Dear Fake Imposter


I have major imposter syndrome. I’ve recently been included in more management team meetings and meetings related to a really important project in my company. I sit in those meetings wondering why the heck I’m there and how I even got invited. I rarely say anything because I’m terrified of sounding stupid. I know this is an important opportunity to show that I am capable of more leadership, but I can’t get over the fear and disbelief. My boss has started to notice and asked me why I never speak up in the meetings. I shared with her how I’m feeling. Her advice was to “fake-it-til-you-make-it” which isn’t exactly helpful. What do I do?!

Fake Imposter?

Oh Fake Imposter,

I feel you. So many of us have been there, in this exact position before – myself included.

Imposter syndrome: That tiny voice in your head that tells you, you’re an imposter, when in spaces you don’t feel qualified to be in. I’m tired of hearing the crappy solutions to imposter syndrome like “believe in yourself more” or “fake-it-til-you-make-it” or some other stream of bad advice that has to do with “believing” you’re not an imposter. It’s not helpful, practical, or actionable. 

Imposter syndrome is nothing more than a lack of external self-awareness. 

There are two types of self-awareness: internal and external. Internal self-awareness is having a clear understanding of who you are as a person. External self-awareness is having a clear understanding of how we are perceived by others. Your “imposter syndrome” is no more than a lack of external self-awareness. 

If you knew why you were invited to that meeting and how the leaders perceived you, you wouldn’t be second-guessing it. If you understood that the spaces you were in, were because others believed you were supposed to be there, you wouldn’t feel like an imposter. The way we overcome imposter syndrome is by building better external self-awareness. By understanding, more fully, how we are perceived by others at work, in life, and in leadership. 

That’s easy to do. It begins by asking! Yes, it’s really that simple. If you need a more concrete activity or format, check out this article from Harvard Business Review on how. The second step is believing what people tell you, good and bad, and using it all as information to grow in your own self-awareness. Don’t sit in rooms and wonder why you’re there or second guess why you’re qualified. Know and believe that you’re in that space because you bring value to them.


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