I’m sorry, hasn’t Part 3 of my Imposter Syndrome Series taken that little bit longer for us to publish? More on that later.

Part 3 starts to provide an integral part of understanding how your thoughts and patterns (often referred to as ‘triggers’) effect the way you experience I.S. This blog will focus on recognising and acknowledging your triggers around your competence, this shifts how you experience the syndrome.

As we’ve discussed in the previous parts of this series, it is important to remember that the Imposter Syndrome (I.S.) goes beyond a lack of confidence and doesn’t just exist in those who have high expectations for themselves. Those who experience I.S. have an innate inability to believe in themselves, a way of doubting their abilities that goes deeper than the norm. If this is not first recognised and then challenged, individuals run the risk of experiencing difficulties which can and likely will have an impact on the whole organisation.


“I am capable, clever, worthy… I will never make a mistake, always know what is expected of me, be able to produce work that is applauded all the time, always understand, always know the right answer.

Leadership. Done.” 

This is like the utopia of inner dialogue. It’s internal narrative which is of course unrealistic and unsustainable within organisations which move quickly and expect you to move with them. In a business world which constantly asks you to grow and develop, stretching your abilities and leadership competence, keeping hold of a narrative like this is near impossible.

We have all experienced disappointment that comes from failing or falling short in some way. For most people their experience is similar and manageable. However, those who suffer from I.S. are likely to experience this as a distracting and sometimes debilitating sense of shame. This is often linked to their lens around competence and of course, how competent they allowed themselves to believe they were to begin with!

How does ‘competency’ play a part in the imposter syndrome?

Your notion of competency and what it takes to be competent logically has an influence on whether you feel like an imposter.

Understanding your competency type is a further awareness exercise which can support you in learning how to deal with I.S. The categories of competencies below were first coined by Valerie Young in 2011 and she argues they can be surmised as competent ‘types’.

They are:


I need to deliver effort and outcomes perfectly.

> Noticing how well you do something and your resultant feelings on how it turns out.

The I.S. reaction to this usually comes when 1 mistake equates to failure and then the shame follows.

The Expert

I value mastery.

> This regards what and how much you know or how much you can do. It is the knowledge version of the perfectionist.

The I.S. reaction usually occurs when a lack of knowledge will then equate to the uncomfortable feelings of failure.

The Soloist

I go it alone.

> Where feelings on who completes the task are important (and often the belief that only you can do this). You think you need to figure everything out on your own and thus will not delegate or ask for help.

The I.S. reaction emerges when help is required, felt as a sign of failure and shame manifests.

The Natural Genius

I’ve got this. Leave it with me. 

> This is the same in respect of the how and who, but competence is measured in terms of ease and speed.

The I.S. reaction emerges when I struggle in the task and/or don’t get it first time.

The Superwoman/ Superman.

I’m adaptable, capable in all areas (even yours). 

> This can relate to your thoughts on your competency and how many roles you can juggle and excel in, falling short of any role as a leader, parent, business owner evokes I.S.

I invite you to notice which of the above resonate, stay curious, out of judgement and continue to make sense of how your I.S. shapes itself around your working world.

Reality V Competency

Like many of our cognitive enablers and limitations, it is important to remember the way we experience our competencies may not be a reality, perhaps a pattern, a narrative which we believe. This internal message can and needs to be re-written, flexed and enabled in a way which could dial down the impact of your I.S.

Authors note (and disclosure) 😊 :

I wanted to publish this part of the series a while ago and have found myself struggling to find the best way to complete it. It became late and I struggled further, so we chatted internally. There it was – my I.S. I realised that I was paralysed, or my thinking was, experiencing the backlash of my perfectionist competency. I felt, knew that this is a big area and I was selling you short.

No matter how far you have come in your lives or business, you can and will still be caught out with these feelings and fears. Awareness and consciously working with it and I was enabled again (more on this in part 4!).

In this final part we will be giving you insight into a ‘toolbox’ of coping strategies to help you face this head on should it appear.

Let’s ‘Stop thinking like one to stop feeling like one’

As with all our series, we value your comments and input. We would love to hear your experiences of the imposter syndrome and particularly if any of these competencies resonate with you. Perhaps you over-come your imposter? if so, share please share this.