Overcoming “Imposter Syndrome” When Things Go Wrong…


I just had a particularly weird and challenging experience with a client.

It’s the first REALLY difficult experience in 20 years.

I guess that makes me lucky.

I usually LOVE the people and projects I work on and have been truly blessed to work with some incredible entrepreneurs, speakers, authors and thought leaders to create great stuff together.

But it’s so tempting to focus on the 1 negative rather than the 1000 positives (and that’s what I’ve done a little of recently).

Thankfully, I’ve been around the block enough to realise that in this situation a lot of it is not “stuff” that’s related to me and I wish this person well. But I have to confess, it did shake my confidence.

Even though, when I look at the facts, I feel completely sure I not only did a great job, but actually went above and beyond – way above and beyond (that’s another story about boundaries I’ll share later), I find my little “imposter syndrome” voice raising it’s head and wanting to whisper in my ear… “See, they’ve found you out… you don’t really know what you’re talking about…”

We all have that voice. Maybe only on the odd occasion. Or maybe a lot.

Even people you would never imagine suffering any sense of doubt in their abilities have it.

Psychological research estimates that two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds

Other studies have found that up to 75 percent of all people feel like imposters at one time or another (especially common among women!).

When I looked around I found people like Meryl Streep, Maya Angelou and Mike Myers have all experienced deep feelings of being an “Imposter.”

Actress Jodi Foster once said after winning her Academy Award for Best Female Actor…

“I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back.
They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That [Oscar] was going to Meryl Streep.'”

So, apart from sharing this experience as a way of working through it and to let you know, if you’ve had these feelings too, you’re not alone… I also wanted to share a few things that have really helped me deal with my feelings of Imposter Syndrome during the past couple of weeks…

1. Protect Your State
I learned this from Jeff Walker. When you’re doing work that is your purpose and you’re putting yourself out there, whether it be to a handful of people or to the world, you need to protect your state. Preserve your confidence.  Avoid people and situations that are going to take you out of your flow state and bring you down.

2. Be Open To The Gift
Whilst I knew a lot of what was coming back to me as feedback from the client was not accurate, there were some pieces of gold in there that I’ve picked out and am working on. There’s always gold. There’s always a gift. No matter how shitty the experience. And that nugget of gold could be just the piece you needed to move forward. I know for me, that’s absolutely the case in this situation. It was like a lightbulb moment when this particular piece of gold came to me and the steps I’ve taken since are opening doors and awarenesses that I would not have had if it weren’t for this experience. Finding the gift leads to gratitude… and gratitude always leads me back to joy and forgiveness and peace (and away from feeling like an imposter).

3. Go Where The Hugs Are
Thankfully, there are people in my life who love me no matter what. They love me even though they know my flaws. They’ll cuddle me even though they know I’m far from perfect and have made heaps of mistakes. So I sought those people out. I became present to their love and friendship when I was around them. In many cases I didn’t bring this situation up with them, I just let the positive experience of being around people who love me bring me back to state. It’s great for putting things in perspective too!

4. Trace back over a win
I didn’t do this intentionally as a way to overcome Imposter Syndrome, but it worked really well! This morning I was reading back over some copy I’d written for a particularly successful project earlier this year and I was pleasantly surprised – it was good!  Actually, it was damn good! When you’re in the middle of writing a project it can be hard to be objective about it, so the real test is when you get some time between writing and reading. And it stood up. Yeah, that’s right, I do know what I’m doing!

I’m still a work in progress… always will be… so here’s where I’m up to now on this…

I’d love to know your experiences with “Imposter Syndrome” and how you’ve managed it in your life.


  • Sallie-Ann Macklin

    Reply Reply December 10, 2014

    How I have dealt with my “imposter syndrome”….

    Get up early, before dawn, take the dogs for a walk, look at the earth from a different perspective and breathe it in… I’m not great at “meditating” – but I find that still small voice before dawn.. everything smells different, everything looks different and I realise that there have never been 2 sunrises that are exactly the same and so I have the shift in my perception of what is happening in my life and start to look at it from another perspective.

    I also, like to listen to someone else’s point of view… either a song or someone like Dr Wayne Dyer, just helping me to see things differently… this helps change my heart state and I feel like it also starts to heal the ache or hurt….

    Recently – getting hugs from my loved ones and wagging tails from my puppy dogs! That always puts a smile on my face xxx

    Thanks for sharing Michelle

    xxx love you xxx BIG HuGs xxxx

    • michelle

      Reply Reply December 10, 2014

      Hey SAM, thanks, some great ideas in here… early morning walks… YES!
      And shifting state with the help of someone else’s point of view or input is great.
      I’ve learned so much as a result of this experience. Not good or bad. Just is.
      Thanks lovely friend x Appreciate the hugs! 🙂

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