5 Tips to Beat Impostor Syndrome (and cover your butt legally)

Jul 25, 2017

Coaching, Content creation, Legal Tips

Every heard about impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is when high achieving persons are unable to internalize their own accomplishments.


I’ve been hearing more and more about this feeling of inadequacy, especially in the online business realm. This phenomenon, the overwhelming fear of failure, can be crippling to even bright, competent folks who should feel confident enough to offer something valuable in their respective area. 


As Nicole Walters detailed in her great video about this, it’s the feeling that “I am not good enough” even though in all likelihood no one has ever told you this. It’s the fear that at any moment — someone will stand up in the crowd (I picture the peasant hag in the Princess Bride) and say BOO!!! Impostor! Fake! Fraud! Booooooooo!


Impostor syndrome is excessive humility. It’s making excuses and being unable to give yourself credit for hard work. It’s being unable to receive compliments and downplaying real-world validation and merit. It’s psyching yourself out and talking yourself out of opportunities and moments that you have prepared for. It’s staying on the sidelines when you are ready for the arena. 


Now, there is some debate about whether the impostor syndrome is really a “syndrome” and whether it affects one gender more than the other, or in different ways, or whether it is a much more universal human experience than people recognize. Some have even listed different categories of impostor syndrome. 


What does seem to resonate with people across the board — especially entrepreneurs and creatives — is that putting yourself “out there” is scary and that the fear of being called a fraud or “impostor” is real, predictable, and sometimes debilitating. Nicole Walters one of her live videos advises folks to recognize impostor syndrome, examine the source of that particular “story” you are telling yourself, and to combat it with affirmations, journaling of achievements, and giving credit for your process and purposeful choices.


I agree with all of this advice. There is definitely luck, coincidence, and karma in life — and we should all develop a gratitude practice that recognizes forces beyond our control or view. However, I would also add some practical tips to make sure that in certain area of your business — you can assure yourself that you are NOT an impostor in terms of your representations to your clients and customers.


In my house, we have a family motto: Find a way to solve your problems.


I have four kids under the age of 7 — so instilling some problem-solving initiative is pretty critical. Otherwise, shoes on the wrong foot, towering water faucets, grilled cheese sandwiches cut the wrong way — they all seem insurmountable challenges. I mean, they might as well keel over and die on the cheerio-strewn floor right there — nothing to be done about it.


So, when I hear people struggling with feelings of self-doubt and overwhelmedness (should be a word) in their business, nearly 99 percent of the time, I will also chime in with my cat poster slogans and add “you can do it!” and “just believe you can!”


BUT……..there is also a little lawyer voice in my mind piping up to make sure that in certain fields (health,wellness, professional fields) that you are careful that you don’t claim to be what you aren’t.


To help overcome impostor syndrome — I’ve put together a little checklist of action items to get your through this IS BS (see what I did there??) and on with your life.


Impostor Syndrome checklist

1. Ask yourself — what are you selling yourself as? Is this a reasonable claim based upon your experience, education, skills, or know-how? (*note*I did not say degree or job title — that’s pretty irrelevant, but do you know enough to say something about it? Answer is probably yes.  )


2. How did you get there? What was your story, journey, process, or research? Write a little bio about yourself that walks someone through this (this is probably the kind of thing you would have on your About Us page, so two birds with one stone.) Recognize that there is a story there — you did something, learned something, tried some things — you have something to share on this topic and someone to help. 


3. Are you holding yourself out as a professional? Or a licensed individual in some capacity? Then the stakes are higher. (consult your state licensing language or code of ethics to make sure your representations are clear concerning accounting, medical, legal advice, etc.)


4. Are you working in the health and wellness fields (including personal coaching)? Make sure you have some disclaimer language in your website footer and in your website Terms and Conditions that addresses your status as a professional or nonprofessional. Also make clear in those legal statements and elsewhere, where appropriate,  that your content is not considered professional advice.


5. Do you use testimonials or client feedback in your advertising or marketing? Are these statements reasonable and typical of your services, results or average user experience? 


****Bonus Tip****

Take a breath. And go for it. The fact that you are worrying about ANY of this means that you are probably a self-aware person. It’s kind of like the advice about parenting — if you  wonder if you are a good parent — then the answer is YES! Because people who wonder if they are “good enough” are likely the kind of introspective, thoughtful, purposeful people who are listening to themselves, others, and who make reasonable and calculated choices based on the gifts, talents, opportunities and information they have available.

I’m sure you have something valuable to give — just make sure that you are being true to who you are and what YOU can offer. And then GO FOR IT.



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*This blog post is not intended as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship. For informational purposes only.

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