The Imposter Syndrome: leading with a diaper on

The Imposter Syndrome: leading with a diaper on

13 April 2021
Veerle Seymus
Veerle Seymus
  • "You don't know shit, you're worthless, and any day now, people will see what you are: a fraud." Sounds familiar?

    Here are three tips to overcome imposter syndrome.

  • I'm on a mission

  • This is a personal story I want to share because I know quite a few female leaders who suffer from recurrent feelings of failing and faking. Their hurting touches me.

    Convinced that one cannot fully exploit one's talents when held down by the Gremlins, I'm on a crusade to help liberate leaders from their inner critic and be the best they can be.

  • Gremlins' dictatorship

  • I've been struggling for years with Gremlins whispering with their creepy little voices: 'What a mess you have made!", "You just can't do anything right, can you?", "Typically you, to screw things up from the very beginning!", "People will soon find out that you can't do anything, that you don't know a thing, that you are the Great Pretender!"

    Those Gremlins keep you down and small. Self-development and growth are barely existent or take baby steps. You are in constant self-doubt and thus undecisive. Every well-meant feedback is a major blow to your fragile ego. You work your ass off, but you see people less talented than you advance professionally, and you wonder why you keep lagging in your career.

  • Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up

    Sheryl Sandberg
  • The child you were

  • You were not born with Imposter Syndrome; it is not a disease or a fad, nor is it a trait. It is a pattern of self-deprecating thoughts established in your youth.

    These feelings of unworthiness will not magically disappear. Not with age, not with medicines, not with yoga. But you can be talked out of it, though, assuming a lobotomy is out of the question.

  • Three tips for coping with Imposter Syndrome

  • Here's what I did when I realized I was running out of time to be the best I can be and do grand things (in my eyes).

    1. Therapy:
      1. Accept: I found the root cause of my lack of self-worth, and I accepted it. I carry no hard feelings towards my significant ones
      2. Confront: my therapist challenges my assumptions about how people see me. Her (gentle) demands for proof leave me dumbfounded. I understand now it's all in my head
      3. Build: my therapist asks about my achievements, and however much I try to minimalize them, she reframes them into wins and builds positive reinforcement. Again, and again and again.
    2. A mentor: many years my junior, my mentor is a Sunday Child, happy, grounded, stable, and loving. His free and remarkably positive spirit inspires me not to take myself so seriously all the time, that trying alone is worth applause, and that there is no shame in not doing things perfectly. And he respects me
    3. Practice giving and accepting compliments: truly enjoy both parties' warm fuzzy feeling when praise is given. Learn to authentically give first, then taking in every compliment as an expression of appreciation will be easier.
  • A self-assured leader conveys trust

  • Imposter syndrome is even worse an ordeal if you are a leader. People look to you to guide the way and to make decisions. If they notice Gremlins eating at your soul, you'll never be the leader you potentially can be. The realization of your ambition will ALWAYS be a bridge too far with an army of Gremlins crowded on your shoulders. Trust me, I know.

    👹 Imposter syndrome is debilitating. Break the vicious cycle of self-sabotage. Get rid of your Gremlins. Invite Tweety.

    Tweety Bird Emoticon

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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