Fake it ’til you make it: Overcoming “Imposter Syndrome”

How do you overcome that feeling that you’re not good enough?


A few women have recently asked me the following question, always in a hushed voice – how do you overcome that feeling that you’re not good enough?

This, ladies, is imposter syndrome, known all too well by many of us out there. I struggled with this for a long time. I lacked the confidence to really speak my mind in meetings, with the fear that I would say something stupid. I passed on opportunities because I didn’t “have the right experience.” I deferred to colleagues because I assumed they were smarter than I was.

Now, it’s a different story  – in fact, I recently felt confident enough that I started my own business. It’s not like I magically woke up one day and thought “I’ve made it!” But I did start to pay attention to the strategies around overcoming imposter syndrome, and speaking in public, and I found myself not just speaking up, but leading meetings, taking new opportunities with full force, and realizing that most people in the business world in general have NO idea what the hell they’re doing.


Amy Cuddy made the “imposter syndrome” concept famous in her TedTalk, where she talks through how our body language can actually trick our minds into being more confident. Her thesis is that by making tiny tweaks using more powerful body language, you will start to think more powerfully / confidently. Now for the science behind it – powerful alphas in nature are found to have high testosterone (dominance) and low cortisol (stress). Powerful business leaders in the boardroom are also found to have this combo. Where it gets interesting is that your body can trigger these hormones, and shape the mind. Have you ever tried smiling, even when you’re not happy, and noticed after 2 minutes actually felt happier?

Here are some of her suggestions to fake it  – so sooner or later, you won’t only make it, but you will become it:

  1. Before a presentation – strike “The wonder woman” – you know it, hands on your hips!  Laugh if you will… but this is highly effective. I frequently do this in the bathroom before executive level presentations. Recommended for 2 minutes.
  2. Sit in an “alpha position” – with your leg open crossed over your knee, or open arms (i.e. around another chair). Take up more space. Look at the most confident people in your next meeting and you’ll see that they do some variation of this.

I have to say, from personal experience – this really works. Soon you will see yourself becoming more confident not just in the meeting at hand, but in life in general.

Sit at the table

Say what you will about Lean In, but what Sheryl Sandberg said about “sitting at the table” really stuck with me. The idea is simple: before the meeting even starts, figure out where you’re going to sit, and you better make sure it’s at the table. In her book, she points to the (mostly women) who tend to sit around the table in a big meeting – listening, but not taking part of the action. If you mentally prepare for the meeting only to sit on the fringe, it’s not worth it. Sit at the table, and be present (NOT on your laptop or phone the whole time). You’ll be amazed at how much this simple change can do.

Have a mantra

I’ll admit it – this one sounded a little hippie to me at first. And I strongly identify as a hippie – I meditate almost every day! But having a mantra that you can say every day, or before a big meeting, can be incredibly powerful.

Here are a few that might work for you:

  • “I am strong, I am powerful, I can do anything”
  • “I believe in myself”
  • “I will be happy, and positive”
  • “I can do it”

Fellow BadAss Lady Boss Sophia Amoruso talks about this in her book in the “magical thinking chapter.” She also uses sigils (symbols that take on magical powers), such as creating an email password that is a personal mantra. This is brilliant: you have to type this in a few times a day, so why not make it something more fun than your cat’s birthday?

Mary Sheehan is a co-founder of Bad Ass Lady Bosses and the founder of The Go-To Marketer. 

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