Self Doubt Central: How To Stop Feeling Like A Fraud

You know how it is – walking into work, an epitome of cool, managing your team/organisation with a flick of your head, then suddenly inside this jerky, breathless little voice inside starts to hyper-ventilate.

“They’re on you!” it murmurs. “They’re going to find you out. You’ve fooled them into believing you know what you’re doing.”

If you’ve experienced this, you’ll know how horrible it is.

If you haven’t … meet Imposter’s Syndrome: the feeling of ungrounded fraudulence.

She is a tricky little bird!

An extremely accomplished head teacher once confessed to me …

“At the peak of my career I felt like a fraud. I walked into my job and felt like they were all going to find out that I wasn’t a head teacher at all.” She paused sipped her tea, then added, “Funny thing is, I have another friend who is also a head-teacher and she feels exactly the same.”

Actress and comedian, Tina Fey, once admitted that she regularly feels like an imposter in her job. While at Princeton Uni, Sonia Soyomayor felt too self-conscious to ask questions in case they found her out. And good ole’ Meryl Streep? She gets cold feet before new projects and in 2002 she even went on to say, “I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”

Whilst I – like many – have had my own self doubt demons before, recently I was thrown into a complete pit of fraudulent feelings.

As a result of this, I looked into ways of navigating out of Imposter Syndrome. The tips that helped me can be found at the end of this post … but first I thought I’d share with you how I was thrown into the fraud pit to begin with.

It started when I had to fill in an application form in which I needed to declare myself an artist.

Which opened the strangest can of worms.


I don’t consider myself an artist.

At all.

Declaring such a thing made me feel perplexed and uncomfortable, even though …

And then …

there was WORM TWO:

As soon as I was expected to call myself an artist and back this up by explaining my art, I suddenly felt very self-conscious and unconfident about the whole thing. I began peeking at other artist type people and shuffling around, thumb-nail nibbling and feeling fake.

I started prodding the bits of squiggle that fly out of my pen and wondered if I should be doing something a little more … serious.

And deep.

And consistent.

On … I don’t know … a canvas?

Then I flopped on the kitchen table and thought, “Gahh. I don’t have TIME to be serious and make serious art …

I’ve got three children,

two cats,

one Adam (and he’s really helpful and cooks lovely food for us, so that frees up time, but even so …)

Then there’s the coaching biz,

a Grow Your Own Gorgeousness mission to mission out in the world.

There are bike rides to go on,

Baby walks to stroll through,

Coves to paddle in,

A mountain in France to go and loll on (bonjour Emma and Anne!)

Awesome men and women to meet

Blogs to be written

Three teen novels prodding my shoulder,

And a load of vibrant, inspirational posters that are sketched roughly in THIS book that I’ve had to make so that I can jot down some of wildness that keeps my brain awake at night

A trio of books about cavemen that me and Roo have been planning to co-write for ages

As well as a bunch of bum-clenchingly scary opportunities twerking in unison and cat-calling me from the horizon (that I’ve created with my thoughts, actions and stupid daring moments) that I don’t feel fraudulent running after and jumping into.

Meanwhile, saying I’m an artist is like squeezing my body into a seven year old’s leotard and tutu.

 I seriously don’t have time to make SERIOUS ART.

In fact I don’t really have time for these cans of worms either.

Then I sat very still … and thought about Mrs Twit when she makes Mr Twit spaghetti bolognaise out of worms in Roald Dahl’s book, The Twits.

This wormy munch thought led onto thoughts about vegetarianism … and when I became a vegetarian. Before I labelled myself a non-meat eater, I rarely ate fleshy stuff. Yet the moment I declared myself “vegetarian”, something inside me clicked and I became a ferocious bacon-sandwich / steak stalker. It was as though by labelling myself, I went from being an unconsciously competent free eater to a consciously restricted meat craver.

This issue/vegetarian thought then crept back around in a circle (a like a soft, fluffy caterpillar who has lost its way) and returned to my original can of worms dilemma/feelings of being an imposter.

I thought, “Perhaps, the reason why we feel like frauds is because of the labels we give ourselves. 


We give ourselves a label and then we think about the label and decide what it means to be worthy of the label. Then we compare ourselves to our imagined label-wearer and are acutely aware of all the ways in which we don’t really fit that tutu.

Actually, a little like the vegetarian thing, if we stop focusing on the label/title/position/name and focus more on being unconsciously competent and wonderful as we are … we have nothing to worry about.”

And suddenly I felt much better!

Regarding my artist worm-can, I concluded that I don’t DO art. I’m just, kind of, full of it.

And when you are full of that stuff, you carry it in you wherever you go. It flows in and out and is as natural to you as running water of taking your next breath. It prods you awake in the morning and insists you get up at night.

You breathe it.

And you do not call someone who breathes a breather.

Because that would be stupid.

You just say, “You breathe.”

But what if someone then said, “No … you must write a statement about being a breather. You must list all of your proudest breathing moments. You must explain to us how you breathe!”

Bloody hell. That would be enough to bring on an asthma attack – even if you didn’t have asthma.

So anyway.

This is what I’ve come to.

I am a breather of creativity.

I am not an artist (though I wrote on my form that I was).

The thing with Imposter Syndrome, or even just a measly dose of self doubt, is that sometimes the our perception of something makes it BIGGER and more SERIOUS sounding than it actually it.

In truth we are limitless humans. We are so much bigger than our bodies and so much deeper than the surface of our thoughts.

What really matters most, is not whether we dabble with fear of failure/looking daft/not knowing the answer … it is whether we let our fears stop us from doing the things we need to do to achieve our goals and aspirations.


 Imposter Syndrome tends to hit high-achievers who are attempting to play big in some way. It is scary laying your vulnerability on the line and the fear of failure that this can result in. Yet by playing safe, you risk never knowing how capable and deserving you are. By setting your stake high and playing big, you may risk getting it wrong, but it is the only way that you will ever realise your full potential.


Other people may look as though they’re finding it easy, but beneath the surface they are also paddling like hell. When you find yourself thinking that you are the only one who suffers from self doubt here and there, remind yourself of Meryl and that brilliant line “I can’t act!”


You don’t have to be the best, but you can always bring your best to whatever it is you are doing. Instead of second guessing your performance, talent or ability,  focus on the value you bring and what you can offer people/your team. 


There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’ve worked your backside off for something, only to have someone turn around and put your success down to luck. There’s a great saying that goes, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” Often people with Imposter Syndrome tend to put their success down to lucky breaks, helping hands and being in the right place at the right time. You may think you got lucky and that’s why you are in the position you are, but that is not true. The reason you are in the place you are is down to YOU …who you have been, the actions you’ve taken and the energy you’ve put in. Take responsibility for your success and own it.


PS. I don’t know how this has happened, but after writing this blog post and saying I don’t have time for serious art … I have today (somehow) booked myself onto a Life Drawing class this Sunday. Ok-aaay. XX
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