What is Impostor Syndrome and how to deal with it if you experience it as a coach

Ever had a chat with someone who you are sure is doing great in their career but you get the feeling that they’re not so sure about it?
Well, they might just admit they’re not 100% sure they’re as good as they seem and have doubts if they deserve a pay raise, the next job challenge, or even to do their role properly.
This is called “impostor syndrome.”
These people are talented, but they’re terrified of being found out as a fraud. They feel as if they arrived to where they did by mistake, and feel that at any given moment someone will come and expose the truth about them and that they should never have been doing what they were doing.

I think that at least 7 or 8 out of 10 people who wish to join our coaching course are telling me in their intake session that they love helping people, that people are always coming to them for advice and they’re good listeners.
During the same conversation, they tell me that they are not sure if they’ll be good coaches.

How come?

I believe that it mainly comes from people not wanting to harm others. They feel that other people will be better than them as coaches, but this is so far from the truth.
I’m usually looking for those who are afraid because I know that they understand the responsibility they have on their shoulders as coaches.
And there’s a lot one can do as a coach to avoid feeling like an impostor. I’ll expand on it towards the end.

You might be happy to hear that all this ties in with research. It’s estimated that around 70% of people have felt like impostors at least once. Crazy, right? And get this: even brainy people can fall into the trap. It’s like they’re so smart, that they doubt themselves even more!
Impostor syndrome doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman—it can hit anyone.

What might you experience as an ‘impostor’?

  • Being unsatisfied with the way you perform work and tasks.
  • Saying no when you are offered new (job) opportunities.
  • Tendency to reject promotion because you fear that you will not be able to achieve success again (thinking that your success was just a matter of luck)
  • You attribute your success to external factors.
  • Fearing all the time that someone will find the truth and will expose you
  • You will tend to focus mainly on your mistakes or failures.
  • You may avoid asking for salary increases, or as a self-employed person, ask for money, or high prices.

The good news?
You’re not alone in this impostor boat and there’s a lot you can do.

For example:
Rather than comparing ourselves to others, concentrating on personal growth and development fosters a healthier mindset which can help.

Psychologist Carol Dweck suggests focusing on the learning process rather than fixating on performance, viewing mistakes as opportunities for growth rather than evidence of incompetence. Moreover, reframing critiques to specific areas for improvement rather than general failures encourages a balanced perspective.


Coaches aren’t immune to impostor syndrome!
As this is a blog that focuses on coaching and coaches, here are things you can do if you feel like an impostor in your coaching work.

Tailored tips for coaches:

1. Remember Your Journey: Reflect on your growth and how far you’ve come as a coach.

2. Peer Support: Connect with other coaches to share experiences and support one another.

3. Embrace Feedback: View feedback from clients and peers as opportunities for improvement rather than criticism.

4. Celebrate Successes: Acknowledge and celebrate the positive impact you’ve had on your clients’ lives.

5. Practice Self-Compassion and personal well-being: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would your clients.

6. Focus on Your Unique Approach: Recognise and value your personal coaching style and strengths.

7. Seek Supervision or Mentoring: Engage in supervision or mentoring relationships to gain perspective and support.

8. Remember that impostor Syndrome isn’t permanent and that it doesn’t define your worth as a coach.

9. Say yes to offers, such as giving workshops and lectures, and then figure out how to rise to the occasion. You have more to offer than you can imagine!

By implementing these strategies, coaches can navigate impostor syndrome and continue to empower their clients with confidence and clarity.

Noa Brume

Leave a Comment

Accessibility Toolbar