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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Avoid Imposter Syndrome: Find Your Sweet Spot

Written By: Steve Woodruff | 6 Comments

BullseyeI’ve had several recent discussions with people who secretly feel like they are a bit of a faker, or a hypocrite. It’s called Impostor Syndrome, and it is experienced by people who have difficulty internalizing their accomplishments. These professionals regularly feel like frauds, with a fear that it’s just a matter of time before they are exposed for being something far less than others think they are.

Competent people feeling perpetually incompetent – that’s Impostor Syndrome

I think this affliction can often be a psychological/emotional issue, especially experienced by those who are insecure (hand raised) and tend toward perfectionism (both hands raised). Those who struggle with accepting basic human realities like step-by-step growth and evolution will tend to feel grossly inadequate for every role they step into – no matter how they perform.

I can look back at my professional timeline and see many places where I experienced this cognitive and emotional dissonance (although, I must say, the most profound place where I feel it is in my role as a parent).

But, I’d like to suggest another angle on this. I wonder if some of our experience of these feelings comes down to working in a mis-matched role. In other words, we really are outside the primary zone of our competencies, and we can’t measure up to what we think we should because – well, we can’t.

For instance, I labored for many years in a sales role. I actually succeeded in growing the business and helping customers. But I am really not wired for sales – I’m not hyper-competitive, driven by numbers and short-term goals, schmoozy, quickly empathetic, hungry to “close” – I just want to figure stuff out and help people.

Turns out you can actually do sales that way, but in one company where I was VP of Biz Dev, we hired a natural and skilled salesperson, and as I watched her operate, I finally came to the realization: That’s a salesperson in her sweet spot. I’m a consultant – not (natively) a salesperson. All that time I tried to force myself into a role that wasn’t a great “fit” for me.

And all that time I felt like an impostor. Not because I was insincere, or even ineffective – but because I was outside my sweet spot.

Looking back at many of the roles I’ve sought to fulfill, here’s how it sorts out in my case:


As the old saying goes, you can’t put in what God left out. Working in the red zone generally means we’re going to feel like failures if we are not wired that way.

Here’s the thing : We all want to look in the mirror and feel competent and authoritative there first and foremost. Then Impostor Syndrome has much less room to take root.

So, to sum up, could it be that much of what we experience with Impostor Syndrome may actually stem from working outside of our sweet spot? I know that the more I concentrate on my unique areas of ability, the less like a fraud I feel.

What’s your experience?

Article written by
Steve Woodruff is the world’s only Clarity Therapist and helps individuals and businesses discover their fit. Visit his website/blog at
  • Mike Wagner

    Very thoughtful article. Thanks Steve for sharing.
    I had the same experience around “selling” until I redefined what it means to sell in such a way that it authentically “fit” me.
    You’ve fired my mind up on the subject again…a good thing!

  • Mike Wagner I still “sell”, of course. But, like you, it now flows out of who I am, not out of trying to be what I’m not (huge relief)!

  • Mike Wagner

    SteveWoodruff Mike Wagner Yes indeed! a big relief! Thanks for sharing your journey Steve. Let me know if I can ever help or encourage you along the way! Keep creating…a brand worth raving about, Mike

  • SkipPrichard

    I agree with Mike’s comment. It does fire up the mind, and was not what I was expecting when I read “Imposter Syndrome.”

  • judymartin81

    This was so beautifully articulated. I agree, it’s important to operate in business from a place of feeling competent and authoritative while working WITH ones unique skill set – as opposed to against it.

    But I wonder about advancement and moving outside of our comfort zone toward creating or innovating. Perhaps we still operate from our skill set as a foundation and then stick our toe in the water into unchartered territories.  Would love to hear your thoughts about this. 

    My hit is that getting to the sweet spot is an ongoing journey from the inside out, from that authoritative place from within. And sometimes that Impostor Syndrome emerges when we venture beyond our safe home base, with a lack of confidence thinking, “I’m not good enough,” instead of allowing for untapped depth to come through. 

    Your post really had me thinking this new years eve. I’m still thinking about it. 
    WIshing you peace, health and a successful 2014. JudyMartin8

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