Working with Impostor Syndrome

Last January, I wrote this for my newsletter. It had such a positive response that I decided I would post it on my blog this year. I needed the reminder, too. :-)

“They’re looking at us! Quick! Act natural!”

“They’re looking at us! Quick! Act natural!”

January is often a time of reflection on our accomplishments—and failures—and resolving to do better. If you're anything like me, you have a long list of things you would like to accomplish. Or perhaps there is something about yourself you want to change—your weight or general health, maybe. Or perhaps you want to increase your skills in a certain area.

When it comes to self-makeovers, there is no louder voice about what "should be done" than the one coming from between our ears. And there is nothing wrong with self-reflection and a determination to do something better in the coming year.

But too often, we never even get past the first lap of the race toward whatever it is that we dream of doing. We take off toward the goal with enthusiasm, but pretty soon, we get a stitch in our side, the road goes uphill and gets a little bumpy, and we nearly get run over by a bicyclist whizzing around the corner. And we start to think that we don't really have the training for this sort of thing, and what were we thinking that we could run a marathon, anyway?

So we stop, sit down, and console ourselves with, “I'll do this later, when I'm ready.”

Now, there is something to be said for training and preparation. But there are certain things that we will never be “ready” for until we start doing them.

You can have all the driving theory in the world, but you won't actually feel like you know how to drive until you've been behind the steering wheel for a while.

I remember walking out of the hospital carrying my firstborn in his infant carrier, my proud husband beside me. I glanced at the receptionist on the way out, halfway expecting her to stop me. She didn't, which was silly. Didn't she know that I had no idea what I was doing?

Parenting is a "learn-on-the-job” career. But really, that's the way most of the things we want to accomplish work. We sabotage ourselves by saying that we will “do such-and-such a thing someday when I'm ready.” But believing we need to wait until we are ready to start is a big, fat lie that is hiding the real culprit: fear.

Fear is what tells us that we are an impostor who is unqualified to do whatever it is we want to do most.

Fear is what tells those of us who take the risk of stepping out and trying anyway that we don't deserve to be where we are, and that we are big phonies.

Fear is a prison that prevents us from discovering what we could truly accomplish and which keeps us from sharing our gifts with the world.

I'm going to share a little secret:

We all feel like impostors sometimes.

Fear is a healthy response, designed to save our lives by keeping us from, say, walking into traffic. But when it comes to accomplishing our dreams, FEAR IS A LIAR. It's like a false oracle that only tells us all of the most horrible (and often least likely) potential outcomes of moving toward our goals. And the thing is, fear itself can’t hurt you.

We all feel like impostors sometimes.

So this year, when you're looking at what you want to achieve and fear stands up and distorts all that shiny, beautiful light from your goals into something terrifying, ignore it.

If the goal looks big and scary, just focus on the next step. Watch the path right in front of you, and keep walking until the feeling passes. Then look up, and you'll discover that you've pushed through the fear, and you are closer to your goal than ever. And maybe you'll even feel a bit like you've earned the right to get there.

Life is a learn-on-the-job event for all of us. Just keep going, and you'll push through the lie to discover that you've done something you can be truly proud of.

After all, we're all just winging it. So just start.

Photos from

Photos from