How to Negotiate Past Impostor Syndrome

Negotiation is an art. When negotiating, not only must you be accustomed to the situation and facts, it's also very important to be in tune with yourself. Confidence is very closely knit with negotiation, and self-doubt can often damage your ability to negotiate. 

Impostor syndrome can create this self-defeating self-doubt. Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern where someone feels like they’re not good enough or worthy or deserving despite their accomplishments. 

I recently interviewed Sheryl Anjanette, author of the best-selling, The Imposter Lies Within. Sheryl works with high-achieving corporate individuals and entrepreneurs to kick impostor syndrome to the curb and effectively assists them in moving forward with confidence and peace of mind, embracing their accomplishments unapologetically.

Where Does Impostor Syndrome Come From?

Impostor syndrome isn’t born from nothingness. It begins in our formative years (from three to eleven years old). Impostor syndrome can build after those years, but ideally it’s important to do a deep dive into it when we are younger.

Every child will go through experiences. Whether an experience was truly significant or not isn’t as important as the interpretation the child has of it. That meaning begins to formulate in the child’s head. At the very core of impostor syndrome are these feelings of “I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy, I’m not deserving. My voice doesn’t matter!” 

It settles in the child’s head and their mind looks for supporting evidence. The reticular activating system complies, saying, “Oh, you see, I’m really not good enough. Oh, I’m really not worthy.” And all of these experiences and thought processes layer constantly, creating heaviness. These experiences and thought processes formulate our beliefs about ourselves in the world. 

How Do You Recognize Impostor Syndrome?

The most obvious indication of impostor syndrome is your thinking habits. It’s important to focus on the habitual thinking patterns where there’s a disconnect between your accomplishments and how you feel about them. The disconnect of someone who’s experiencing impostor syndrome will feel like “they’re going to find me out. They’re going to figure out I’m not as good as they thought.”

There’s a fear of exposure. Oftentimes, if you’re experiencing impostor syndrome, you’ll feel like a fraud. And despite your accomplishments of a degree, medals, certifications, experience, etc. you may still think you are a fraud. Anjanette shared a framework of archetypes to help people categorize how impostor syndrome shows up. 

The Six Archetypes

The Perfectionist

  • The thin line between high-achieving and perfectionism is often crossed, especially among workaholics and individuals with impostor syndrome. This archetype will focus only on the flaws and exaggerate them so much you forget about the amazing things you’ve accomplished.

  • It’s important to acknowledge habits of being motivated to perfection through fear and being paralyzed by the idea of failure.

The People Pleaser

  • One that will go above and beyond in attempting to please everybody in their lives. A common archetype in individuals with low self-esteem who over-compensate in ways that are unnecessary in achieving their goals in life.

  • These people are unaware that you don’t have to please or like and be liked by everyone in life.

The Expert

  • A person that will never be satisfied with their knowledge and will always strive for more, oftentimes unwarranted. The person who feels like they need just one more degree or certification to finally be good enough.

The Lone Ranger

  • Often referred to as ‘the soloist’, this is someone who has trouble delegating. These people do things alone and are often afraid to ask for help.

  • Can often be a slippery slope, as once you’ve been a lone ranger for many years, it’s hard to escape it even when recognizing the bad habits.

The Superhero

  • Often related to the saviour complex, someone with ‘The Superhero’ archetype of impostor syndrome will overcompensate in their lives to feel like ‘Super-Mom’, ‘Super-Career-Woman’, ‘Super-Everything’

The Prodigy

  • This person will always feel the need to go from zero-to-hero, or beginner to master immediately in order to be good enough; just because that “in-between” stage is too much of a slippery slope of competency, facing the fear of failure.

Once you recognize your archetype and the fact that you’re experiencing impostor syndrome, acceptance and acknowledgement are important. You aren’t suffering or struggling, you’re simply experiencing. Words are very powerful and choosing the right terminology to help you move forward in life will help you get back on track quickly. 

The Holistic Approach to Negotiating Past Impostor Syndrome

The holistic approach to negotiating past your impostor syndrome begins with a concept called the mind stack. The stack of layers symbolizes your experiences, with the bottom representing your first experiences. Just above that stack are your beliefs. This is your foundation. Above the foundation sits your emotional identity, your thoughts, the words you use, your inner dialogue, and your self-talk. Your emotional identity is almost the glue between your foundation and beliefs, representing your interpretative settling of those beliefs. i.e. “I’m identifying as a person that is not good enough. I must be the little weakling that nobody wants on the team. Oh, I’m just the girl.”

As you go up the mind stack, you start to see your behaviours across the subconscious mind. These behaviours represent the decisions we make. These result in habits and common actions that you take throughout your day and mix in with your behaviours. You interrupt people frequently: a bad behaviour that was once a bad habit. 4 o’clock rolls around: you grab a cookie. That bad behaviour was also once a bad habit. We often wonder where the origin of these decisions comes from.

When you’re looking at these behaviours, pattern beliefs, and habits, you’re working from the outside-in, which is ineffective! When you do the deep dive and start from the inside-out, you go all the way back to these experiences and you look at the meaning you gave the experience. Confronting past experiences can be hard, especially traumatic ones. But this is a necessary step in not only excelling in our positions, but to also feel better. We’re not erasing the experiences; we’re simply acknowledging them and the faults of our past and making a decision. What’s the story you’re going to keep? What’s the narrative going to be? How are you going to feel about that, from now on? 

Past traumatic and negative experiences can be hard to think about and confront intra-personally. As mentioned earlier, a key factor in happiness and confidence is the way you think. How are you going to reframe these experiences? What have you learned from the experience to better yourself as a person? 

As adults, we get to choose our story. We make choices and influence ourselves and others around us. You always have the choice about the story you’re going to tell yourself.

In order to move past impostor syndrome, underlying issues must be confronted and dealt with. Note that impostor syndrome is genderless. Self-confidence is belittled in both boys and girls alike at a very young age. I hope you found Sheryl’s knowledge and method of negotiating past impostor syndrome helpful. You can access the full interview with Sheryl, Negotiating Past Impostor Syndrome, HERE.


If you want more information on how to negotiate your best life …


expert, imposter syndrome, lone ranger, negotiate, not good enough, not worthy, People pleaser, Perfectionist, Prodigy, Six Archetypes, superhero

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