Imposter syndrome

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Am I good enough?
Overcoming imposter syndrome and self-sabotage

Sharn Rayner

27 May, 2024

Blog & Resources

Ever felt like you’re not good enough despite your achievements? You’re not alone. I get it—I have felt it and see it often with my clients. As a business consultant, I frequently encounter talented CEOs and leaders grappling with imposter syndrome and self-sabotage.

These psychological challenges often coexist, creating a vicious cycle that hinders personal and organisational growth. Imposter syndrome fuels self-doubt and fear of failure, leading to self-sabotage behaviours such as procrastination and perfectionism. Addressing both simultaneously is crucial for achieving sustainable success, as breaking this cycle can unlock a leader’s full potential.

Understanding imposter syndrome and self-sabotage

Imposter syndrome: This psychological pattern involves individuals doubting their accomplishments and fearing exposure as a “fraud.” Despite evident success, those with imposter syndrome often attribute their achievements to luck or external factors rather than their skills and efforts. They live in constant fear of being “found out.” Do you recognise any of these story lines which we can tell ourselves?

  • “I’m not qualified enough to be in this position.”
  • “I’m just lucky; anyone could have done what I did.”
  • “Sooner or later, everyone will realise I’m not as competent as they think.”

Self-sabotage: This behaviour occurs when individuals hinder their own success, often subconsciously. It includes delay tactics, unrealistic focus on perfection and self-doubt leading to missed opportunities and stagnation. Self-sabotage is a common response to the anxiety and fear of failure associated with imposter syndrome. Ever heard these unhelpful one liners from the voice inside your head?

  • “I’ll never get this right, so why even try?”
  • “I always mess things up; it’s just a matter of time.”
  • “If I don’t give my best effort, I won’t have to face failure.”


Why do these issues arise?

Perfectionism: Leaders often set unrealistically high standards for themselves, leading to chronic self-doubt, which invariably results in things not getting done on time… or at all.

Social comparisons: Comparing oneself to others can create feelings of inadequacy. Rating yourself obsessively with others on Facebook or LinkedIn is not a health pursuit.

Stereotypes and biases: Women, in particular, are more prone to imposter syndrome due to societal expectations and gender biases in the workplace. In my discussions with female leaders, these expectations and biases are often rooted in our own heads. Despite being equally competent, women often internalise negative stereotypes, doubting their capabilities.


Prevelance and statistics

Imposter syndrome and self-sabotage are widespread among business leaders:


Overcoming imposter syndrome and self-sabotage

Recognise and acknowledge

  • Understanding that imposter syndrome is common and acknowledging its presence is the first step.
  • Writing down achievements and positive feedback helps reinforce self-worth.

Shift your mindset

  • Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Focus on growth rather than perfection.
  • Regularly acknowledge and celebrate achievements to help build confidence.

Seek support (you are not alone!)

  • Engaging with mentors or coaches can provide perspective and encouragement.
  • Sharing experiences with peers can help normalise feelings and reduce isolation.
  • Gain perspective from experts – these are a few TED talks that we often forward on to clients on the subjects:

Develop self-compassion

  • Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend. Don’t be so harsh on yourself, beating yourself up is never constructive in the role as leader.
  • Techniques such as meditation and mindfulness can also help reduce anxiety and improve self-awareness… this is not airy fairy mumbo jumbo – it is proven to work.


How we help our clients

At Two Tides, we work with leaders to identify and address these challenges. Through executive coaching, we help develop strategies to overcome self-doubt and break through self-imposed limitations. Together, we focus on:

  • Through structured coaching and mentoring leaders learn to trust their abilities and make confident decisions.
  • Development and implementation of clear, actionable strategic plans help leaders stay focused and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed, as direction and goals are transparent and visible.
  • Regular check-ins ensure leaders stay on track and maintain momentum.

Imposter syndrome and self-sabotage are significant barriers to leadership success, but they are not insurmountable. By understanding these issues and implementing strategies to overcome them, leaders can unlock their full potential and drive their organisations forward.

Speak with our team at Two Tides to start your journey today, we are here to help.