How to overcome imposter syndrome and stop feeling like a phony

How to overcome imposter syndrome and stop feeling like a phony Are you a creative introvert who feels like you have to fake it in order to succeed? Do you live in fear that someone is going to call you out and call you a poser? In this post and video, you’ll learn five easy strategies you can use to overcome imposter syndrome so that you can focus on creating and building the life you want for yourself. // from Michelle Hickey Design #impostersyndrome #introverts #creativebusiness

May 13, 2019

I’m Michelle.
A modern maker with a classic approach to design. Ever in search
of beautiful typography and
baked goods.
TOp categories
Get your Digital Brand Blueprint

Are you a creative introvert who feels like you have to fake it in order to succeed? Do you live in fear that someone is going to call you out and expose you as a poser?

In this post and video, Michelle shares five easy strategies you can use to overcome imposter syndrome so that you can focus on creating and building the life you want for yourself.

How to overcome imposter syndrome and stop feeling like a phony Are you a creative introvert who feels like you have to fake it in order to succeed? Do you live in fear that someone is going to call you out and call you a poser? In this post and video, you’ll learn five easy strategies you can use to overcome imposter syndrome so that you can focus on creating and building the life you want for yourself. // from Michelle Hickey Design #impostersyndrome #introverts #creativebusiness


STRATEGY 1: Tap into your alter egos.

One of the biggest reasons why faking it feels so heavy and draining is because you are living a lie. And lying is exhausting. We have enough to remember, right? The solution is to quit the charade and to tap into your alternate personalities.

We all have many different sides to us. And the best example I can give you is to think about how you speak to different people in your life. You don’t talk to your parents in the same way that you would talk to a girl friend, or in the same way that you’d talk to your doctor. You’ve got a different demeanor for your customers, and yet another one reserved for your pets.

You would never ask a client if this dress makes your butt look big, just like you’d never write an email to your mom, that ends with, “Looking forward to hearing your response. “Best Regards, Sarah.” And you would never use the self-admitted annoying voice that you employ to translate what your cat is thinking when presenting on a webinar.

So tell me, which one these personalities is actually you? They. All. Are.

We are complex people with many different facets of personalities and expressions. You’ve already been going through life, showcasing these versions of you, and bringing them out at the appropriate times. It doesn’t make you any less genuine.

Chances are, you’ve already brought out the side of you that needs to show up when it comes time to make impactful moves in your business, and maybe even your life. Reaching out to that person to meet for coffee, raising your prices, asking for a testimonial. This doesn’t always feel like the most natural move until you do it. And then you’re like, “yeah, I totally handled that,” and you’re suddenly transformed into an old pro.

And this doesn’t just apply for the big and scary things. I’ve also tapped into alter egos to get through tedious tasks or ones that I had an emotional tie to. This is a silly and fun way to be productive.

So for example, I recently decided that it was time to shut down a big part of my business— a long-running membership site. The process was tedious because I had so much emotion tied to it. So I needed to bring out the no-nonsense side of me, which does exist, but in this instance, I needed a person to model myself after, and that person was Ada, who is George Costanza’s briefly employed secretary, from my favorite show Seinfeld, who deemed every task “doable”.

Was I lying by carrying around this persona in order to get through my list of tasks? Definitely not— I can be very Ada-like at times, but at that moment, overly-emotional Michelle was the side that was showing up for me and that wasn’t the person who was best for that job.

I’ve also found this tactic to be extremely helpful when exercising. There is a part of me who is fit, and strong, but I’ve gotta tell you, she doesn’t show up very often. So I often summon up a person who I admire in the fitness space to be my inspiration, to channel that energy and to get me through my workouts.

If there is a person or a character that you tap into— to remind yourself that you have those qualities in you— let me know who they are in the comments.


STRATEGY 2: Call out the judgers

This is one of my favorite exercises to do because it literally leaves me laughing at myself every single time. Imposter syndrome hinges on one thing— other people judging us.

So let’s talk about these people, “the judgers”. Who is on your list of people who are watching your every move? Who is going to react negatively based on something that you may think, share or say? I think that in our minds, it’s this giant mob of people who follow us around at all times, just waiting for us to mess up or do something offensive.

Most people are so focused on themselves, that they just don’t have time for you to worry about what you’re doing. So if you were to actually sit down, and write down a list of names of people who are regularly monitoring your activity in the name of judgment, I’m going to guess that it would be really short, or non-existent.

Occasionally, we may run into situations where close family and friends are regularly judging us and I know that it can be tougher to overcome that. If you are in that boat, I recommend checking out another post that I have specifically on, Overcoming judgment.

The next time that you are about to do something, like, advertise that you are running a sale in your online shop, or reaching out to see if that blogger who you love would write a guest post on your site, and you are feeling resistance, you’ve gotta go to the source— your fear of judgement, and look it in the face.

And when I say look in the face, I just mean, make your list. You’re feeling apprehensive, you think you are being judged? Show me who. Strangers don’t count. Write your list of names of people who you know. If you can’t come up with any good answers, then you’ve got nothing to worry about!


STRATEGY 3: Can you help?

Ugh, this is the best. This is the phrase that has made a huge impact on the way that I approach doing anything that feels new. I think that we, especially introverts, have this tendency to wait until we are overly prepared to step into new roles, or even admit that we are qualified.

Now, when I say, do something new, I don’t mean, learn a new skill. Which we are totally capable of! I’m referring to work, or experiences that you may have had, that aren’t in an official capacity. And if I’m totally confusing you here, I’ve got a story to share.

Earlier this year I was at a conference, and they made an announcement. We’re hanging up sheets around the room, each with a different header, covering a bunch of areas ranging from email marketing, to customer service, to writing— was what they said. Write your name on the sheet where you feel the most experienced, was what I heard, but it turns out, I wasn’t really listening, because what they really asked was to write your name IF you have experience. It was not a requirement that you sign your name anywhere.

To my horror, I learned that if you had signed your name, you may be called upon to speak and present in front of the group. Guys my heart was pounding for the rest of that day, because I had signed my name under something that I had experience with, but that I certainly was not an expert on— course creation. I had created two courses, and had only launched one of them.

That night, I went back to my hotel room and wrote four pages of notes, so that I’d be prepared, if I was called on in the remaining two days of the conference. Looking over what I wrote down, I thought, okay maybe I’m more experienced than I had thought. And I also remembered a piece of advice that I always give to my students and coaching clients: “In our line of work, (meaning you are a course creator, artist, shop owner, writer), nobody ever asks to see your resume.” I’ve been working for myself for over ten years and it’s never happened.

What matters? What do your customers, clients, students and fans really care about: CAN.YOU.HELP. They have challenges. Do you have a solution? If the answer is yes, that’s all that matters. You don’t need waste anyone’s time by justifying yourself or giving all of these disclaimers. Help wherever you can, whenever you can. Who you are, doesn’t matter.


STRATEGY 4: Remind yourself how awesome you are

If you’re proud of who you are— your unique qualities and your accomplishments so far, then you are not going to want to hide. You are not going to have time to care about who is judging. You’re not going to feel like a phony, because you are being yourself, and you love who that person is.

I’m not going to pretend that it’s that easy. So many of us struggle with self-worth. So if you feel like this is an area where you know that you really need to do some work, I want to give you a really easy place to start. Create a note in your phone or in a secret notebook and name it, “I am awesome.”

Start by adding a minimum of five things that you either love about yourself or that you are proud of. If you’re finding this to be difficult, go really deep like, I love how I look when I wear those gold earrings, or I won an essay contest in fifth grade (which is one of mine— I did win an essay contest in middle school, and I’m still damn proud of it). Whenever anything new pops into your head or someone pays you a compliment, add it to the list.

I want you to understand the truth that we are ALL amazing. We all have wonderful qualities. It is an irrefutable fact. And if you disagreeing with me, it means that you are choosing to ignore or are blinded to all of the awesome that is inside of you.

All five of these tips will help you to overcome imposter syndrome. But if you learn to love yourself, you won’t need the other four. It is time well spent— keep working on that awesomeness list and reread it whenever you can.


STRATEGY 5: Double down on your strengths

We all have weaknesses, but you don’t need to talk about them. We don’t need to draw attention to them. Stop telling people what you suck at and what’s not going right and use that energy to identify the things that are working. It doesn’t matter if it sounds insignificant right now, because you’re going to start with that little seed and grow it into a mighty tree.

Well, not actually a tree. Unless you are an arborist. But something really cool, like a multi-million dollar business, or a world-changing charity, or a book.

Remember the famous Arthur Ashe quote, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

So what are you starting with? What are some of the things that you wrote on your awesomeness list? Take one of those things and shine a spotlight on it. How can you take that one thing that you are proud of, and expand on it?

What do you consider yourself an expert in? Drawing, reading, singing? Are you a really good listener? Do you make the best chocolate chip cookies of all time? If so, send me some.

In this instance, stay where you are comfortable. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have other interests or hobbies or dreams. But when you stick to what you know, you’re going to deliver whatever you have to say with complete confidence.



If you have already been doing this— acting like the expert that you are, and you’re ready to venture out and do some new and exciting things, just be honest. Say, “hey, I’m trying something new, I don’t know where it will lead, but I’m willing to figure it out.”

Adopting that “I can figure out mentality,” will bring you far. If you become known for that then people really can’t judge you for anything other than trying. I don’t think you can look at a student and say, you’re such a poser, trying to learn.

Want to overcome imposter syndrome? It starts with your belief in who you are.

add a comment
+ show Comments
- Hide Comments
  1. Brie says:

    I loved this article!!! Isn’t it crazy that this impostor syndrome is so ubiquitous, that so many of us struggle with this across a multitude of platforms? (I’m a teacher who dabbles in entrepreneurship.) Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom. I feel encouraged after reading this. 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a kind comment, Brie! I’m glad that the message was able to resonate with you and hope that you are still feeling that encouragement to go after exactly what you want. 🙂

on the air

A Podcast for Creatives

Join me and my friend Steve King for a bi-monthly discussion about the complex, messy and beautiful experience that is being a creative.

LIsten in


Whether you need help developing your brand's aesthetic, or scroll-stopping visual content, I'm here to help you and your business stand out in the digital space.


Free download

Map out a month's worth of strategic content using this guided planner and calendar.


This two-page workbook will help you hone in on your brand's aesthetics so that you can easily create consistent content.

Get on the A-List

Once a week, I send tips and resources to email subscribers, designed to help your digital brand stand out online. Sign up for the inspiration you need to keep your content elevated.

Champagne optional. Popcorn always encouraged.

Receive my signature
Content Planner for free when you subscribe


Design. Champagne. Books. Travel. Film + TV. Scenes from my kitchen. And cats.