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6 Telltale Signs of Impostor Syndrome and How to Overcome Them

Have you ever experienced a nagging feeling of self-doubt, despite achieving notable successes and accomplishments? Do you find yourself frequently questioning your capabilities and harboring fears that you might be unmasked as an impostor or a phony?

Imposter syndrome

If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing a phenomenon known as imposter syndrome. This psychological pattern affects individuals across various fields and can hinder personal and professional growth.

In this article, we'll explore six telltale signs that may indicate you're grappling with imposter syndrome and offer insights to help you overcome this challenge.

The Six Impostor Syndrome Signs

1. Downplaying Your Achievements

One of the most common signs of imposter syndrome is the tendency to attribute your successes to external factors rather than your own skills and hard work. You might brush off compliments or praise, thinking you were just "lucky" or that anyone could have done the same.

This minimisation of your accomplishments can prevent you from fully appreciating your abilities and taking pride in your achievements. Additionally, you may find yourself making excuses for your accomplishments, such as "It was an easy task" or "The competition was weak."

To overcome this tendency, you need to practice self-compassion and consciously acknowledge your hard work, dedication, and skills that contributed to your achievements.

Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and allow yourself to feel proud of your accomplishments.

2. Fear of Failure

Self-doubt often leads to a crippling fear of failure. You might hesitate to take on new challenges or opportunities because you're convinced you'll eventually be "found out" as an imposter.

This fear can hold you back from reaching your full potential and taking calculated risks that could further your growth.

Moreover, you may avoid tasks or projects that fall outside your comfort zone, fearing that a single mistake will confirm your doubts about your abilities and lead to catastrophic consequences.

To come out of this fear, you need to reframe your perspective on failure. Embrace the understanding that failure is a natural part of growth and learning, and view it as an opportunity to gain valuable insights and experiences, rather than a personal shortcoming.

3. Constant Need for Validation

If you find yourself seeking constant reassurance and validation from others, it could be a sign of

imposter syndrome. You might obsessively seek approval or feedback, even when it's not necessary, as a way to confirm your competence and worthiness.

Additionally, you may be overly sensitive to criticism, taking it as a personal attack rather than an opportunity for growth, and you may dwell on negative feedback while discounting positive feedback.

You need to cultivate self-trust and inner confidence to deal with this constant need for validation.

Remind yourself of your achievements, strengths, and capabilities, and consciously work on building self-assurance that doesn't rely solely on external validation.

4. Perfectionism

Individuals with imposter syndrome often set unrealistically high standards for themselves, believing that anything less than perfection is a sign of inadequacy. This relentless pursuit of flawlessness can lead to burnout, stress, and a constant sense of dissatisfaction with your work.

Furthermore, you may struggle to delegate tasks or accept help from others, fearing that their work won't meet your exacting standards.

To get control of perfectionism, you need to adopt a more balanced and realistic approach. Recognize that perfection is an unattainable goal, and strive for excellence instead.

Learn to embrace imperfections and focus on the overall quality of your work, rather than obsessing over minute details.

5. Attributing Success to External Factors

When you achieve a goal or receive recognition, do you immediately attribute it to luck, timing, or someone else's help? People with imposter syndrome often struggle to internalise their accomplishments, instead crediting external factors for their success.

Additionally, you may find yourself downplaying the effort and hard work that went into your achievements, believing that anyone could have done the same with the right circumstances or support.

To overcome this tendency, you need to consciously take ownership of your successes. Reflect on the skills, knowledge, and effort you invested in achieving your goals, and give yourself credit for your hard work and dedication.

6. Overworking and Burnout

To compensate for their perceived inadequacies, those with imposter syndrome may work excessively long hours, take on too many projects, or sacrifice their personal lives. This pattern of overworking is often driven by a desire to prove their worth and stave off the fear of being "exposed" as an imposter.

Furthermore, you may struggle to set boundaries or say no to additional tasks, fearing that it will reinforce the idea that you're not capable or dedicated enough. This can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, which can further exacerbate feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy.

You need to prioritize self-care and establish healthy boundaries to surpass overworking and burnout,. Learn to say no to tasks or responsibilities that exceed your capacity, and make time for activities that rejuvenate and energize you, both physically and mentally.

The Last Word: Embrace Your Worth

Imposter syndrome can be a formidable challenge, but recognising its signs is the first step toward overcoming it. Remember, you're not alone in these feelings, and they don't define your worth or capabilities.

By acknowledging and addressing these tendencies, you can cultivate a healthier self-perception and embrace your accomplishments with confidence.

Seek support from trusted colleagues, mentors, or professionals if needed, and remember that your successes are well-deserved and a reflection of your hard work and talents.☺️

Do you communicate smartly or need help to enhance your communication skills? Take the Free Communication Skills Assessment to take the first step to speak with confidence.

Smita D Jain is a Certified Life Coach, Executive Coach and NLP Practitioner. Smita’s ‘Empower Yourself’ Performance Enhancement Coaching Programs enable introverted executives to speak with confidence and communicate with impact so that they emerge leaders sooner than envisaged.

Prior to her journey as a coach, Smita had extensive experience of 14 years as a corporate and business strategy professional with Fortune 500 companies. She is also a TEDx speaker, a panellist cum speaker at various public forums, a published writer, and an Amazon bestselling author.

You can learn more about Personal Empowerment Life Coach and Executive Coach Smita D Jain’s ‘Empower Yourself’ Coaching Programs by visiting and book a strategy session at

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