Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The ‘imposter syndrome’ – issues in coaching

If I had to name one single issue that appears time and again in coaching assignments it would have to be self-esteem and confidence issues. Whether people have too much or too little, it just seems to be an issue that keeps on coming up.

Take a recent client – a high-flying senior executive who by just about every possible measure could be considered successful - she even had the work/life balance thing licked. However she perpetually carried a lurking suspicion that the next role/ project was going to be the one that caught her out and she would be revealed for the 'imposter' she really thought she was. In her case mercifully this wasn’t debilitating - perhaps it was just her way of not getting complacent - but for others I’ve met and worked with this sort of lingering self-doubt can be crippling.

Nathaniel Brandon said that ‘self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with our self’,
 and that reputation can be surprisingly tough to shift even if it is a reputation that no longer serves us or has little basis in fact. Coaching is often about a fundamental reappraisal - a stock taking if you like - which leads to a more balanced and realistic sense of self. 



  1. Hi Alison,
    Great blog. I notice a similar trend in my work in business, education and sport. It's fascinating to look at the stories people tell themselves about themselves! Thanks for a thought-provoking write-up.
    Best wishes for a super 2012,

  2. You are very welcome Katie - I've written at length about self-esteem issues in coaching so if you are interested can send you more material on this fascinating topic!