5 Tips to Mitigate Imposter Syndrome and Bring the Big Picture Back into Focus

imposter syndrome


Sally Grisedale

Have you ever been promoted, taken a new job, or started a business and felt like an imposter?

Feeling like an imposter is a psychological pattern where you doubt your accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud. The experience is awful; you feel weak and vulnerable, and it limits your ability to be fully effective and make good decisions.

I work with extraordinary leaders who know that good business depends on making sound decisions based on reality, not limiting beliefs fueled by feelings of imposter syndrome.

When you are called to step into the next level of leadership you see the big picture, and yes, you may feel an intense amount of pressure, but you learn the importance of acquiring the skills to help you work through your limiting beliefs quickly.

Here are some of the best practices I use with my clients to help them navigate imposter syndrome efficiently, so they have imposter moments, not an imposter life.

1. Learn to Reframe Negative Thoughts

You’ve heard of the expression “fake it until you make it.” This is where reframing your thoughts as though you are someone who is not feeling like an imposter comes in.

As a non-imposter, you know that challenging situations can be scary, but you recognize that you will pick things up over time. Acting like a confident person means learning to reframe your beliefs from negative to positive. For example:

Instead of thinking “How can I ask investors for money when I don’t feel worthy of taking their precious time?” try thinking “Of course these investors want to speak with me. I have a great product, proven sales, and my personal brand is A++.”

Practice reframing negative thinking to positive thinking, and over time you will begin to believe the new thoughts. It’s much better to have an imposter moment than an imposter life.

2. Accept That It’s OK to Have Fraudulent Moments

Sometimes it’s OK to have a fraudulent moment. Extraordinary leaders, like you, who shatter glass ceilings on a regular basis don’t feel confident all the time. Self-doubt is not a sign of failure; it’s a normal response to being new at something in an unfamiliar environment.

3. Separate Feelings from Facts

Feeling stupid is not the same as being stupid!

Let that go now!

4. It’s OK Not to Have All the Answers

It can be tempting as a leader to think you should always know the answer to everything. Extraordinary leaders know this isn’t true. According to Joseph Tainter, in a world that is on a “seemingly inexorable trend toward higher levels of complexity, specialization and sociopolitical control” no one can be expected to have all the answers. Great leaders remain so, because they empower and trust their teams to find the best solutions.

5. It’s Not a Sign of Weakness to ask for Help

If you are experiencing shame that comes from feeling like a fraud, you don’t want to look weak in the eyes of others, so you don’t ask for help. Extraordinary leaders always seek other people’s help. Their business success depends on it.

If you have recently taken on a role and find yourself struggling to meet your own high standards and expectations, I can help you make the incremental changes needed to bring the big picture back into focus. Sign up for a free coaching session below.

Photo by Ray Grau for Unsplash

the Leading by Design Newsletter

What Is the Leading by Design Newsletter? Great question.

Leading by Design is a blog for creative leaders working in tech. It’s not a “Why You Should Use AI in Design Thinking” or “How to Hire and Retain Product Design Teams with Impact” type of blog. There are enough of those.

I write about the challenges you can’t safely discuss as creative leaders working in tech. The stories come directly from my experience leading teams at Apple, Meta, Yahoo!, and some start-ups and from the executive design leaders I coach today.

I have written about the stressful magpie boss, hateful cross-functional peers, creative burnout, the shame of job loss and survivor guilt, and the fear of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace.

I publish once a week and offer strategies to reframe your challenge so you can return to being the creative leader your team loves you to be.

Free Download