Feel like a fraud at work? Here’s the #1 solution


So, you’ve had a bad day

You’re feeling overwhelmed, full of doubt and, quite frankly, pissed off. How come your colleagues are just getting on after that horrendous meeting? How can they do that? They look so together and professional. How do they manage to say exactly what they want and it all comes out beautifully? How come people listen? How come they are so poised and confident? And exactly how did that new guy cope with such a stressy-making phone call and just carry on. Water off a duck’s back. You’d have been in bits.

You are so familiar with your doubts, aren’t you?

You feel deeply anxious in meetings. Feel like a fraud? You’re overwhelmed by how much there is to do. You wonder if you can handle another day. Sure you put on a great front – no-one has any idea, do they? – but inside you feel like a fraud.

One day someone is going to find you out…

I know that feeling so well

Oh my goodness, do I sympathise. When I started out in the international development world in the 1980s I lived in fear there’d be some clever clogs in my workshops who’d catch me out on a minor detail. There was always someone more knowledgeable on the latest news in emergency press meetings, someone more clued up on the food aid for refugees I was supposed to be monitoring in Sudan.

I remember waiting in the Acropole Hotel in Khartoum (made famous by Live Aid celebrities) and thinking that despite being selected to do this important work, I was one, big, hulking, great fraud. It was a truly horrible feeling.

Ever heard of imposter syndrome?

That’s what you’ve been experiencing. And you know what? Everyone, and I mean everyone, has it sometimes. It’s human nature.

Your colleagues who seem so capable and confident? They’ve got it.

The Chief Executive I was coaching last week. He’s got it too.

Barack Obama. Him as well.

Everyone is waiting to be found out about something or another.

It doesn’t have to be this way

Confident working woman

Wouldn’t it be a relief to let go of that limiting feeling and never feel like a fraud again? Never to feel like an imposter? Just take a moment and imagine the calm, the serenity. The space. Wouldn’t it be just lovely to absolutely know to the bottom of your being that you deserve your job, that you’re as good as anyone else – better probably. That you are the real deal. Wouldn’t that just feel amazing?

Here is the main thing I’ve learned about how not to feel a fraud.

If I could wave a magic wand and take that feeling away, I absolutely would. And in a way, there is a magic wand you can wave for yourself. A simple, single action you can take to end this misery.

You have to ACT AS IF.

Katie, what on earth does that mean?

Well, it’s a little trick I teach all my charity sector clients in one-to-one coaching. It’s such a game changer that I just have to share it with you here.

In order to lose the feeling that you are a fraud, you have to act as if the opposite is true – even before you actually believe it.

So, ask yourself ‘how would I act right now, if I wasn’t a fraud?

  • How would I act, for instance, if I really knew as much as everyone else? I would speak up powerfully in meetings instead of staying silent in case I say something others already know
  • How would I act, if I really understood I had a unique contribution to make to my organisation? I would approach each piece of work with confidence and passion instead of worrying I won’t get it right
  • How would I act, if I truly believed I could be an inspired senior manager? I’d apply for that new role and not be uneasy about what might happen if I didn’t get it.

Over to you

So, what do you think? Recognise imposter syndrome in yourself (or in someone you manage, perhaps)? Like the idea of ‘Acting as if’? Maybe you’ve got your own strategies for overcoming the feeling of being a fraud? Please do share your experiences and thoughts by leaving a reply in the comment box.

What next?

If feeling like a fraud is limiting you at work (or someone you manage) and it’s time for some practical help, book a no-cost 30-minute initial Discovery Session with me by clicking here. We could be talking later today.



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6 responses to “Feel like a fraud at work? Here’s the #1 solution”

  1. Stella Tomlinson avatar

    Great post Katie. I totally identify with what you say. I’ve felt like on-and-off through my whole working life – particularly sitting in meetings in the past with others talking ad nauseum and I felt totally lacking in confidence and knowledge to speak up and challenge their point of view (even though I so did have the knowledge!!).

    I’m now a yoga teacher and, I have to admit that, early on I had the same “they’re going to find me out – I’m not this serene, flexible, peace-filled character they think I should be…” But now I deal with these thoughts in two ways – including the “as if” approach (it totally works!) but I also bring in the yoga practice of non-attachment. Just do it – without being attached the outcome whether it’s “good” or “bad”. Most of those judgements are 100% in our own head anyway!

    Thanks for sharing xx

  2. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    So glad you liked it Stella. Non-attachment is a great approach too.

  3. Gina avatar

    Hi Katie, really like this post. I remember that feeling so well and think you’ve recommended a great approach – very empowering. I’m going to give it a go.

  4. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    Heh Gina. Brilliant that you found the post useful. I’d love to hear how you get on with putting the ‘acting as if’ into practice.

  5. Angela Burton avatar
    Angela Burton

    Hi Katie – This is a good topic to highlight, and a good solution to offer. I think a lot of people feel this way from time to time – so it’s great to have a handy ‘tool’ like this that we can all put in to action when needed.

    And I agree with Stella above, most of these thoughts are just in our own heads, so we definitely need strategies to chase them away!

    Thank you!

  6. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    Thanks, Angela. I’m so pleased you agree this is a topic worth exploring and that you like the approach. The thoughts in our heads can certainly be our own worst enemies.