How to learn from Imposter Syndrome

imposter syndrome by Bronwyn CleeHave you ever had got caught up in questioning yourself to the point of doubting your knowledge, ability, skill and experience so much that you sabotage yourself? If you have you’ll know what the silent Imposter Syndrome drone in your head sounds like. Shitty self-sabotage crap like: “What if I’m not good enough?” or “What if I can’t meet people’s expectations?” or worse still “Who do I think I am??” and “Why did I ever think this was a good idea?”

Just in case you’re not familiar with it, here’s what Dr Google says:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. 

Interestingly there are 219,000 searches on this topic with a single search taking place every 43 seconds… That tells me there are quite a few of us out there experiencing the debilitating effects of this nasty syndrome, and maybe, just maybe, you’re one of them.

I confess, I am very familiar with Imposter Syndrome and recently had a trip down memory lane. In fact, I almost convinced myself that agreeing to provide a specialised 2-day training was one of the worst decisions I had made in a long time. It was starting to feel like a massive error of judgement on my part and I even went so far as to teeter on the brink of making myself physically ill. Questioning in my head, I doubted every slide I showed, and each activity I led, right up until lunch break on day 1. And for what?Stress before presentation

No good was gained from this self-sabotaging behaviour. It was completely unnecessary! I was thoroughly prepared, had great materials and had my fabulous mentor encouraging me pre-training. And ultimately, all of that self-doubt didn’t do my presentation any justice. Sure a little bit of self-doubt can keep us on our toes and ensure we are reading our audience and tuning into the ‘room’. But when it’s excessive to the point of getting in the way of great facilitation, it becomes a problem.

Unfortunately, I’m told it is common among other presenters, speakers and trainers that I talk with.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I did everything I thought I needed to do before entering the training, had every resource organised, IT sorted, room layout arranged to the training needs etc. I even did my Tapping (EFT) beforehand. And yet that niggling voice in my head kept questioning whether:

  1. a) I could meet the expectations of the participants
  2. b) I had enough materials for that cohort
  3. c) I still had it in me.

Oh, and did I mention, just to add another layer of complexity this was the second training of its type I have presented in 14 years?  Mind you the first one was 5 weeks ago and for some reason, I wasn’t as nervous about that one. And I have delivered numerous training that I have written in the last 15 years. But this recent one, for some bizarre reason, nearly took me out.

This led me to pause and reflect on why was that so, and what will make a difference in the future?

Now like I said, this is a common phenomenon and I know I’m not the only person who experiences Imposter Syndrome. However, after this recent experience, I have made the following pacts with myself: I, Bronwyn Clee,

  • do NOT want a repeat of those intense Imposter Syndrome feelings again.
  • want to learn from this experience and figure out how to circumnavigate future occurrences.
  • to be kinder to me!

One of the reasons this recent experience distressed me is that in the lead up to this training, I inadvertently lost quality valuable time being present with our son and his wife who were visiting from NYC.

Another biggie that nearly undid me was the internal stress I created resulting in a huge energy slump toward the end of the training.

And finally, the missed opportunities caused as a result of my focus being on fear rather than trusting myself.

So here’s my pledge to myself, and I’m more than happy for you to steal it if it resonates!


  • In future, I will take more time prior to training to check in with myself and gauge where I’m at.
  • I will monitor what I need to do to better manage myself.
  • If fear comes up around my knowledge, experience and ability to train I will speak with my mentor or trusted friends to do my best to unpack why; what it’s really about; and how I’m going to work with it.
  • I will be kind to myself.
  • I will do all I can to ensure I get good sleep, eat good food, get plenty of rest before and after the training.

Obviously, I would love to say I’m on top of this now and that it won’t ever happen again, however, given my complex trauma history, I can’t guarantee that. You see there were triggers going on for me that I didn’t realise until I got to the other side of this event 2 days later.

And while I learned a lot, and have some great points to reflect on for future training, the biggest thing I take out of this experience is to go back to the basics of Self Care (another topic I’m very passionate about).

By the way, the evaluations from the 2-day Protective Behaviours training were universally positive… And the following week I was a panellist for an Innovative Incubator for Menzies School of Research where I was told my input was invaluable. Why you ask am I sharing this? Well, it serves as a reminder that quite often we are our own worst enemies and that others perceive us quite differently from how we perceive ourselves.

Why must self care come first for me?

Why must self care come first for me?

Because the opposite to self care is self neglect. And trust me, I’ve lived in both worlds and know full well which one I prefer. This topic is near and dear to my heart because for decades I neglected myself to the point of emotional self harm. And trust me, it ain’t pretty, or easy to recover from.

Growing up being told to put yourself last, always consider others first, make sure that everyone else is happy even if it’s to your detriment was something most baby boomers were taught. In some respects I can see the value in selfless behaviour. But not if it means you pay a higher cost for it. It is NOT noble to be a martyr and I dare say if we could speak to martyrs today, they would agree. To thrive and not just survive in this world we must take good care of ourselves, or at the least, better care of ourselves.

I look at our three adult children and while I can see many good morals, ethics and values we have instilled in them, I see the flaws as well. They didn’t grow up seeing their parents well rested and relaxed. They have seen us both work ourselves into the ground. And for what? To have the security of a roof over our heads and a few creature comforts. But at what cost? We lost many opportunities to build happy memories as we tried to build a better life. A better life where we had a house to call home and some stuff to fill it with. Neither my husband or I were equipped to be emotionally stable parents. Shit, we were still kids ourselves trying to figure out how to live as grown ups while raising babies.

Now that we are grandparents we see it all so differently. If we could of have stopped, slowed down, had more fun, lightened up and loved ourselves more, stopped worrying about money and started living for the moment our lives would have been very different. But it is was it is. And all we can hope for is that our kids can teach their kids better ways.

Our lives are nothing but opportunities to live, learn and leave our mark on the world. And that’s why self care must come first for me. The more I take better care of me, the better I feel about myself. The better I feel about myself, the better I am able to love and serve. And the better I am able to love and serve the better my world is.

Don’t get me wrong though! I still suck at self care. I still have to force myself to give myself permission to rest even though I know I have a chronic illness. I still feel guilty for stopping and doing ‘nothing’. I still flinch when I get to breaking point of weariness and wonder how I let that happen all over again.

And then I stop and remind myself of how far I have come. It’s only 7 years since I faced death. Recovering from chronic neglect and living with chronic illness hasn’t been easy. But every day I strive to find something to be grateful for. Even on those days when I feel like I just want to give up, I give thanks for the many blessings in my life, and continue to give myself permission to get better at self care.

Feel free to steal this quote and make it your mantra. And if you would like to learn more about self care, go check out our upcoming Self Care Quest starting 19th September. We’ve also got a free webinar happening Sunday 4th September 8pm AEST. Hit me up if you’d like the link to join us!

I give myself full permission to get better at self care



Self Care Quest

If you enjoyed this blog, you will want to find out more about our upcoming Self Care Quest.

We are taking applications now as there are limited spaces.  Join us on a free webinar Sunday 4th September 8pm AEST to hear all about it and have a chance to sit in the hot seat!

When are you going to stop beating yourself up?

I am so dumb! I’m never going to be promoted.

I am so ugly! No one will ever want to love me.

I am so silly! How could my boss take my ideas seriously?

I are so fat! I’m never going to look good in a bikini on the beach.

Why is everyone else so happy and I’m not?

Is this all life is about? Feeling fat and miserable?

Why me?

Ever had these kind of silent war games going on in your head? Around and around and around they go like a stuck record. Day in day out, the constant whining of your negative self talk can become so ingrained it becomes your normal. I’m guessing you know exactly what I’m talking about otherwise why would you be reading this blog? I’m also guessing that you’re are very interested in knowing if it’s even possible to stop beating yourself up right?

Well it is, and I am going to tell you exactly how to do that. Before we get started, feel free to make yourself comfortable and put your phone on silent.Get ready to take notes while we change the record playing in your head.

When I first started out back in 2009 I used to teach my clients to consider their negative self talk as a radio station and to take notice of whether it was a station worth listening to. This way  they could learn to listen to their negative self talk and make choices what to do about it. Choices such as is it worth listening to? And if not to take action. Action like fine tune it, turn the volume down, or turn the damn thing off. Well dear reader, over the years I’ve tweaked my approach to this.For very good reasons. I still believe negative self talk is worth listening to from a learning perspective and in fact believe the more we can pay attention to it the more we can learn from it. But turning it off without learning the message is a missed opportunity. So I ask you, when was the last time you listened to your negative self talk? Remember the key word here is listened.

When was the last time you questioned this negative self talk?

My old swami used to say “observe and don’t participate in the monkey mind”. Almost 23 years later I realise that there are layers to this lesson. You see listening to your negative self talk requires you to stop joining the conversation with it. And instead have an enquiring mind. Now back to the lessons in the layers. Imagine these layers are stepping stones to help you understand what’s causing you to beat yourself up. Think of this like an emotional fitness workout. Follow these 5 stepping stones to strengthen your muscle memory and stop beating yourself up:

Step Stone One: Give yourself permission to observe your negative self talk. Just do that and in and of itself you have put a protective interruption in place.

Step Stone Two: Observe the tone and timber of the voice of your negative self talk. Is the voice yours or someone else’s? If it’s someone else’s, have you given this person personal power over you?

Stepping Stone Three: Ask yourself: “Is this negative self talk serving, supporting, nurturing and respectfully challenging me?” and “What am I getting out of this?”

Stepping Stone Four:  Give yourself permission to release and let this negative self talk go.

Stepping Stone Five: Take charge and take action! Because the trick is to come up with some new positive phrases to tell yourself. And to practice this as often as you can. Oh and be prepared to be surprised.

Your negative self talk has probably been trying to get your attention for some time. My intention is that you are now able to see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, to help you make better choices and to ultimately be kinder to yourself. It is impossible to fully receive love from another until you have truly loved, forgiven, accepted, trusted and respected yourself. Isn’t it time to stop worrying about what you think other people are thinking about you? Crazy thing is they probably aren’t thinking about you at all. In fact, they are more likely to be thinking about themselves – just like you.

If you’re new to this do what you can to strengthen your muscle memory with this new information. Practice loving yourself and being kind, caring, nurturing and supporting of YOU. For you to achieve long term change you need to work at this. See it as your new emotional fitness regime. And if it all sounds too daunting to do on your own and you want some help check out our Self Care Coaching packages and watch out for our Fast Track Self Care Quest. No matter what choice you make, please give yourself permission to get better at self care. Because that’s the secret sauce to stop beating yourself up.




In 2000, Bronwyn Clee, together with others, pioneered the introduction or Restorative Justice practices into schools and community in the Northern Territory.

It is unique blend of experience … that has allowed Bronwyn to be good at communicating the importance of processes, which treat everyone with respect and dignity, and importantly, are capable of making a difference in the lives of those experiencing difficulties.

Bronwyn is a genuine and compassionate person who possesses considerable moral courage. She is prepared to challenge others in a respectful and constructive way.

Terry O'Connell OAM

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