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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Callaghan

Overcome imposter syndrome

Think back to the last time you succeeded, say you landed a new job or were promoted. Did any of these thoughts cross your mind: “How did I manage to get through the selection process? What will happen when they find out it’s just me? What will my friends/colleagues think?”

If any of these are familiar, you are likely experiencing imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon). Instead of acknowledging that your success reflects personal characteristics and professional competence - in other words, you deserve it! you look for excuses such as luck, being in the right place at the right time or that your success is because of help from friends or family.

These kind of self-limiting beliefs hold back your life in several areas, including two I want to discuss here: money and career. Often people hold back growing their money or career due to a lack of confidence, a lack of belief that they can do it.

But change is possible. Working with a professional coach can guide you towards recognising a deep truth: you deserve positive outcomes, your hard work and commitment can and should pay off and you can reframe your internal messages to grow both your finances and career.

Imposter syndrome was first described by Psychologists Clance and Imes (1978) and is common (Brevata et al 2020). It can lead to some careers stalling, potentially successful businesses not getting off the ground and delays in getting qualifications which would help build your career or business. Carlin Flora writing in Psychology Today cites one study where those suffering from imposter syndrome reported “more emotional exhaustion, less job satisfaction, and poorer performance—all kindling for burnout" (Flora, 2016). Other researchers support this conclusion, for example Breveta et al write “Together, these findings suggest that individuals who struggle with impostor syndrome may be limited in their ability to fully develop their professional potential and may be a significant contributor to burnout…” (2020: 1270).

That’s just the impact on the individual – your behaviour and actions also change those around you. So, a parent who gives off the message “money is scarce” will shape the money mindsets of their children and others in their networks. Similarly, signals of “I’m not good enough” might very well limit the career confidence of children.

Does any of this resonate with you – either your own thoughts or actions or those of others ? Is so, how might you change?

Working with a coach can help you take action to combat imposter syndrome. It does this by clarifying issues, unearthing strengths, overcoming self-limiting beliefs, gaining insights, and achieving goals.

For example, in terms of career, you might reflect upon strengths such as qualifications, work experience, promotions, responsibilities and instances in which you have shown leadership. In terms of money, you might focus on what you do (or have done) well around finance such as careful budgeting, conscious spending, repaying debt, thoughtful saving or openly discussing money issues with your partner.

You then need to accept these strengths – perhaps repeat them out loud to yourself or write them on sticky notes and place them where they are seen. Consider changing your email signature to reflect all your qualifications and professional awards. Give yourself permission to feel confident with your strengths. Perhaps the next time a colleague, friend or family member says, “Congratulations on your promotion/ recent success rather than saying “Oh, it’s nothing, anyone could have done it” try a simple “Thank you”.

Coaching conversations will also clarify self-limiting beliefs and establish how these might be re-framed and overcome. This often leads to transformational insight as you recognise previous patterns of behaviour – and put in place steps to change and grow.

Carl Rogers, one of the inspirations for client centred coaching, wrote “It is astonishing how elements which seemed insoluble become soluble when someone listens. How confusions which seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard.” It is just this type of “clarifying listening” which coaching provides. If imposter syndrome is something you want to change then I invite you to begin working with a coach who will help you grow and develop.

Prof George Callaghan

Director Positive Money Habits


Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, K. O., & Hagg, H. K. (2020). Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: A Systematic Review. Journal of general internal medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275.

Clance, P. R. and, Imes, S.A. (1978) ‘The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice. 15(3):241–7.

Flora, C. (2016) ‘The fraud who isn’t”

Rogers, C., (1980). Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p.12.

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