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The two words feared most by the Impostor Complex

In my over-preparation for my TEDxWomen talk, I found plenty of resources speaking to the prevalence of the Impostor Complex in academia and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. (Refresher for you on the impostor syndrome:: it’s that enduring feeling that it’s just a matter of time before everyone finds out that you’re a fake.) For the sake of efficiency, let’s just say it strikes MOST of us. If you have high standards for yourself, a desire for excellence and a value of integrity, I suspect that at one time or another, you’ve felt its power over you. And it IS as powerful even when it presents as innocuous.

It can look something like this.

You are told:: You are so committed to your yoga practice. It’s awesome and inspiring. You respond:: Yeah, well my handstand is a train wreck.

You are told:: This pasta is exquisite. You respond:: Naw, I put in too much salt.

You are told:: You are my go-to when I have a style question. You respond:: What? I’m a sloppy mess.

You are told:: You’re a really great writer. You respond:: Ach. My sentences are fragmented.

When we undercut, diminish and dismiss what we are being offered as the gift of acknowledgment, that’s the handiwork of the Impostor.

Why do we do it? SO.MANY.REASONS. Here are the ones flaring off like fireworks all around me lately::

  • We want to be in integrity and make sure that everyone has the “full story” about us. (Lauren Bacon wrote an excellent +  robust piece about recognizing the difference between expertise and infallibility.)
  • We are perfectionists not actually content with ANYTHING until it’s good enough (“for whom?” is the real question here).
  • We cannot perceive the real value of our contributions (especially if we're "naturally gifted" and haven't suffered for our art).
  • We have been raised to be humble above all else.
  • We are superstitious. That by accepting ownership over our excellence, we’re jinxing ourselves.
  • We do not want to commit the crime of outshining (fabulous term coined by Gay Hendricks).

I have so very, VERY much to say about all of those reasons. 

But for now…

The next time someone dares to see you and share with you what they see in you, in your contributions, in your abilities, instead of showing them where they’re wrong (they’re not) try saying this:: 

Thank you.

That’s it.

Thank you.

No more, no less.

Thank you.

Neither discount nor deny their gift of acknowledgment. Just as you wouldn’t find fault with a present given to you from the heart, so too should you not find fault with the acknowledgment. Accept it with the grace that only “thank you” affords.


The Impostor Complex despises this because you are, in two words, owning (or, at least, for the time being, BORROWING) the truth. You are doing good.  Full stop.

Added bonus

Train your brain to say those words and you’ll be sending sweet synaptic love notes to your subconscious with this immutable fact:: that you ARE worthy of praise and acknowledgment.

Because you are.

Sure, it’s possible that your handstand, pasta and sentence structures could use a little more attention. (Which is awesome news for you and your high standards…you get another turn up the upward spiral called life in pursuit of excellence).  But for this moment, this very moment, rest in the knowledge that you, your yoga practice, your pasta, your style, or your writing has moved, delighted, or even inspired someone. Saying Thank You locks and loads it.

And THAT is excellent.


Sign up for updates about the next run of my Step into Your Starring Role program. We’ll be tackling the Impostor Complex head-on so we can finally step into all that we deeply desire. It’s time.

Quite Simply…my TEDxWomen Talk

Ever since November 2012, I knew that there would be a moment that my TEDxWomen talk would be available for all to see. And that I’d need to find a way to share it with my corner of the world. That is, YOU. I’d love to say that I was excited, but the reality is, I’ve been a little, well…nervous. I mean, I KNEW I’d be proud of it…I spent weeks (and weeks) preparing, researching, training, practicing, finessing and getting it under the requisite 18 minutes. And I KNEW the content would be good...I know the Impostor Complex like the back of my hand.

But asking everyone, YOU, to go check out my TEDxWomen talk is just…so…selfish, right?

Me, me, me, me, me.

I’ve started and stopped this very post about 15 times. Each time I approached with this question:: “what huge, massive, COLOSSAL value can I bring to my readers AND STILL let them know that my talk is available for viewing?”…as though the two were mutually exclusive.

So I’m about to take a leap of faith. The huge value of this post IS my talk.

Whoa. Whoa. Whooooooooa.

That seriously just kind of took my breath away. The sheer audacity.

But there it is.

My friends, I know A LOT about the Impostor Complex. So much so, that I am indeed becoming an Authority on the topic.

I’m claiming that.

In my perfectly imperfect talk, I’ve outlined a process that moves us from feeling like an Impostor to feeling like an Authority. I use it with my coaching clients, and in my own life. It’s also the backbone of my Step into Your Starring Role program.

If you ever, EVER struggle with the Impostor Complex, then you WILL get value from watching this talk...because I wrote the talk for you.

And now, I leave it in your loving hands, and will go and celebrate (an ever-important step in the process, you'll see) by busting my Kid out of after-school care early for an ice cream cone.


I did it. I really, really did it.

And if you want to do it too, you can and will too. "How do you begin? The answer is simple: you decide to."  - Anne Lamott

And maybe, just maybe this will guide you::



ice cream cones

She had the Moose Tracks, I had the Burgundy Cherry.