Think You Suffer with Imposter Syndrome? Tips to Help!

August 4, 2020

Have you ever felt that your accomplishments were luck rather than actual achievements?  Although you are skilled and educated in your field, you think you’re fooling people into believing you are good at your job. 

If this fits your mindset (either now or in the past), you have experienced imposter syndrome.   Don’t worry because you are not alone  According to an article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science,  approximately 70 percent of people (men and women) suffer from this syndrome, regardless of their career path.

What is Imposter Syndrome?   According to a study by Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes of Georgia State University (1978), “Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” [Study: The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention].

We picked this topic because most dog trainers work alone. As a result, they often turn their attention to videos on Youtube, books, blog articles and social media groups where trainers debate different training styles and brag about their achievements.  While it is important to continuously educate yourself on canine behavior and dog training, the different opinions, some nasty behavior and abundance of information can lead to a feeling of inadequacy.  While we are not psychologists, we have experienced this dreadful feeling at some point in our lives.  Today we want to share our research so you can understand what is going on in your head and hopefully overcome these periods of self doubt. We also want you to learn how to own and enjoy your victories. 

The study by Ms. Clance and Ms. Imes further notes that “imposter syndrome is common in successful women”.  Michelle Obama has shared her own experience with imposter syndrome in past interviews.

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Who is likely to experience imposter syndrome? According to Valerie Young, an imposter syndrome expert and the author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women”, below are some patterns shared by people who suffer with these feelings:



        1. Perfectionists
        2. Experts
        3. Geniuses
        4. Solo workers
        5. Super women/men (you know, the ones who do it all and are always busy)

Which category do you fit in?  Sadly, I can tick off numbers 1, 4 and 5.  

It’s a shame when a skilled worker (whether you are a dog trainer, a nurse, doctor, teacher, actor, groomer, contractor, etc) leaves their craft behind because they don’t believe in themselves. Not only do they rob themselves of a career they love, they rob their clients of a talented professional.  Here are tips to help when you suffer a period of imposter syndrome.

    1. Professor and author Andy Molinsky suggests that you acknowledge that your peers likely experience similar self-doubt [Psychology Today].
    2. Molinsky further suggests that the “Next time you feel outside your comfort zone, refrain from focusing on your failures.  Consider it your opportunity to learn from your missteps and to bring forth a new perspective that others may not have.”
    3. Valerie Young, Ed.D. suggests the only way we can stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like one. 

Young also suggests the next ten tips to help overcome imposter syndrome:

    1. “Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. 
    2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
    3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider. 
    4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. 
    5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on. 
    6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance. 
    7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tapes that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.” 
    8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress. 
    9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle by learning to pat yourself on the back.
    10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build.”

Remember, social media posts do not necessarily reflect real life. People post what they want people to see and believe.  Every single day, we learn and grow in our craft.  At some point, even the most confident person struggles.  As long as you are willing to think outside the box, you can overcome most problems.  Mistakes are not the end of the road. They are simply a fork in the road that makes us wiser and better equipped to do our job. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  We better serve our clients when we are willing to seek guidance rather than allowing our ego to stump us.

Whether you’ve had a bad day or feel intimidated by your peers, try not to allow insecurity to dictate your future. Instead, recite “I AM” affirmations on a daily basis to remind yourself of your value. 

We want to hear from you. Have you experienced imposter syndrome?  How do you work through it?

Written by Katie McKnight


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