Enhance your impact by avoiding imposter syndrome and self-sabotage

How do you react when a peer gets recognition for a good job or gets promoted over you or is given more interesting work than you? Do you get a tiny stab in your gut?

Donna McGrath on 21/02/22

Do you think “why didn't I get that", "they are better than me" or "I am not working hard enough" or ask yourself  "what am I doing wrong?" 

Do you get caught up in these thoughts? If so, does this shake your confidence? Do you start to question your ability? Maybe you feel like a failure? 

As a result, you feel down and decide to give up on your goals? 

If you are, you are having a taste of what is called “Imposter Syndrome and Self-Sabotage”. In this Viewpoint I am going to give you the top 6 tips that work for my clients on the In-House Lawyers Leadership & Careers Programme (“ILLP”), that keep them feeling successful and focused.  A programme for In-House Lawyers to feel happy and fulfilled in their career.

What is Imposter Syndrome and Self–Sabotage?

Imposter Syndrome being the feeling you are not good enough. 

Self-Sabotage being those deeper negative thoughts and behaviours that prevent you from achieving your goals.

What causes Self-Sabotage?

You tend to Self-Sabotage when you are overcome with fear, (e.g., fear of failure) or you tend to have an unhelpful belief system about your place/role in the world. These emotions are so strong, to the point, they disable you from moving forward. Your thoughts then become clouded and this seriously affects your judgement. It is an incredibly frustrating cycle of behaviour that lowers your self-confidence, self-worth and it creeps its ugly little head into your relationships, work and eventually lowers your ability to make a positive impact. This is what I used to do, as a junior lawyer but have now managed to overcome. 

I now help clients, on the ILLP, to develop long-term strategies to overcome Self-Sabotage and Imposter Syndrome, amongst other things. 

Here are the top 6 things that my clients are doing that helps them to enjoy and feel inspired by others success plus improves their self-belief and focus.  And ultimately their impact.

Top Tips

Did you know that the most successful and impactful Leaders, Lawyers and Entrepreneurs, all have something in common? They all have strong emotional management (being one of the four component parts of emotional intelligence).  

Emotional management is about recognising your emotions early, so that you can calm and adjust them accordingly. Giving you control over your emotions, thoughts and behaviour.  Ultimately, giving you the “space” to make better judgement calls, for you and the people around you. As without it, you can have a detrimental impact on your performance, relationships and success.  So, strong emotional management is essential to avoid / reduce the risk of Imposter Syndrome and Self-Sabotage. 

So, how do we do this? I set out below a framework of activities for you, which will strengthen your emotional management and reduce risk of Self-Sabotage and Imposter Syndrome.

1. Catch your unhelpful thoughts. 
When an unhelpful thought such as “I am not good enough” or “I cannot do this” creeps in - catch it and name it as “Self-Sabotage”.  Tell yourself - it is not true because it is not.  Replace it with a new more positive thought such as “I can do this – it might just take time”.  If you allow your mind to take hold of unhelpful thoughts, it can create a “stronghold” over you. Permit the build-up of new neural pathways to be created. 

2. Pause and allocate time to relax.   
Every lawyer I coach has a challenge with managing their emotions to some degree. Whether caused by pressure of the job, juggling family / work / health etc. or stress caused by relationships.  One major contributing factor is they do not take time to relax their minds and emotions.  The first thing you need to do is look at your diary and “allocate time” for relaxing – in the morning, mid-afternoon, and the evening / night. Not to fit it around your work but to fit your work around these pre-allocated times.  You are not being realistic; I hear you say?  All you need is 15 minutes at a time.  

3. Triggers.
Find yourself a notebook or diary and record the times when you have these thoughts and emotions and also the events that happened just before you experienced these. This helps you see patterns and identify what might trigger your unhelpful thoughts and emotions.  

4. Reflect and reframe.
Write down the unhelpful thoughts you have and the emotions you feel in response to those thoughts.  Ask yourself what beliefs you hold about yourself that cause you to think and feel like this? Reframe by challenging your belief system.  Ask yourself is this belief true and test what assumptions and presumptions you are making about yourself and the world. Write these down, reflect and then write down “the truth”? Lean into this, what are your new thoughts and emotions? Then in the future … catch, those negative thoughts and feelings! You know the outcome. Practice this 

5. Don’t compare. 
Remember you are unique and we are all on our own unique journey in life and in our careers.  You are unique and have your own skills and experience to develop, So, don’t compare where you are to others.  They have different priorities at different times. I call it - "having your own movie".  Who is writing your script, you? Or someone else?  Remember another person’s success today, means there is another day allocated for you. 

6. Celebrate others success. 
Look out for others success and celebrate with them.  This is an opportunity for you to also grow and learn from them.  Take these learnings on board and build them into your toolbox.


Imposter Syndrome and Self–Sabotage can affect your wellbeing, relationships and career as they can impair your judgment and impact.  

These 6 tips will give you a strong foundation to overcome and handle any Imposter Syndrome and subsequent Self-Sabotage.   
Please note, if the behaviour is very engrained into your systems you may need specific support to remove the self-sabotage and fear.

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