Imposter Syndrome has long been identified as a common issue all manner of people can face, irrespective of profession or situation. Today, the number of people declaring an affinity with the experience is growing rapidly. But, what really is it? How can it show up? Why does it happen? What impact might it be having? And, how do we solve it? These are all questions we can find the answers to right here.

Where did Imposter Syndrome come from and how could Positive Psychology help?

In 1978 Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes first coined the phrase Impostor Phenomenon in research. This is a technical term for what most of us know as the Imposter Syndrome. It’s been 43 years since and yet the experience is more common than ever before. But why is this the case?

The truth is there are a multitude of things that can cause the ‘syndrome’ to occur, and even more ways in which it shows up. While it is a very unique experience to each of us, we can take heart that we are not alone in this. And better still, there are practical things we can do to address it!


Very simply put, it is a set of limiting and negative beliefs about our self. These beliefs in turn cause us to do certain things (behaviours) when a triggering event occurs. So it is often driven by the circumstances we find ourselves in, but these behaviours can also become quite habitual.

People who have imposter type feelings often believe they are out of their depth and perhaps do not belong or deserve their successes. One can have very low self-esteem, habitual procrastination, work too much, and even an inclination to self-sabotage or try to remain under the radar.


It is the applied psychology of happiness, wellbeing and flourishing. This means it seeks to identify approaches that lead to a life of optimal functioning; exploring the attributes, behaviours, practices, strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrive.

Where this can add value to Imposter Syndrome is in enabling people to not only come to know their greatest strengths and potential, but also to know themselves on a more human level. It can help people to become more self-accepting and self-compassionate, making room for growth.


How much of an Imposter do you feel you are?

Would you like a free tool to help you find out?

Inspired by my research, I have devised a reflective questionnaire that can help identify what kind of Imposter Syndrome you might be experiencing and to what degree. Simply subscribe to my newsletter to gain access. As a bonus i will also send you some free guidance.

Reframing your inner gremlins…

It can help to begin appreciating the positive intentions of your inner imposter, while remaining aware of the negative by-products it can create. For all its “evil effects”, there may actually be a corresponding “angelic aims”. Know what these intentions are can help us to mitigate some of the ways the can impact ourselves and those around us.

ANGELIC AIMS (Positive Intentions)

  1. To keep you safe from attacks and blame
  2. To demonstrate competence or credibility
  3. To be accountable for high standards
  4. To only put your best work out there
  5. To do and be what others want to see
  6. To avoid something you feel is hard to do
  7. To show humility and manage expectations
  8. To show a true stoicism and self-reliance
  9. To show strength and cope under pressure
  10. To release tension or even squash a threat

EVIL EFFECTS (Negative By-Products)

  1. Can mean you don’t own your part in it
  2. Can make you appear like a ‘know-it-all’
  3. Can set unrealistic expectations/pressure
  4. Can prevent good work from being seen
  5. Can mean you abandon your own needs
  6. Can mean you never start/finish things
  7. Can belittle effort/dismiss good feedback
  8. Can prevent collaborative effort and value
  9. Can lead to error, failure and burnout
  10. Can destroy trust and important relations

“It is possible to turn our inner gremlin into our inner hero; the first step is to understand it.”

“It is possible to turn our inner gremlin into our inner hero; the first step is to understand it.”

Imposter Syndrome causes us to want to hide away from facing it head-on, yet this rarely leads to empowerment and the ability to transcend its effects. Speaking about it has been show to be one of the key ways we can overcome it. Why not book a free taster coaching session?

Find out about coaching


I currently offer a range of ways for people to explore the topic in a group setting. To find out more about my series of webinar and workshop courses visit the learning page. If you would like to discuss a more bespoke speaking engagement please get in touch.