How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome

02/06/2015 12:40 | Updated 01 June 2016

Recently a good friend got in touch to ask my advice. She had recently set up a business as a marketing consultant, after several years working for some big name brands. She had just accepted a job writing some marketing materials for a business owner, but was riddled with insecurity about whether she'd be able to do a good job.

"I just feel like such a fraud. What if I get found out?" she asked me. She went on to say that when she was in full-time employment she had things like appraisals and annual reviews to validate herself, but now she was running her own business, who was to say whether the work she produced was any good nor not?

I reassured her that of course she was going to do a good job, she had years of experience and was very talented at what she did. But she said she couldn't shake off the feeling that she had somehow duped her new client into thinking she was something she wasn't. "What if I end up being really rubbish?"

I realised that what my friend was suffering from, was good old 'imposter syndrome'.

She's not the only one. Just last week, actress Natalie Portman gave an address to graduating Harvard students where she admitted she too had suffered from feeling like a fraud. She said: "Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999.

"I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn't smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn't just a dumb actress."

She revealed she felt incapable of meeting the "intellectual rigor" of the school and worried she had only got her place because of her fame.

"I got in only because I was famous. This was how others saw me, it was how I saw myself," she said.

In fact, a host of famous names have admitted to suffering from imposter syndrome over the years, including Tina Fey, Chris Martin, Jodie Foster, Don Cheadle, Kate Winslet and many more.

And while I may not be famous, it's something I've certainly experienced myself in the past. In fact, during my decade working as a journalist I often had those feelings of self-doubt where you think it's just a matter of time before someone calls you out.

I'm lucky to have had some amazing opportunities during my career as a journalist - interviewing celebrities, world leaders and politicians, as well as reporting from events like the Cannes Film Festival, Royal Ascot, London Fashion Week, the BAFTAs, and more, but I still remember having moments where I used to think to myself, 'What if I get found out?' As though I was somehow just pretending to be a journalist, despite a full CV proving the contrary.

In my current job coaching female entrepreneurs on how to get publicity for their business, this is something that comes up time and time again.

I like to help my clients put themselves forward as experts who can be quoted in the media, but all too often I see women holding themselves back because they are suffering from the dreaded imposter syndrome.

"But can I really call myself an expert?" they'll ask me. "Surely I need to have published a book or done something truly remarkable to say that I'm an expert?" Well, no, not really. Frankly, if you know more about your area of expertise than the general public does, that makes you an expert in my eyes.

So, how do we overcome this fear of feeling like a fraud?

My advice is this:

1. Make a list of why you're awesome
It helps to remind yourself every so often about your good qualities. Think about all your achievements. Write them down in a list. Look at the list frequently. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths.

2. Focus on what makes you an expert
If you've trained in a certain subject, or have years' of experience in a particular area, or have insider knowledge of a particular industry, then that makes you an expert by my standards. So think about what knowledge you have that others don't. Focus on what it is you know a lot about.

3. Recognise that many high-achievers feel this way
Rest assured that you're not the only person who feels like this. With the number of highly successful people who feel this way, you're sort of part of an elite club. So know that it's fine to feel insecure sometimes, just try to keep things in perspective and don't let it hold you back.

4. Look at positive things others say about you
Read over testimonials, references, love notes, emails, LinkedIn endorsements - anything where someone has said something positive about you. This can be an effective instant mood booster when you're feeling insecure.

Dina Behrman teaches female entrepreneurs how to make their business famous so they can share their message with more people, become the 'go to' expert, put their prices up and make more sales.