You are 70% likely to have Impostor Syndrome. It’s Real. Here’s How You Can Deal With It

This July, after 14 years of trying, moving homes 10 times, (out of which 4 times across countries), and compiling Visa application paperwork 10 times (it takes 3-4 months each time) I finally became a legal permanent resident of another country.

It took a painstakingly high amount of effort, perseverance, resilience, headache, heartache, money, lost relationships, new friendships, and everything in between to get here.

This July, after 14 years of trying, moving homes 10 times, (out of which 4 times across countries), and compiling Visa application paperwork 10 times (it takes 3-4 months each time) I finally became a legal permanent resident of another country.

It took a painstakingly high amount of effort, perseverance, resilience, headache, heartache, money, lost relationships, new friendships, and everything in between to get here.

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It was indeed a lot of hard work

Yet, I didn’t think much of it until yesterday when a friend called out of the blue and started telling me how he has always thought highly of my “hustle”

Hustle, is that what it was?

Sometimes, I have had a sinking feeling that I may have lost these 14 years moving laterally, and not vertically, as one would hope.

We got to talking and the topic of #impostor syndrome came up.

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Meme was stolen with extreme gratitude from https://womaning.substack.com

That’s when I realized that the reason I get the sinking feeling is that I’m suffering from the worst form of impostor syndrome.

I have talked with dozens of people in the past few years and helped them navigate their way out of it, and here I was, simply negating my own work and perseverance of almost 15 years as if it was nothing.

How to tell if you have impostor syndrome

It’s very simple, really.

Are you sometimes paralyzed with a crippling fear that someday they’ll find out you don’t know jackshit and that you’ve hacked your way to success that you so virtuously claim is yours?

If you answer yes, then, well, then you’re suffering from impostor syndrome.

Here are some other ways to tell.

  1. Do you often feel like a fraud? Even when you achieve success, do you feel like you don’t deserve it or that it’s the result of luck, not your skills or qualifications?
  2. Do you downplay your successes? When someone compliments your work or achievements, do you brush it off and think they’re “just being nice”?
  3. Are you terrified of making a mistake? Do you believe that a mistake would prove you’re not competent in what you do?
  4. Do you feel like you’ve fooled others? Do you think that if people truly knew your abilities, they wouldn’t think of you as competent or successful?
  5. Do you attribute your success to external factors? Instead of acknowledging your hard work and effort, do you think you’ve gotten where you are due to luck, timing, or deceiving others into thinking you’re more competent than you believe yourself to be?
  6. Are you a perfectionist? Do you set extremely high expectations for yourself and believe anything less than perfect is a failure?
  7. Do you feel the need to be the best? Do you fear being outshined by others and feel threatened when someone knows more than you or performs better?
  8. Are you overly cautious in taking on new challenges? Do you avoid stepping out of your comfort zone because you fear you won’t succeed or live up to expectations?
  9. Do you overwork to avoid being “found out”? Do you put in more hours than necessary because you feel you need to prove your worth constantly?
  10. Do you feel success is never enough? Even after achieving something, do you quickly feel unsatisfied and think, “What’s next?” without taking the time to appreciate and acknowledge your accomplishment?

There are many types of Impostors. BTW.

I looked at the classical definition of 5 types of impostors according to Dr Valerie Young of the Impostor Syndrome Institute and what do you know?

I fit nearly perfectly for 4 out of 5. Yep, care to guess which one I didn’t fit the bill for?

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Infographic From https://impostorsyndrome.com Website, Courtesy Dr. Valerie Young

So I got to do some more research (naturally, that’s the most logical thing we all do, don’t we, by leaving everything aside and diving into a rabbit hole of unintended Internet research in the middle of the night) and found a ton of interesting content.

One article in particular spoke to me, especially since it came from someone who went to one of the most prestigious Business schools in India (I always looked up to anyone from IIMs) and I realized how deep the impact is, of something that I’ve never considered worth more than just a meme.

Thanks, Mahima Vashisht for the interesting piece.

So, what can you do about it?

To be honest, I don’t know about you, but here’s my 12-step program, courtesy of ChatGPT.

  1. Recognize and Label It: Understanding and acknowledging that I’m experiencing Impostor Syndrome is the first step. This awareness can be a powerful tool in reminding yourself that your feelings aren’t always rooted in reality.
  2. Talk About It: Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can be liberating. Often, you’ll find others have felt the same way, which can be reassuring.
  3. Document Your Achievements: Keep a record of your accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Reviewing this list can serve as a reminder of your capabilities and how far you’ve come.
  4. Reframe Failure: Everyone makes mistakes or faces failures. Instead of viewing them as evidence of inadequacy, see them as opportunities for growth and learning.
  5. Seek Mentoring: A mentor can provide guidance, reassurance, and a more balanced perspective of your abilities and achievements. Their validation can be a strong antidote to impostor feelings.
  6. Avoid Perfectionism: Striving for perfection can set you up for constant feelings of inadequacy. Instead, aim for excellence or continuous improvement.
  7. Accept Praise: Instead of deflecting compliments, practice accepting them graciously. Understand that you wouldn’t receive them if you didn’t deserve them.
  8. Practice Self-compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding as you would a friend. Speak to yourself positively and avoid harsh self-criticism.
  9. Limit Comparison: Everyone’s journey is unique. Comparing yourself to others can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Remember that social media and other platforms often showcase highlights, not the full story.
  10. Educate Yourself: Read about Impostor Syndrome. The more you understand it, the better equipped you’ll be to identify and challenge the impostor feelings.
  11. Seek Professional Help: If your feelings of fraudulence persist and impact your mental well-being or job performance, consider seeking therapy. A professional can provide coping strategies tailored to your needs.
  12. Set Realistic Expectations: Recognize that everyone, no matter how experienced, has moments of doubt. It’s okay not to know everything. The key is the willingness to learn and adapt.


Everyone, from novices to experts, can experience Impostor Syndrome.

It’s a universal phenomenon. The key is not to eliminate it entirely (which might be unrealistic) but to manage and mitigate its effects so you can move forward with confidence.

Before I close it, here’s a direct quote from Neil Gaimon (yep, him) at a commencement speech he gave at the University of Arts class of 2012.

I was convinced there would be a knock on the door and a man with a clipboard i don’t know why he had a clipboard but in my head he always had a clipboard would be there to tell me it was all over and they’d caught up with me and no w i would have to go and get a real job one that didn’t consist of making things up and writing them down.

Neil Gaimon

What’s Your Chosen Identity

In this episode, I delve into the concept of self-identity and how it’s shaped by various factors including our genes, experiences, circumstances, and perceptions of others.

We often receive direct or indirect feedback from our surroundings which influence our self-perception and inadvertently shape our identity.

However, these external influences may not always align with our true selves, and it’s crucial to introspect and decide who we really are.

This episode encourages listeners to question their current identity and consider whether it truly represents who they are and who they want to be. It delves into the concept of self-fulfilling prophecies and how our choices, actions, and results can mold the identity we wish to present to the world.

A key focus of this podcast is the identification of core values, the foundational elements that underpin our identity. We discuss the need for understanding these values, what we stand for, and what we accept or reject in our lives. We also discuss the importance of choosing core values that resonate deeply with us and align with our self-perception.

As a practical exercise, listeners are encouraged to research a list of core values and identify those that truly speak to them. The process may take weeks or months, but it forms the crucial first step in choosing and creating our desired identity. While other steps are involved in this process, such as strategizing and setting action items, the homework, for now, is to start identifying our core values.

This episode will resonate with anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their identity, core values, and the journey of self-discovery.

Check out this episode!

Narrative Violation

A narrative violation is a term often used in the context of startup investing and venture capitalism, but in this post, I will discuss a simple step by step framework on how to use narrative violation to your advantage.

What is a narrative violation and why it matters?

In simple terms, it refers to a situation where a person or a company defies common expectations or established beliefs, thus “violating” the standard or typical narrative.

For example, in the startup world, a narrative violation could occur when a company achieves great success in an industry or market that was generally perceived as unattractive or non-viable.

Many successful startups, in fact, can be considered narrative violations because they often challenge conventional wisdom and succeed despite skepticism or disbelief from others.

Narrative violations are interesting because they can lead to significant opportunities.

They’re often the result of novel thinking, innovation, or unique approaches to problem-solving, which can result in outsized rewards for those who are willing to back these “violators” early on.

That said, they can also be risky.

Since these scenarios defy expectations, they may not align with established strategies or models for success. It takes a certain level of insight, boldness, and, sometimes, a tolerance for failure to embrace and capitalize on narrative violations.

Narrative violations can take many forms across different industries, fields, and cultures.

Here are some examples that may give you a clearer idea:

Tesla: When Tesla first started, it violated the narrative that electric cars could never be as powerful, efficient, or desirable as gasoline-powered cars. The company faced a lot of skepticism early on, with many believing that electric vehicles would always be a niche market at best. However, Tesla’s success has helped redefine the narrative around electric vehicles.

Netflix: In the early 2000s, the prevailing narrative was that people would always want to rent physical DVDs and that streaming movies and TV shows over the internet would never catch on due to quality and bandwidth issues. Netflix violated this narrative by transitioning to a streaming model and later creating their own content, changing the landscape of home entertainment forever.

Cryptocurrencies: When Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies first emerged, they violated the narrative that “real” money was something issued and controlled by governments or central banks. The rise of digital currencies has forced a re-evaluation of what money can be.

Remote work illustration. (Knut/Adobe Stock) 23remotework

Remote Work: The COVID-19 pandemic forced a narrative violation with respect to working from home. The prevailing narrative was that productivity would suffer if employees were allowed to work from home. However, during the pandemic, many businesses were forced to shift to remote work and found that productivity remained stable or even increased. This has forced many companies to reevaluate their stance on remote work.

Plant-based Meats: Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods violated the narrative that plant-based meats could never taste like real meat and would never appeal to mainstream consumers. Despite this, they have seen significant success in the market.

Using Narrative Violation in Your Life

Implementing narrative violation as a strategy in your business or your personal life involves challenging the established norms and expectations in your industry.

This approach can be high risk but also high reward.

Here is a basic framework to consider:

  1. Identify the Current Narrative: To violate a narrative, you first need to understand it. Look at the assumptions, beliefs, and expectations that are currently held in your industry. These might be about how products are developed, how services are delivered, who the customers are, how they behave, etc.
  2. Question the Status Quo: Once you’ve identified the prevailing narrative, start questioning it. Are things done a certain way just because that’s how they’ve always been done? What if you approached it from a different angle? Use creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, and deep market understanding to challenge these notions.
  3. Develop an Alternate Narrative: Create a compelling alternative to the current narrative. This is your vision for how things could be. It should be innovative, feasible, and most importantly, it should offer substantial benefits over the status quo to justify the change.
  4. Test Your Narrative: Before fully launching your alternative narrative, test it. This could be done through market research, prototyping, or small-scale launches. Gather feedback and make necessary adjustments.
  5. Communicate Your Narrative: When you’re ready to launch, it’s vital to effectively communicate your new narrative to your target audience. You need to convince them that this new narrative is not only viable, but also beneficial. This can be done through marketing, advertising, public relations, social media, etc.
  6. Persevere and Adapt: Violating a narrative often meets resistance at first. Be prepared for setbacks and criticism. However, stick to your vision while also being flexible and adaptable. As the market evolves, so should your narrative.
  7. Measure and Refine: Keep track of how your new narrative is being received and what impact it’s having on your business. Use this data to refine and improve your narrative as needed.

Here is a hypothetical example of my own business, a marketing agency that serves eCommerce brands with email marketing

Some of the current narratives along with possible narrative violations:

  1. Current Narrative: Email marketing is primarily about promoting products and deals.
    • Narrative Violation: Email marketing is about building a long-term relationship with customers. Instead of just promoting products, use email to share stories, offer advice, solicit feedback, and make customers feel valued.
  2. Current Narrative: A higher frequency of emails leads to more sales.
    • Narrative Violation: Less is more. Fewer, but higher quality, personalized, and engaging emails lead to stronger customer relationships and ultimately more sales.
  3. Current Narrative: The success of email marketing is measured in click-through rates and conversions.
    • Narrative Violation: The success of email marketing is measured in the depth of engagement and long-term customer loyalty. Look at metrics like customer lifetime value, churn rate, and the level of interaction with your brand across multiple channels.
  4. Current Narrative: The best time to send emails is based on general studies about when people tend to check their email.
    • Narrative Violation: The best time to send emails is personalized for each customer based on their own habits and preferences.
  5. Current Narrative: Emails need to be professional and formal to reflect the seriousness of the brand.
    • Narrative Violation: Emails can be informal, fun, and reflect the personality of the brand. This can make them more relatable and engaging.
  6. Current Narrative: A/B testing is done primarily on subject lines and call to actions.
    • Narrative Violation: A/B testing can be used to explore deeper aspects of customer behavior and preferences, like the type of content they prefer (e.g., stories vs. product information), the tone of language, and even more personalized experiences.
  7. Current Narrative: Marketing agencies and eCommerce brands are separate entities with a client-service provider relationship.
    • Narrative Violation: The agency forms strategic partnerships with the brands they serve, potentially taking a small equity stake in the brand. This deepens the relationship between the agency and the brand, and ensures that both are working towards the same goal of long-term growth.
  8. Current Narrative: Marketing agencies only provide marketing services.
    • Narrative Violation: The agency offers integrated business consulting alongside marketing services. They help brands with business strategy, pricing, customer experience, and more. The agency’s role becomes that of a comprehensive business partner rather than just a marketing service provider.
  9. Current Narrative: Agencies work in isolation, delivering a service to the brand.
    • Narrative Violation: The agency creates a cooperative, community-based approach where multiple brands can learn from each other’s successes and failures. This could take the form of mastermind groups, collaborative workshops, or shared learning resources. This not only adds value to the brands but also helps build a loyal client base for the agency.
  10. Current Narrative: Proposals and pitches are usually delivered through formal meetings and written documents.
    • Narrative Violation: The agency could leverage virtual reality or augmented reality technologies to deliver interactive and immersive pitches. This would enable potential clients to experience their strategy and ideas in a more engaging and memorable way.


Narrative violation can help you question the status quo, find better ways to do something, and create new product and market opportunities where none existed.

What is one common narrative that you think you can violate?

What’s the one thing you know to be true, and yet the world thinks otherwise?

Tell me in the comments below

Introduction To The Show – The Future Starts Now