Speaker: Dr Bex Hemmingson

Host: GWN and the Ministry of Justice Women’s Network

Venue: Ministry of Justice, Wellington and remotely by AVL

Date: 12 February 2019

Attendance: approx. 130 including virtual guests

Impostor Syndrome is defined as 'a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of the "talent police" showing up and being exposed as a fraud'.

Judging by the number of hands raised when Bex asked who experienced this, the feeling is widely experienced. Bex gave us some insights into her own journey, despite her personal and professional successes and still having the imposter syndrome. She realised she was not alone in how she felt and relieved in finding that impostor syndrome was a 'thing'. "Syndrome" is an unfortunate word and makes it sound like an illness. It is not.

Bex took us through:

  • Self-diagnosis – does it apply in my life?
  • Where does it come from? What are the ‘unhelpful’ beliefs, thinking patterns and feelings that we have?
  • How does it show up in behaviour?

And, once this had been covered, we looked at the 5 different types of imposter and the kinds of questions that these people ask themselves.


5 imposter types

Bex talked about the ways to ‘remix’ the imposter-y feelings to help lessen them and their effect on how we think and act. The impostor cycle was explained and many people in the room nodded as they recognised their own journey around (and around) this cycle.

Key messages

  • Feelings are not facts – they can be challenged.
  • Impostor syndrome is experienced by women and men.
  • Lots of very successful people experience it and many have shared this.
  • Impostor feelings may lessen by practicing ‘remixing our thinking’, but they may never fully go away. Learning the strategies to make the feelings ‘quieter’ is helpful. Reframe your competence beliefs – challenge old beliefs to change the thinking.
  • Acknowledge it is there and get on with what you are doing anyway. Taking action when things scare you leads to greater confidence.
  • You are not alone in feeling this way and there are ways to deal with it.


This was a great session with Bex sharing her experience and giving us tools to push the impostor feelings out of our thinking. Really sensible, down to earth and entertaining. Where did that hour go?


Bex’s helpful ‘doodle’ handouts helped guide us and have a place for reflecting on our own experiences and actions to take to push the impostor away.


Doodle worksheet


Event recording

Links provided by Bex:

Ted Talks

Valerie Young - Impostor Syndrome

Carol Dweck – Growth Mindset


The Confidence Gap, by Russ Harris

Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, by Valerie Young


Everyone suffers from the Impostor Syndrome, by Andy Molinsky, Harvard Business Review

The fraud who isn't, by Carlin Flora, Psychology Today

The dangers of feeling like a fake, by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, Harvard Business Review (relevant to some of the questions asked in the session)

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