Lie of the Imposter Complex #10: You Can’t Trust the Praise of Others — Tanya Geisler

I laugh at this tweet every time someone sends it to me. It’s funny because it’s true. The Imposter Complex demands that we question the praise of others — but also somehow has us convinced that we are such a good actor that we have everyone fooled!

(By the way, here’s why we like to say Imposter Complex instead of Imposter Syndrome).

So we fall back on lie #6: We best tell everyone about this. Set the record straight. Assure them of the error of their ways. Point out all the flaws in your report, sloppiness of your work, gaps in your logic. Call yourself out for the Imposter that you are.

(And even if you manage to refrain from correcting them, you still don’t quite believe them, either.)

Sometimes we might mistake this for humility. Indeed, humility may be the value that actually underpins this lie if it regularly shows up for you.

Because you were told not to brag.
Not to outshine your siblings or your peers.
Not to rub others’ noses in your accomplishments.

Pride is a sin and all that…

But there’s a difference between not bragging — and not acknowledging your achievements.
Between boasting and accepting a compliment.
Between showing off and showing up in all your brilliance.

And when you take a moment to look inside, I bet you can tell the difference immediately.

How Lie #10 might manifest

Depending on which of the six behavioural traits of the Imposter Complex you most often experience, you might experience the self-doubt of Lie №10 like this:

If you’re a people-pleaser, we think people are complimenting us just because they LIKE us… not because we are skilled, talented, or excellent at what we do. (This is the double-bind of the IC in technicolour.)

If you have leaky boundaries, you may live and die by the words of others — which means that even if 99.9% of people praise you, you might be fixated on the 0.1% who don’t.

If you tend to compare, the praise of others won’t match up to the impossible standards you’ve set by looking at what others have accomplished.

If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll immediately discount others’ praise because they can’t see the flaws that you can see.

If you’re a procrastinator, you may discount the compliment because “they” clearly can’t see all the time and struggle that you went through to get to the endpoint. OR, because you procrastinated and didn’t end up producing your best work, then “they” clearly don’t have high enough standards for you to feel any merit in the acknowledgment. (On this one, I had a ton of help from folks in my FB Group. Join us there for great discussions like this.)

If you tend to diminish, you’ll be intimately familiar with this one. Just because someone else tells you something is good, doesn’t mean it actually is…

I get it. I really do.

But can you also, just for a moment. hold this possibility: that they are really and truly reflecting back what they see? A competent. capable, smart (and funny… did you know that you are funny?) individual with so very much to offer?

I like to start small with this one. The next time someone pays you a compliment — on your hair, your outfit, your shoes, your home, whatever — can you simply say thank you and let it wash over you?

Can you avoid the pull to say “What, this old thing?” or tell them how you need a haircut / got it on sale / haven’t finished painting the deck?

Can you accept their acknowledgment as the gift it was intended to be?

Dare to believe someone when they tell you how remarkable you truly are.


Where I pull back the curtain on five shifts to start raising voices, rates, and hands all while being the kind, congruent, and authentic leader I know you to be. REGISTER HERE

Originally published at on June 23, 2020.



Step into your Starring Role: Leadership Coach, TEDx Speaker on #ImpostorComplex. Book’s coming…soooooon.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Tanya Geisler

Step into your Starring Role: Leadership Coach, TEDx Speaker on #ImpostorComplex. Book’s coming…soooooon.