Imposter standing for her present profile with fear shadow behind. Anxiety and lack of self confidence at work; the person fakes is someone else concept

Webinar: Beyond Imposter Syndrome: Coach Clients to Defeat the Internalized Negative Voice and Live in Their Greatness

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Webinar: Beyond Imposter Syndrome: Coach Clients to Defeat the Internalized Negative Voice and Live in Their Greatness

Impostor Syndrome is a phenomenon seen in high achieving individuals in which they are constantly plagued by the idea that will be exposed as a fraud. Every mistake, misstep, experience of not-knowing is interpreted as evidence of this fraudulence. 70% of people report that they have experienced Impostor Syndrome in their lifetime. The need to prove oneself can be immense and can reinforce a central component of Impostor Syndrome – overworking -- resulting in burnout, lack of balance, and a constant sense of insecurity.

Lisa's book

Webinar Summary

Lisa Orbé-Austin has first-hand experience with Imposter Syndrome throughout college and worsened after she got her Ph.D. It has become Lisa’s personal mission to educate people how to remove Imposter Syndrome from their lives

So what is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is the term utilized within popular culture to describe what psychologists and social scientists refer to as Imposter Phenomenon. The term Imposter Phenomenon was first coined by Clance and imes in the 1970s.

Dr. Clance and Imes were psychologists working in a counseling center in Georgia in the late 1970s, working mostly with women, who were faculty members, grad students, administrators. The psychologists were starting to see something in them that they weren’t seeing anywhere else. They wrote a paper in 1978 called “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”(link to this paper). For years people thought that Imposter Syndrome was just something for women. Lisa points out that’s actually wrong, and it’s just where it began, with a study on women. 

Lisa Orbé-Austin tells us that the research shows about 70% of us have experienced Imposter Syndrome. She also points to  a recent KPMG study (Create a link to this study) that finds 75% of female executives across industries have experienced Imposter Syndrome in their careers.  Some suggest it may be bigger.

Imposter Syndrome is when you are highly experienced, successful, credentialed, but you fear being found out as a fraud. That fear of fraudulence drives behaviors like overwork and self-sabotage. We can also get caught up in denying our ability and attributing success to luck, mistake, overwork or a result of our relationship(s). We don’t take compliments well and we feel a lot of fear and guilt about the success and we also can feel unintelligent or perferctionistic. Individuals experiencing imposter syndrome can also overestimate what others do and undervalue what they do and have achieved. 

“You’re there for a reason.  You’re there to do something that’s unique to you.” – Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Lisa Orbé-Austin explained how this quote is so important because Sonia Sotomayor, an individual at one of the highest attainable points within her career path, has said publicly that she has experienced Imposter Syndrome and that it was at its worst when she was starting out in the Supreme Court. It’s important to note that Imposter Syndrome is not segmented to a particular developmental experience.

There are 4 Hallmarks of Imposter Syndrome

  • Diligence and Hard work – Defining yourself as being meticulous and diligent. That is central to how you identify yourself and how you see yourself in the workplace. 
  • Intellectual Inauthenticity – Downplaying your achievements, intellect, what you know for others so you don’t make people feel uncomfortable. You are more caught up on others and how they interpret what you know.  
  • Charm and Perceptiveness – Studies have shown people with Imposter Syndrome have relatively high EQ, however, they know how to please people, manipulate people, charm people. Knowing how to give people what they want. 
  • Seeking Mentorship for External Validation- As coaches we know that mentorship is very important. It can build relationships,  help us understand career ladders. But with Imposter Syndrome, your sole way to connect with your mentor is validation and not looking at the other important elements of mentorship. 

Two Imposter Cycles to Imposter Syndrome:

Imposter Cycle 1 – You get triggered – This could be a new event, a high profile event, a complex event where there is a lot of potential for mistakes – anything where performance anxiety could be elevated. Due to performance anxiety you overwork to cover up this fear of being revealed as a fraud. You then get a performance review have trouble internalizing approval or taking it in at all and then they get back and it’s the cycle all over again. 

Imposter Cycle 2 – You have the event again and you self-sabotage. The way people with Imposter Syndrome often self-sabotage is long procrastination followed by short intense bursts of overwork. You can self-sabotage all kinds of things and it is the method preferred for those with Imposter Syndrome. In their performance review, you get approval or mixed reviews and  if there is any negative or constructive feedback you focus on the negative feedback almost obsessing over what you did wrong and then get caught in the cycle all over again.

How are Leaders Impacted by Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome can impact leading through micromanaging your direct reports and being overly concerned about them and how they show up as you view their work as a reflection of yourself.. 

Lisa tells us that the research shows that when you experience the double image of Imposter Syndrome, one of the protective factors is having people in your community with identities that reflect your own. So if you’re Black, having more Black colleagues around you, having more Black community. If you’re LGBTQ making sure you have mentors and relationships in the field who have a similar identity. Making sure you have the full complement of other people in that identity that can help you deal with these experiences, helping you understand their place, and what they are serving and helping you come out of your Imposter Syndrome. 


There are particular triggers for individuals from underrepresented groups developing imposter syndrome.  

What the research shows is that Imposter Syndrome can limit professional advancement by reducing knowledge of the job market, so people with this syndrome have less knowledge of the job market and they are more organizationally loyal.

Imposter Syndrome can impact academic and work self-efficacy and our ability to create a path for ourselves. There is often a  focus on what people think and want from us. Certain types of bosses can be toxic for those with Imposter Syndrome:

  • Perfectionist bosses
  • Insecure bosses
  • Erratic bosses
  • Prove it to me bosses
  • Withholding bosses

In the full webinar, Lisa takes a deeper dive into three distinct phases of the Imposter Syndrome:

Phase 1 – Understanding where the Imposter Syndrome came from in your life and how it mysteriously became your experience. 

Phase 2 – Figuring out specific things you need to choose to engage or counter some of the ways you’ve been paving what’s been reinforcing the imposter syndrome. 

Phase 3 – Looking at ways you actually interact with your community so you don’t fall back into these experiences and Imposter Syndrome. 

Lisa shared with us a key insight that her husband (and co-author of their recent book about Imposter Syndrome) said to her: 

“When you work as hard for yourself as you do for others, you are going to be unstoppable.” 

Dr. Richard Orbé-Austin

Takeaways for Coaches:

  1. Coaches should be on the lookout for Imposter Syndrome surfacing while coaching clients, and hold space and provide hope for your clients in overcoming their Imposter Syndrome.  
  2. Coaches can help their clients understand how to stop when they recognize a trigger or trap door from their earlier experiences and then choose another behavior other than overworking or self-sabotage. 
  3. When working with clients around Automatic Negative Thoughts, ANTs (e.g. mind reading, labeling, fortune-telling, catastrophizing, unfair comparisons, all or nothing thinking, discounting the positives), coach them how to observe and challenge their thoughts.

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