How to defeat impostor syndrome with your own two feet

One story that perfectly sums up impostor syndrome

We recently talked about the phenomenon of impostor syndrome — what it actually means, how it manifests itself, and how to talk yourself out of it.

And though it’s difficult to describe a feeling of perceived inadequacy, especially one that often comes from an irrational place, sometimes a shift in perspective helps make everything a little clearer.

We recently stumbled across a story by Mike Kail who, despite being a high-powered tech executive, also battles impostor syndrome. He recently wrote about his struggle through the lens of running, a habit he picked up in college. What we like about his story is that it offers a very tangible metaphor for how impostor syndrome works and, more importantly, shows how it can be defeated (or, maybe in this case, defeeted):

My first race was the St. Patrick’s Day 8k in Saint Paul, and despite running approximately a 6:30 mile, I wasn’t even in the same zip code as the top finishers. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to start training more, and at a higher intensity. A few weeks later I raced another 8k and improved by an average of 30 seconds a mile.

Impostor syndrome often paralyzes people and makes them want to quit whatever venture they think they are sub-par at. But in this case, I was able to channel it in a positive manner to not be complacent and push beyond self-imposed mental barriers to improve my physical performance. By doing so, I started to feel more and more like I belonged near the front of pack, and this provided even more positive feedback to my training program. Instead of allowing the negative internal feedback from impostor syndrome to hold me back, I was able to turn it into positive motivation to not only boost my confidence but improve my form as quickly as possible.

Of course, not all of us have to run six-minute miles to win our fight against feeling fraudulent. But it’s a good example of how to view the sense that you’re behind everyone else — as a challenge you can counter by taking action and striving to get better.


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