7 Horrible Lies Imposter Syndrome Makes You Believe

Impostor syndrome messes up the belief system you have about yourself.

A woman looking into a broken glass Ground Picture/ Shutterstock

Imposter syndrome is well known for affecting those who struggle with it in their academic lives and careers. Unfortunately, that's not where the effects of imposter syndrome end.

The negative thoughts impostor syndrome creates in your mind can also affect your health and self-esteem over time by sabotaging how you treat yourself physically.

What is imposter syndrome?

Impostor syndrome (IS), also known as impostor phenomenon or imposter syndrome, is a mindset or set of beliefs that tell you that you don’t deserve what you have, that you haven’t earned your success, achievements, or relationships, or that you aren’t worthy of better.


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Surprisingly, impostor syndrome is not a matter of low self-esteem and the people it affects are not underachievers. Impostor syndrome affects people who are seeing success personally or professionally — they just don’t think they deserve that success.


Although all of us have moments of self-doubt, the people most likely to have impostor syndrome are perfectionists and "Type A" personalities, both people who expect a lot of themselves and others around them.

You’re also more likely to have impostor syndrome if your family had a tendency to label you as one thing or another (good labels, but labels nonetheless), or if your family tended to put you and your achievements on a pedestal or support you to the point of making you feel you (or your achievements) were superior to others.

Does this sound like you? 

Here are 7 horrible lies imposter syndrome tells you:

In reviewing the details of the impostor syndrome, I realized it’s connected to seven lies I hear often as I coach clients back to health. These lies are directly related to your fitness, your weight, your nutrition, and your overall health.


I want to share each one of those with you and also offer some ways that you can counter those lies and rob them of the power they’ve been stealing from you.

Lie #1: You don’t deserve good things

Whether you have a lot of good things (a nice home, great job, great mate, or even just lots of pretty clothes) or you just long for them, impostor syndrome tells you that you don’t deserve them.

If you don’t think you deserve good things, it’s difficult to justify hiring a trainer or spending a little more money to eat high-quality, organic foods or even to feel you deserve to look and feel better.

The truth:

Health isn’t a privilege, it’s a right and a responsibility. We all deserve to be healthy, just as children in Africa deserve clean water and kids right here at home deserve healthy school lunches. Also, you have a responsibility to be healthy for your family, your kids, your partner, and even your employer.


You don’t have to "earn the right" to eat the healthiest foods you can find or get help with choosing the right exercise program. You were born with it.

Lie #2: You are not real and worthy

This lie tells you that you don’t belong where you are, that you’re a poser.

How many times have you walked into a gym and felt completely out of place? How often do you long to join that Zumba or spinning class and hesitate because you’re not athletic enough/fit enough/coordinated enough?

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What to do:

Remember that every other person in that class is too busy worrying that they’re not athletic enough/fit enough/coordinated enough. They’re too busy focusing on themselves to notice whether you have rhythm. Give that class three sessions in a row, and I’m willing to bet you’ll make at least one class buddy, or at least feel much more comfortable.


Lie #3: Don’t even try, because you’ll just fail (or already have)

This preemptive strike against your confidence can be debilitating because it keeps you from even trying something or from trying again/trying a different approach.

So many people stop trying to find a diet that works for them because they couldn’t stick to the last one, or they think fitness isn’t for them because they couldn’t hack that CrossFit class.

What to do:

It would never occur to you to tell your child to stop trying to learn to ride a two-wheeler just because they fell once. Why not? What makes you and your situation different?

Here’s another thought: How do you think those people in that CrossFit class got so good at it? They nearly died trying, that’s how!


You didn’t fail your lifestyle change, it failed you, so try something different! If CrossFit isn’t for you, try one new activity every week until you find something suited to your tastes and your current fitness level.

Lie #4: The negative voices in your head are the only ones telling the truth

This one can really crush your spirit, especially if you just started or are in the middle of healthy lifestyle changes. It says that the exercise program won’t work or the weight loss won’t last and so on. It tells you that those niggling, negative thoughts in your head are true.

You have a hard time trying to get or stay motivated, no matter how much you want to reach that weight loss or exercise goal.

What to do:


If you can't command those voices to be quiet, then drown them out! For one week, make a note of every single positive thing someone says about you, large or small. Jot down some of the nicest compliments anyone has ever given you, about your character, your abilities, or anything. Then add some of your own.

When those negative voices start piping up, whip out your notes and drown those voices out!

Lie #5: You're not as good as others

This one compares you unfavorably with others and makes you feel awkward, out of place, or inferior socially.

You steer clear of group workouts you might enjoy or healthy activities like a neighborhood walking group. You don’t ask that super-fit woman working out next to you how to use that cool-looking ab machine. You have trouble keeping yourself accountable to your plans and goals for fitness and diet.


What to do:

Start small by asking someone you already know well to be your diet buddy or by saying "yes" to your co-worker's invitation to walk during lunch. People who work out with a friend are significantly more likely to stick to their goals, so get your mate or best friend to pair up with you for yoga, vegetarian cooking classes, or whatever you’d like to try.

Pretty soon you'll be asking that stranger at the gym how she got those shoulders.

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Lie # 6: Your successes aren't worth celebrating

This one kills your motivation and momentum by telling you that one pound of fat loss is just a drop in the bucket or that being able to run a mile is small potatoes compared to what everyone else is doing.


By stealing your pride in your small milestones, this lie can completely derail your momentum and keep you from feeling good about what you’ve achieved so far. You need those good feelings to keep you working toward your goals and to keep you happy as you move from Point A to Point B.

What to do:

Celebrate every single milestone, no matter how small the milestone and no matter how small the reward.

If you stuck to your whole foods diet for an entire week, go out and get yourself a scoop of sorbet or a pretty new place setting. Lost a pound of fat? Get a pretty new blouse or treat yourself to a new lipstick to play up that proud smile. Did you go from barely being able to walk to your car to run a mile? How about those fancy-schmancy running shoes or an evening creating a new playlist for your iPod or phone? Or maybe a pedicure for those hard-working feet?


It doesn't matter what you do, just do something. You earned it.

Lie #7: Your past achievements are a sham, so your future achievements will be, too

This one tells you that luck, connections, or happy accident is responsible for your past achievements and would be responsible for any future achievements, so why bother making an effort or reaching higher?

This one keeps you from progressing from one goal to the next or even from using any past triumph to help you feel you can conquer something else, like a 30-pound weight loss or zero knowledge about weight training.


What to do:

Remember we’re all making it up as we go. Everyone wonders if some past achievement or result was just dumb luck.

The best thing that you can do when this particular lie pops up is to talk to others you know and admire. Ask them about their own doubts and how they see themselves. Realize that we are all human, even the people who seem to have it all together.

There’s nothing like finding out your uber-healthy co-worker used to be a junk-food junkie or that your bodybuilding friend at the gym started out not knowing the difference between a dumbbell row and a bench press. These things remind us that everyone starts from zero and they also remind us that our own progress is worthy and real.


Overcoming imposter syndrome

Listen, we get enough negativity and self-consciousness from the media. We don’t have to put up with it within ourselves. We are loved because we love others, we have friends because we are good and caring friends and we have our employer’s trust because we work hard.

By the same token, we deserve to eat foods that make us feel good and do things for our bodies that help us feel confident and happy in our own skins so that we can enjoy life, participate in it fully and keep being all those things that our friends and family believe about us, even when we don’t see it.

So stop giving audience to these lies and start repeating the positive truths to yourself until you believe them, too.

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Yuri Elkaim is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and author of the NYTimes best-selling books The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet.