Cue the sirens…You ARE an imposter

Caneel Joyce
3 min readMar 3, 2023

Most advice surrounding imposter syndrome focuses on the reassurance you are NOT an imposter or a fraud. But I’ve found even if you read all the affirmations in the world, the nagging feeling of insecurity won’t ease up.

It may be time you look at imposter syndrome differently. Rather than deny it, let’s lean into it.

You are a total and complete fraud.

I have no idea how you scored that position.

You are underqualified, and it’s starting to show.

You’ve been acting like you know what you’re doing, but you actually don’t. That’s why you’re feeling insecure and vulnerable.

Okay, yeah, that was harsh. It was tough even writing it but stick with me here. Read those words, accept them, and sit with them. Let that boiling hot spotlight shine on you; it’s okay if your palms are sweaty.

This situation is better than it seems.

Imposter syndrome can be used to your advantage!

When you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, you feel like you’re in a constant state of threat — the threat of being unmasked as a fraud, the threat of someone else “taking” your position, threatened by the success of others, or seeking validation in harmful ways.

You can breathe again because you just took the mask off. Fine, you’re an imposter. It is a good thing. Now that you’ve accepted the imposter label, you can let the anxiety go and start to play with curiosity.

When you admit you don’t know everything, you can focus less on your anxiety about being an imposter and more on your identity as a “learner.” By applying curiosity, you can adjust the narrative to move away from fear and toward empowerment.

Use those nagging thoughts to motivate you. Unqualified? Take steps to become more qualified. No idea what you’re doing? Now is the time to figure it out!

In a victim mindset, you will feel shame, guilt, and a nagging worry that you’re a fraud. In an empowered mindset, you say, “I’m going to do something about feeling this way.

Shifting your internal narrative from “I’m a fraud” to “I’m still developing myself and my skills” frees you from the shackles of feelings of inadequacy and empowers you to utilize your curiosity.

Squash the imposter in you by being proactive and approaching things you don’t know with genuine curiosity, willingness to learn, and asking questions.

Imposter syndrome is sort of beautiful when you think about it. The reason imposter syndrome feels so negative is you value authenticity. You don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking you are inauthentic or fraudulent.

Here’s what I know–I’ve worked with CEOs in their 60s who feel like they are an imposter, even if it is their fifth time being a CEO, and they’ve been a huge success every single time along the way. A stacked resume doesn’t mean you are exempt from imposter syndrome because you can’t “earn” or achieve your way out of it. It is a mindset you combat with intentional inner work.

You can shift your mindset and step into your full aliveness by accepting the imposter label and using it to motivate you to progress.

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Caneel Joyce

Transformational executive coach to founders & CEOs of fast-growth companies. Mom, wife, speaker, former professor & startupper. Caneel.com, The Allowed Podcast