Are you still faking it AFTER you’ve made it?

Posted March 23, 2010 in Latest News & Insights

I had an interesting conversation recently with a highly successful senior executive.   I was sharing a personal feeling I had early in my career about being “found out” that I really wasn’t capable of handling the position I was promoted into.  They jumped on the comment with an immediate “my god! I still feel that way! How do you get over it??”

I was shocked!  This person is SERIOUSLY successful.  They’ve got all the requisite “bigs”… big jobs, big scope, big promotions, big money, big influence… and big credentials.  From the outside, they look like the person who really has it all together.  How is it possible, I wondered, for someone with such an obvious track record to have such a level of “imposter syndrome”?  And geez… if they’re still feeling like in imposter in their role at the top of the house, what’s the average leader to do??

Imposter syndrome was often thought to affect primarily women, but (according to wikipedia anyway) recent studies have shown that both men and women are equally affected and high performers tend to be most susceptible.  Are you suffering from Imposter Syndrome?  Check out this quick self-test courtesy of Dr. Valerie Young.

Answer Yes or No

  • Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?
  • Do you sometimes shy away from challenges because of nagging self-doubt?
  • Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?
  • Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?
  • Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”
  • When you do succeed, do you think, “Phew, I fooled ’em this time but I may not be so lucky next time.”
  • Do you believe that other people (students, colleagues, competitors) are smarter and more capable than you are?
  • Do you live in fear of being found out, discovered, unmasked?

Dr. Young has lots of resources and courses to help you overcome imposter syndrome, so visit her website for more info at  You can also check out some interesting stories of some very accomplished people who share this feeling of being “found out” which certainly puts things into perspective.

In my own experience, the beginnings of getting over that feeling that someone was going to find out that I was “faking it” had to do with learning to let go of other people’s expectations and doing lots of navel gazing around my own drivers (aka gaining some self-insight).  Plus I realized most people were far more consumed with their own issues than they were with worrying about what was going on with me!

So, what’s helped you?  Share your experiences and help someone else begin to lose their “imposter syndrome”.  Afterall, it would be a shame to end up like my accomplished colleague.  Fifty-eight is too old to be feeling that you’re still faking it.  Don’t you think?

Happy leading!

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