It is not uncommon for people, both men and women, to feel like they are not good enough. They live with the fear, that they are not intelligent or talented enough. Whenever you have doubts in yourself, take a deep breath, and remember that you are not alone. You are not stupid, and you are not alone. You are one of the smartest people in this room, and you are super-talented at what you do.
Imposter syndrome is a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt which plagues a large number of people. It’s often caused by high expectations of ourselves based on our achievements, or our achievements being lower than we had hoped.
Imposter syndrome is a common feeling that we’ve been tricked into believing we are not up to our jobs. In fact, our jobs may never even exist. We are misunderstood. We are a fraud. We are a fraud! It’s a very frustrating, and sometimes paralyzing feeling, and it’s something that not many are familiar with. But as P.D. Perlin has shown us, it’s completely and utterly normal. In fact, most of us experience it at least once in our lives. The best thing to do when you experience imposter syndrome is to recognize it and overcome it.
“Is there anyone else here who suffers from imposter syndrome?”
Jamie posted her query to the Coaches Facebook Group, inquiring if other coaches had experienced similar feelings.
She wrote, “I know I am certified and have the information and abilities I need to coach.” “However, I have a nagging voice in my head that tells me I’m not qualified.”
Jamie’s post received a flood of reactions in a matter of minutes.
The scores of affirmative responses she received amounted to a resounding “Yes!”
Jamie isn’t the only one who feels this way. And if you’re feeling the same way, you’re not alone.
What’s the good news?
Every coach who has struggled with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and uncertainty has also triumphed (or at least learned to effectively manage it.)
We’ll peel back the curtain on imposter syndrome in this piece, presenting the stories—and strategies—of coaches who’ve experienced it. We’ll also provide expert advise from our own team.
Then you’ll be well on your way to overcoming self-doubt, using your own skills, and confidently mentoring.
(As a side note, most dictionaries spell it “impostor.”) However, we chose that spelling since it appears that more people use “imposter”—a word that is likewise allowed.)
(Watch the video below to hear the author speak about this article in further depth.) If not, please scroll above the video player or go to the next section by clicking here.)
There’s a lesson called “The Secret” in the Level 2 Certification.
We ask our kids the following questions in this lesson:
Do you have a secret fear of coaching or a secret angst?
What does it feel like to ponder about that secret? What effect does it have on you?
Coaches aren’t obligated to provide their trade secrets to us, but many do.
And, given that the Level 2 Certification is a Master Class, their responses may surprise you.
“By far the most prevalent comment is about imposter syndrome, arising from not ‘knowing enough’ or not being ‘good enough,’” says Level 2 Master Coach Jason Bonn.
According to Bonn, “nearly everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum of not feeling ‘enough’ in some way.” “However, some people experience it far more intensely than others.”
(What’s the second most well-kept secret? Self-consciousness about one’s own body or appearance. (See also: Am I Fit Enough to Be a Personal Trainer?)
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What is imposter syndrome, and how does it affect you?
Imposter syndrome is the persistent sense that you’re not good enough to do what you’re doing and that someone will eventually figure it out.
This frequently unjustified but persistent sensation can undermine your confidence, wreak havoc on your coaching abilities, and rob you of the joy and passion that drove you to pursue this work in the first place. It may possibly prevent you from coaching at all.
How can you get rid of the feeling of being a fraud?
To find out, we consulted six PN Certified coaches who had gone through the process and consulted our own top coaching specialists.
Here are five tried-and-true methods to consider.
First and foremost, be a coach, not an expert.
Robbie Elliott, a former successful chef, changed careers in his mid-30s and became a coach. However, the change was accompanied by a great deal of concern.
He despised answering client queries and despised having to declare, “I don’t know.”
“It can be incredibly demoralizing when you don’t know the answer to a question and you’re supposed to be the voice of the professional,” Elliott says.
“There were moments early in my career when I got things wrong simply because I wasn’t sure, but I genuinely wanted to give an answer,” she says.
“Trying to be the one who knows everything is actually incredibly detrimental,” Elliott learnt over time. Being genuine and honest, and then committing to finding the answer, is far superior.”
Elliott’s new catchphrase? “I may not be the ideal coach, but I can be the most committed.”
Srividya Gowri also experienced a similar epiphany. Gowri used to be paranoid about being labeled “The Expert,” but he soon recognized that “I don’t need to be the expert.” I don’t require complete knowledge. What matters is that my clients achieve the results they desire.”
Gowri’s imposter syndrome was relieved, and her coaching technique changed as a result of this mental adjustment.
She continues, “I’m not establishing great expectations and saying, “I’m this wonderful coach, and I’m going to get you these outcomes.” “No, I’m suggesting, ‘Let’s try some things together, explore, and see what works for you.’” This relieves both my and my clients’ stress.”
Put it in practice.
While you may be an expert in nutrition, the client is an expert on their experience, according to the Level 2 Certification program.
Here are some examples of how you can put this into action.
1. Make no assumptions.
Every every proposal and assumption you make with a client should be questioned and confirmed. Make it obvious that you’re employing a working hypothesis rather than a “proclamation” from an expert.
For instance, you may say,
“OK, here’s how I see things. Is that what I said?
“Based on my expertise, I think this will work for you, but we’ll have to test it and see how it goes.”
“From what you’ve said, it appears that would be a good next step?”
2. If you don’t know something, say so.
“I don’t know,” but “let’s find out together,” is a powerful statement.
If your client’s experience differs from yours, be open and honest with them.
For instance, you could say, “I’m going to be honest with you.” I’m not familiar with cancer survivors. But I’ve got a decent toolkit, and I’m willing to work with you and do whatever it takes to stay informed. I’m completely on your side. We’ll figure it out together.”
3. Create a referral system.
You don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be an expert on everything.
Developing a referral support network can allow you to assist your clients even if their demands are outside of your expertise by directing them to someone who can legitimately assist them. (To acquire the downloaded form, click the image below to start developing your recommendation roster.)
Strategy #2: Collect input in a thoughtful manner.
Positive and negative feedback can be a powerful antidote to imposter syndrome.
Kay Sylvain, for example, had been apprehensive to put her qualifications to use and begin coaching clients. But once she did, she discovered that their favorable comments was quite beneficial.
“Receiving favorable comments taught me that how we see ourselves may not always be how others see us,” she says.
However, even negative criticism can be beneficial.
Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon, director of curriculum at, argues that “maybe you do need more time, experience, knowledge, or skills to be the sort of coach you want to be.”
“Imposter-syndrome-type fears can represent a perfectly reasonable desire to improve oneself. The issue with anxiety is that it is a mental illness that thrives on solitude and shame.”
Getting clear on how and where you can improve can help to reduce worry.
Consider Greg Smith. Smith was very concerned about instructing “properly” in his early days as a coach, aiming to avoid making any blunders at any costs.
Instead of being concerned about doing the wrong thing or not doing enough, he now collects feedback (or “data”) that he can use to make modest, incremental improvements.
“I often tell my customers that the worst thing that can happen when they try something new is that they find out what didn’t work for them. After that, you’ll have data to assist you do it better or differently the next time. “We are in the same boat,” he says.
This “data collection” strategy, according to Robbie Elliot, would be best matched with an additional step: data filtering.
“I try to be as open to comments as possible. But if you take every piece of critique seriously, even if it comes from strangers on the internet, you’ll be doubting yourself all the time.
Instead, Elliott focuses on soliciting opinions from people he knows and trusts. This includes his family, a close group of friends and colleagues, as well as Jason Bonn, his PN coaching mentor.
Elliott takes the group’s critical feedback very seriously. He explains, “I know their values, and they know mine.” “I trust that if I need to look at anything or do something better, they will tell me. Their criticism helps me stay on track.”
Put it in practice.
It’s difficult to actively seek criticism and apply it productively if you’re terrified of making a mistake.
Try a method we term “feedback, not failure” at PN to help you become more responsive to feedback.
Consider the following scenario. You’re on a rocky path, perhaps a beach, a dry creek bed, or a hiking trail.
Did you fail if you stepped on a rock and it shifted?
You’ve now learned crucial information about the next step—try another rock.
You’ve received feedback.
Rather than viewing any errors or blunders as failures, try to view them as feedback and approach them with interest.
Consider the following scenario:
- Take note of the decisions you make and what happens as a result.
- What kind of information did you obtain? What kind of insight do you have? What information do you have?
- What does that input tell you about what you might do next or how you might improve things in the future?
- Or do you want to keep things the same? Or do you want to do less/more of something?
- When you execute action X, what happens? What happens if you perform Y? So, how about Z?
Substitute the words “interesting” or “useful” for “good” or “bad,” as in “Well, that’s intriguing,” or “That’s useful to know.”
You can begin to treat all feedback as impartial information that you can utilize to make decisions with less fear of failure if you adopt this approach.
Question your thoughts and assumptions (Strategy #3).
Have you ever had the impression that other coaches, practitioners, or professionals have more or better credentials than you?
Heather Lynn Darby used to feel the same way. She compared herself to “other licensed professions” earlier in her coaching career.
She was concerned that nutrition coaching would be perceived as “less legitimate” than working with a registered dietitian (RD), a doctor, or a psychologist. Clients might not respect her credentials or recognize the genuine value she brought to the table.
Heather Lynn used critical thinking instead of letting her assumptions rule her.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why would someone come to me instead of a registered dietician?’ What makes me different from an RD in terms of value?’
She came up with a lot of ideas, such as being able to provide more personal and frequent contact with clients, which is something that physicians like RDs aren’t always able to do.
She continues, “That separation allowed me discover my particular value and concentrate on that.”
Heather Lynn also put her anxieties to the test by questioning, “Is this true?”
“This is how it works: If you’re making a bad assumption about yourself or your position, ask yourself, ‘Is that true?’ Are your accomplishments bogus? Did you get those certifications or did you not get them? Was it truly luck that brought you to this point?’”
By reflecting on your past, you might be able to find the answers.
Srividya Gowri did exactly that.
Gowri felt “like a fish out of water” in her early years as a coach. I was concerned, thinking, “Do I know everything?” Do I have the ability and talents to aid someone who is so dissimilar to me? What if it doesn’t turn out to be a success? Will people call me out and say, “Hey, you’re a phony.” ‘Didn’t your coaching work on me?’
Gowri took a step back to confront her concerns. She thought about all the adjustments she’d made in her life, the trials she’d overcome, and the triumphs she’d achieved.
This resulted in a significant lightbulb moment.
“When I took a step back, I realized that while nutrition coaching is new to me, learning new things is not. I’ve discovered something new. I was successful. I’ve been able to do admirably. And I’ve conquered a lot with courage and perseverance.”
Put it in practice.
Try writing down any unsettling thoughts or feelings, suggests Karin Nordin, PhD(c), behavior change coach and curriculum advisor to
“You might find it beneficial to write down explicitly: What do you believe makes you an imposter?”
Consider your thoughts and assumptions critically once they’re on the blank page in front of you.
“Ask yourself, ‘Do I truly believe that?’” You can then begin the metacognitive process of examining and challenging your own thoughts.”
Take a page from Gowri’s playbook as an extra step. Make a note of your previous achievements as well as the problems you’ve faced. How did you manage to get through those trying times? What strengths, skills, or assets have you gained as a result of those experiences?
You might discover that you’re more prepared and capable than you expected by looking back and re-familiarizing yourself with your own experience.
Strategy #4: Rather than striving to avoid failures, strive for improvement and mastery.
Do you spend a lot of time trying to avoid making mistakes? Or are you focusing on making improvements?
If you have imposter syndrome, your focus is likely to be on avoiding mistakes rather than being fantastic, according to Nordin.
According to Nordin, people with imposter syndrome focus on performance avoidance—trying to avoid making mistakes—rather than improvement or mastery.
This might lead to ideas such, “I’m a fraud, I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m terrified of messing up in front of everyone,” and “I’m a fraud, I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m afraid of messing up in front of everyone.” rather than pondering questions such, ‘How can I improve at this?’
What is the solution?
Rather of performance-avoidance goals, try to change your focus to mastery goals (goals that focus on improvement) (goals focused on preventing mistakes).
This was a big mindset adjustment for Chaquita Niamke.
When Niamke made a mistake with a client earlier in her career, she was so mortified that she didn’t want to show her face. (At the grocery store, she even had to dodge a past client.)
But, with time, she became more focused on achieving her larger objectives and the steps she needed to take to get there.
“I know the imposter syndrome is less prominent when I have a strategy and a process,” she says.
“Embrace the road to mastery, with all its lumps and bumps along the way,” Niamke said.
She continues, “I came to recognize the process is the process.” “You have to go through that to refine yourself.”
Put it in practice.
Try shifting your emphasis away from avoiding the things you’re afraid of and toward improving the things you want to master to get out of your imposter syndrome mindset.
Nordin advises using a “thought bridge” to do this.
“Let’s suppose you don’t think you’re the best coach right now,” she suggests. “Rather than telling yourself, ‘I’m not a great coach,’ tell yourself, ‘I’m not the best coach, but I can improve.’”
Then, according to Nordin, concentrate on the areas where you want to improve.
“I truly want to master motivational interviewing,” you might say to yourself. So I’m going to concentrate on my motivational interviewing skills in this client session.”
“I truly want to be a sympathetic coach,” you could say. So I’m going to practice being as empathetic as I can in this session.”
These stepping stones can help you gain confidence while also improving your brain’s productivity and creativity.
“After a while, you might think to yourself, ‘Hey, I’m a really good coach after all,’ because you’ve put in a lot of effort. And I’m well aware that I can always improve.”
Put in the reps (Strategy #5).
There is no way around it.
Gaining confidence, honing your talents, and feeling secure in who you are and what you have to offer take time, work, and practice.
“If you don’t get your reps in, the imposter feeling will remain,” Niamke explains. “You have no choice but to go through it.”
Greg Smith concurs. He was always concerned as a young coach about whether he was “doing it right.” “I practiced coaching much like the clients have to practice their eating habits,” he says today, looking back. It isn’t something that happens over night. You must put in the necessary reps.”
However, getting started might be difficult at times.
Kay Sylvain was still hesitant after earning her PN Level 1 Certification. “I felt thinking, ‘OK, I passed the test, but I’m not really ready to coach,” she says.
Her impostor syndrome kept telling her that she needed to be patient. As a result, she obtained more certificates and training.
“And I was still doing nothing with it. Reading books and hoarding knowledge is all there is to it. “Am I really going to start this or am I simply going to keep taking courses?” I asked myself at one point.
Sylvain eventually realized she wouldn’t be able to magically feel secure. So she decided to start anyhow.
“I told myself, either you’re going to do this or you’re not going to do it,” Sylvain adds. “After that, in the span of a week, I filed all of the paperwork, set everything up, and ultimately established my business.”
Put it in practice.
It may sound self-evident to say, “Put in the reps.” However, we often forget about it (or refuse to accept it) because we have high expectations of ourselves.
Try this thinking experiment from Dr. Scott-Dixon for a reset.
Assume you have a client who comes to you. They’re roughly 25 pounds overweight, with the majority of their weight in their midsection.
They tell you they want abs that are noticeable.
They also want them in a week.
You make an attempt to reason with them. Give an explanation of the physiology. Show them samples of previous clients so they can adjust their expectations.
“That’s all well and good for other people,” your client responds. But I’m an outlier. In a week, I should be able to achieve abs.”
What are your thoughts on this?
You’d probably shake your head in disbelief (at least on the inside).
“If you’re just getting started and want to be successful, confident, and even perfect overnight, you’re effectively asking for ‘abs in a week,’” says Dr. Scott-Dixon. “In other words, you’re not considering what it takes to achieve a goal realistically.”
Instead of stressing about whether you’re good enough (or not), figure out what you want to achieve and make a plan to get there.
Try the PN “Goals to Skills, Practices, and Actions” technique to get started. (This is referred to as GSPA.)
To begin, take a piece of paper and write down your objective. Make it as specific and specific as you can.
Then figure out how to reverse-engineer what’s needed to attain that aim. Consider the following questions:
- What abilities do I need to improve in order to achieve my goal?
- What practices will aid in the development of these abilities?
- What actions do I need to take, and when do I need to take them?
Clarifying what you want to change will help you make progress while also allowing you to see tangible, measurable results.
You’ll probably cease feeling like an imposter little by bit, step by progress, rep after rep. And you’ll begin to envision yourself as the coach you’ve always wanted to be.
If you’re a coach or wish to be one…
It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.
Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.
Impostor syndrome is a term that has been used for as long as people have been trying to figure out how to make themselves feel better. The problem is that while we all need to feel like we belong, feeling like we don’t belong can make us feel like a fraud, like we are lying to ourselves about something. The good news is that there is a name for it, and it’s not as straightforward as people think.. Read more about overcoming imposter syndrome quotes and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you overcome imposter syndrome?
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What triggers imposter syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and feels like they are frauds.
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