Imposter Syndrome? 3 Questions to Shut Down Your Fear of Being Exposed

“Victoria, I sure hope I’m an “angel’ but I think you meant ‘angle’.”

To most of you, this sentence is benign. You could substitute your name and it wouldn’t trigger any emotions.  It’s not a malicious or unkind statement. In fact, it was said with humour.

To me, it was scaring, momentous and humiliating.

I specifically remember standing amongst the cubicles of colleagues at Fleishman Hillard, an international PR firm, and having a VP jokingly identify that I had misspelled a word in a group email.

I remember it so vividly.

I felt totally exposed.

That in that moment, I thought everybody in my PR firm would finally know that I couldn’t spell and my writing was even worse. That I had been getting by because people were just being kind and were too embarrassed for me to say anything. That I really wasn’t cut out to be in PR. That I was a fraud and was finally being outed.

It felt horrible.

But….none of the above was actually true.


I now realize that it was all because of a story that I had been carrying with me ever since grade 4. I went to a French Immersion school in Toronto where English was only taught starting grade 4.  In grade 4, I moved to Ottawa where English had been taught since grade 2.

I was two years behind in English.

I had a tutor and had to figured out ways to compensate, like keeping a dictionary close by.

I ended up doing just fine in English through school, but I NOW realize that I let this story define and limit me for the first 36 years of my life.

I know that I am not alone.

The details of our stories are different, but the limiting aspects of them are the same.

Not a day goes by that I don’t hear someone standing in their own way because of a story from their past. A story that isn’t relevant any longer.

It may or may not have even been true, but it’s what we experienced.

Nothing from the past is going to change.

But, there is an opportunity to accept it because without your past, you wouldn’t be exactly where you are today.

It’s what we choose to do with it today, moving forward, that counts.

For me, I chose to shut down that old story which has enabled me to write this weekly blog post and articles that I choose to share with communities like Women’s Exchange Network, and internal women’s groups within large companies like TD Bank, Capital One, etc…

What I know now is that our fear of being exposed isn’t going to happen. Nobody is going to figure out that you aren’t as good as they thought you were, because it’s NOT TRUE.

The truth is that you get to choose your NEW story, one that doesn’t define and limit you.

Here are the 3 Questions that I asked myself and wanted to share with you.

1. What is your OLD story?

My old story is:

  • That I was late to learning English in school.
  • That sometimes I would score horribly on test because of my low skillset.
  • That I had to go and see a weekly tutor, that I loved because she melted Kraft cheese slices onto white bread and gave me juice boxes.
  • That I couldn’t write or spell very well.

 2. What is your Truth about your PAST?

My truth is:

  • That I was challenged in elementary school.
  • That I worked really hard and was creative in figuring out ways to compensate for my shortcomings.
  • That I am smart and intelligent
  • That I learnt how to overcome a limitation.
  • That I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was.

3. What is your Truth about you NOW?

My truth is:

  • That I have something to say and I may struggle with proper English, but who cares.
  • That I’m not awful.
  • That it doesn’t matter if I make mistakes.
  • That by trusting that I am ‘good enough’ I can lead by example.
  • That if I choose to wrap myself in the story of my past, it will continue to limit me from reaching my goals.

Now it’s your turn.

Ask yourself these 3 questions so you too can shut down your own fear of being exposed.

I would love for you to share your new Truth.  But most importantly, we would all love to hear what you are going to start to do differently now? 

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