Nobody Else Knows What They Are Doing Either

“I don’t belong here. I have no idea what I’m doing. They’re going to figure out I’m a fraud.”

Have you ever believed you are not deserving or worried people will reveal you as a fraud? Have you ever thought someone else could do your job better, or thought you got that bonus or promotion by luck?

Have you ever been in a hurry to leave before someone finds out you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about?

Olivia Fox Cabane teaches at Stanford. Each year, she asks her incoming group of freshman this question: “How many of you in here feel that you are the one mistake that the admissions committee made?” Each year, over two-thirds of the students raise their hands.

It’s human nature to compare. In any given situation we often look around and make comparisons. And these comparisons make us feel inadequate. We know that the less we focus on comparisons, the happier we will feel about ourselves, but we can’t help ourselves anyway. Someone else is smarter, prettier, funnier.


Dr. Margaret Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization, once said, “There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”

The immensely talented and brilliant Maya Angelou authored 11 books in her lifetime. She once said, “but each time, I think ‘Uh-oh. They’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”

Kate Winslet won an Academy Award for her role in Titanic. After receiving the award, she said, “I’d wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, ‘I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.’”

“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.”

The interesting thing about Imposter Syndrome is that the more successful you become, the greater the likelihood of encountering more bouts of self-doubt. The reason is because as you enjoy greater and greater success, you encounter increasingly successful people for you to compare yourself against. Here’s the secret: They don’t know what the hell they are doing either. They’re just winging it too.

Social media doesn’t help. We all get to see the happier, more beautiful side of everyone else online, instead of the moments of doubt, sleeplessness, and insecurity. Sure, they know something about something, which is what got them there in the first place. But when under the influence of a self-doubt attack, you begin to believe those around you must be brilliant.

Try to remember these truths: You do deserve to be here. It wasn’t luck. It was your tenacity and hard work. Ambition is a good thing. Strive for more. It’s OK to ask. And stop comparing, it’s self-defeating.

You are a better version of you than anyone else.


Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.