.

Keep a note of positive feedback from class participants, colleagues, managers, mentors as a reminder of just how good you are which can also be used as testimonials to enhance your business.

9.   Learn from your team members

Instead of comparing yourself to other instructors and thinking you’re worse at your job than they are, see what you can learn from them and vice versa. Create an opportunity for you to learn from one another.

10.  Say “yes” to new opportunities

People who have impostor syndrome often turn down new opportunities because they don’t think they’d do a good job.  Remind yourself that you were asked for a reason, and there’s nothing wrong with learning new things and asking questions along the way.

How managers can help to prevent impostor syndrome

As a fitness business owner or manager, you will want to support your team and reduce the chances of them experiencing impostor syndrome –

  •   Establish clear expectations

Explaining the job expectations, metrics for success, and progress checkpoints helps give your team members a clear sense of how they’re doing.  Agree a series of short and longer term goals, making sure they are always measurable and time-bound.

  • Provide opportunities for connection

Make sure everyone has ample opportunity to connect with other colleagues.  Set your team member up with a mentor.

  • Help is out there

Make sure all team members are aware of any resources your business offers.  Direct them to the resources available to EMD UK members, our free mental health resource , our blog on looking after our mental health,  or to the wide range of videos available on our YouTube channel  –

  • Clarify communication norms

It can be intimidating if team members don’t know where to ask questions or who to approach.  Set up a time to sit with team members and answer any questions they have.

  • Check in frequently

Give a clear opportunity for team member to share how they’re doing.

  • Share feedback early and often

Impostor syndrome isn’t necessarily based on the reality of a team member’s situation.  Feedback—both positive and constructive—helps team members get a better sense of how they’re doing.

  • Support their career growth interests

Team members may not believe they’re good at what they do. One of the ways managers can help to combat this feeling is by engaging with their team members’ career interests, e.g. becoming a mentor, studying a new CPD, or training to become a Dementia Friend or first aider.

Do watch our webinar where Sue Wilkie, Head of Instructor Support at EMD UK, is joined by fitness trainer, consultant and founder of icareimove, Helen Tite, to discuss ways you can tackle impostor syndrome.

Sue and Helen discuss how to begin to build your confidence in your selling of yourself and how to get out of the way, when it comes to growing an unstoppable business –