Six ways to tackle imposter syndrome

We've all experienced imposter syndrome – if left unchecked, it can be really damaging. Here, one leader shares how she beats it

Nicola Arkinstall

Imposter syndrome: how teachers can tackle it

We’ve all experienced imposter syndrome. It’s that niggling feeling in the back of your mind saying you don’t belong, the worry that your colleagues will catch you out, that they’ll discover you’re actually a fraud, who doesn't deserve to be in the position you are. 

While it’s completely normal to experience this at some point during your career, it's a horrible feeling, and it can be really damaging.

So how can you tackle imposter syndrome once and for all? Here are some things which have helped me. 


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1. Acknowledge the feeling 

The first thing to do is to acknowledge the feeling and ask why you’re feeling like that. Is it because you lack some knowledge or skill to perform your role? If so, make a plan to develop yourself in order to carry out your duties and get rid of the feeling. 

If you know that’s not the case, try to assess why you might be feeling that way. Is it because of something someone has said? Or because of some recent feedback you’ve received? If possible, talk to the person in question, and ask for some positive feedback too. 

The reality is that sometimes imposter syndrome never goes away, and as you continue to build on your accomplishments, those feelings will return. Sometimes the best way to eliminate a problem is to simply embrace it. You will never be fully rid of it, so why waste time trying to do so? Instead find a way to recognise when it’s happening, redirect it, and develop strategies that allow you to channel it into a tool you can use to push yourself even further.

2. Share with a friend, mentor or coach 

It can be helpful to share what you are feeling with a friend, mentor or coach. They can help you to develop strategies so the feeling doesn’t stop you from developing or taking opportunities. 

They can offer reassurance that what you’re feeling is normal, and together, you can take the time to examine and, most importantly, articulate those feelings of fear and doubt. This should greatly reduce the amount of stress and anxiety you will feel. 

If you need quick affirmation when no one is around, talk to yourself. It sounds silly, but hearing your own voice, saying calmly and positively that you are capable, and you are good enough, will help.   

3. Fake it until you make it 

Sometimes, it’s about faking it until you make it. I had massive imposter syndrome writing this article, but I said yes, and I’ve done it. You can decide you are going to be confident by choosing to be confident. Say yes to things that push you out of your comfort zone and make your confidence a reality. 

When self-doubt starts to creep back, write down all the things you have done well until your doubts begin to ease. It is important to remind yourself that you are good at what you do – look back at or remember times when you have felt proud of your work or people have praised you.    

4. Don’t compare yourself to others

Stop comparing yourself to others, and instead focus on remembering your own achievements. Often, on social media, the carefully curated accounts only show half the story. 

5. Give someone else advice

Giving someone else advice and support can remind us of all the things we do know and are good at. Surprise yourself with the depth of your own knowledge and remind yourself how much you do belong in your role. Help yourself by helping others. 

6. Embrace failure 

It is important to remember that failure does not make you a fraud. Failing, losing and being wrong on occasion are all part of the job and the learning process. Do not let it define you.

Nicola Arkinstall is the deputy headteacher at Little Sutton Primary School, Sutton Coldfield

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