Jonathan Chan wrote a very interesting and helpful article— Overcoming Impostor Syndrome (Advice From 12 Successful Entrepreneurs)—that gives unexpected advice on overcoming the feeling of being an imposter. He shares 5 types of imposters and advice from 12 entrepreneurs that can guide us in unexpected ways.

Jonathan says that,

“For many of us, one of the most difficult and persistent challenges we’ll face in our lives is overcoming impostor syndrome. It’s those feelings of guilt, of unworthiness and inadequacy. It’s the voice in the back of your mind that incessantly whispers things like, ‘You’re a fraud and everyone’s going to find out.’

In his TEDx talk on the subject, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlasssian, Mike Cannon-Brookes described his experience with impostor syndrome as a feeling of being trapped in a situation where you’re well out of your depth and have no way out. That “it’s less a fear of failure and more a fear that you’re going to be discovered somehow and everything is going to be taken away from you.”

This was surprising to me. When I reflected on it, I realized I can tend to feel the same way. It’s a kind of fear of success. If I’m discovered, then more success will be expected of me and that success may be taken away from me.

Mike Cannon-Brookes had two realizations about imposter syndrome:

  1. Other people feel like imposters too.
  2. Imposter syndrome doesn’t go away with success.

Wow, what realizations. We all feel it to some degree and it doesn’t go away, no matter how successful we become. Therefore, it’s not about conquering imposter syndrome; it’s about being aware of it and living with it. Imposter syndrome could be a helpful friend.

The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

Jay relates that research has discovered that impostor syndrome can affect anyone regardless of who they are. Therefore, rather than think you’re not an imposter, figure out what kind of imposter you are.

Dr. Valerie Young identified types of imposters. I think I’m number 3. See which one you are and let me know in the comments why.

  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Expert
  3. The Soloist
  4. The Superwoman/man
  5. The Great Mind

Here’s Pithy Advice From 12 Successful Entrepreneurs On Dealing with Impostor Syndrome:

  1. Exercise regularly and practice gratitude: Be kind to yourself, practice being grateful, and be active. (Ryan Holmes, Founder & CEO of Hootsuite)
  2. Accept the compliments of others: Not accepting compliments from others about how your work has helped them is incredibly disrespectful of them. So, accept their compliments. (Jay Baer, Founder of Convince & Convert)
  3. Remember your purpose: We can never be completely certain of the path we’re on, but we can be certain of the direction we’re heading and our purpose for heading in that direction. (Ken Coleman, Host of The Ken Coleman Show)
  4. Accept that you are the results of your decisions, not your circumstances: If you are making decisions on your own accord, then you are the result of your choices not your default circumstances and as such you deserve to own and be proud of both the wins and losses. (Sally Illingworth, The No-Fluff Content Marketing Strategist)
  5. Find a mentor and join a mastermind: We may think we’re on this journey alone, but that’s an illusion. Everyone should get a mentor and join a mastermind group. A group can do more than the sum of its parts. (John Lee Dumas, Host of Entrepreneurs on Fire)
  6. Remember that the only one who cares is you: No one thinks you’re an imposter as much as you do. Just think about how often you think someone else is an impostor, and you’ll realize how little anyone else is probably thinking that about you. This can be incredibly freeing because you realize how the only person judging you is yourself. (Nat Eliason, Founder of Growth Machine)
  7. Focus on the value you bring to others: Focus more on the positive effect your work has on people, which in turn reinforces that you’re on the right track. Admit that you’re not going to be perfect or right about everything anyway, then move on and treat everything as a journey of learning. (Shane Snow, Author of Dream Teams)
  8. Let it serve as your motivation: We tend to encounter impostor syndrome whenever we start something aspirational. Deal with impostor syndrome by adopting a “let’s see” mindset. Obsess over getting better and being patient with an unswerving eye on the target. (David Kenney, Partner at Hall Chadwick)
  9. Be authentic to yourself: Always be authentic with others, be true to yourself, and never sacrifice your core values in spite of any pressure to be something other than yourself. (Matty Aitchison, Host of Millionaire Mindcast)
  10. Surround yourself with great talent: Build a A team can do more than you can. (Blake Micola, Founder of Growth Marketing Systems)
  11. Find like-minded people: Build a supportive network with others that are going through similar challenges. (Noga Edelstein, Co-Founder of UrbanYou and Director of SBE Australia)
  12. Act on facts, not emotion: Find a mentor that can pull your attention out of my own head. They can guide you toward facts in your situation instead of leaving you the victim of your mind’s (Adam Lever, CEO of The Doers Way)

Okay, so the title is a little misleading.

We don’t “overcome” or conquer imposter syndrome. Rather, we live with it. If we live with it, are aware of it, then it can become a friend as we continue to walk our learning journeys.

Practice Tip: Get to Know Your Imposter Friend

Answer these questions to become more familiar—and friendly—with your little imposter friend:

  • When did you start feeling like you were an impostor?
    • For me, it was after The Rock Warrior’s Way was published in 2003. That’s when I had to get out of my little world, contact gyms to teach clinics, and deal with others’ image of me and a warrior who should know all the answers.
  • What is the most limiting part of dealing with impostor syndrome?
    • For me, it’s speaking confidently about The Warrior’s Way material with others that are more well known or successful than I am.
  • How did you overcome the challenge that is feeling like an impostor?
    • For me, I haven’t, but I’ve diminished it by taking small action steps each day.
  • What’s your number one piece of advice to anyone out there feeling like a fraud?
    • For me, befriend it.

The biggest lesson for me is that I won’t try to get rid of imposter syndrome anymore.

Rather, I’ll see it as a helpful friend that can keep me aware each day. My little imposter friend causes me to struggle. Yet, it reminds me to keep my eye on The Warrior’s Way mission and enjoy the struggles along the way.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Arno,
    I’m Gordon Grant, currently education director at the North Carolina Outward Bound school. I took a one day private instruction with a friend, Ed Margaret,, 10 years ago at Foster’s Falls. The best single day of instruction I’ve ever had. I know something about instruction. I still use the ideas generated there on a daily basis The articles that you are sharing currently are direct reflections of my own research in the areas of personal development and self-awareness. I share these with the staff and the teachers on my courses. Would you be interested in presenting at North Carolina Outward Bound all staff training this May? Contact info: 828-713-7267; ggrant@ncobs.org

    1. Hi Gordon, thanks for your comments. Been a while. Yes, I’m interested. Email me details, like is it lecture or workshop, etc? When? My email: arno@warriorsway.com. I’ll also shoot you an email. thanks, a

  2. Note: that’s Ed Marggart, not Margaret. Ah! Autocorrect. Grrrr.

  3. Sometimes it feels like I have a committee of imposters, however #2 is chairman of the board. When we are on friendly terms I think they help me be authentic to myself. When I’m stressed out, not meeting my needs, not honoring my values, then imposter torment begins. If I can catch it before I say something really irritable…

    1. Nice Sandy. Keep #2 in line. Make it your friend. Then see if you can make it do your bidding… a

  4. Thank you Arno, I recognize it very much. And yes, it’s limiting when making your work known to other experts in the field… so, exciting times ahead, looking it in the face.

    1. Thanks Ruby. Yes, maintaining eye contact with that little imposter friends. a

  5. I’m at least 3 out of the 5 here at any given time! As always, a great and timely message as I’m in the middle of trying to launch a pretty huge project! Thank you for your continuous outpouring of these amazing lessons! <3

  6. Arno,
    Thanks for bringing this to all of us RWW subscribers. For many years now, I’ve realized that I’m most like Imposter 1. Ironically, I didn’t have this realization until I started to take a hard look at my personal history. When that happened, I started to make small improvements in my climbing by allowing myself to “not be perfect.” The benefit to improving my climbing helped me improve many other areas of my life too. Not by being perfect/better than helped me to begin lead climbing, then learn about guiding, and eventually becoming an AMGA guide. And I agree, the imposter is always there, and I’m still learning how to befriend it!
    Thanks…

    1. Nice Robby. Great to hear from you. Arno

  7. I definitely experience Imposter 1. Growing up as a competitive athlete I learned to be achievement focused and always strive to be better. This put a “never good enough” script playing on repeat in my head and it’s a hard thought pattern to break. I now call myself a “recovering perfectionist.” The Rock Warrior’s Way has really helped me focus on the learning process, not the outcome. Thank you for all the wisdom you put into the world.

    1. Thanks for your comments Allison. It seems so easy to get sucked into achievement and tying how worthy we feel based on that. I think both goals and valuing learning help. Goals give vision and inspiration, yet valuing learning helps us learn and enjoy the journey to the goal. And so, we continue journeying… Arno

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