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  • AQ #02: Beyond the Image: Hidden costs of Imposter Syndrome

AQ #02: Beyond the Image: Hidden costs of Imposter Syndrome

Surprising toll of Imposter Syndrome on modern marketers, and how little we know about it.

Read time: 9 minutes

Last week, I shared about common yet dangerous fallacies that we often fall for in marketing, and what to do about them. If you missed that, you can read it here.

Today, I’ll tell you the story of Tiffany DaSilva.

Tiffany is a seasoned marketer with over 20 years of experience in PPC and SEO. She has worked with over 300 companies and over 500 websites as a growth marketing specialist. She is the founder of Flowjo.co and creator of The Growth Hacking Box among other things:

  • teaches marketing at McMaster University

  • featured in USA Today on International Women's Day "Women in Tech" Magazine in 2020

  • recognized as Techwomen Canada 2012 by the Canadian Consulate General of San Francisco/ Silicon Valley

  • featured amongst Mashable's 25 Most Influential Marketers in 2017.

She travels around the world speaking at leading conferences and sharing her knowledge and expertise as a modern marketer.

Tiffany is a trailblazer in the modern marketing world, a digital marketing powerhouse, and a pinnacle of success by all means.

And yet, she felt like a fraud on a daily basis at her dream job before she started out on her own. So much so that 3 months into her contract, she used to lay awake at night, agonizing and worried sick that she wasn’t up to her new job.

On one such night, feeling stuck, she quit.

She later realized that she was experiencing an acute case of Imposter Syndrome despite all her achievements, accolades, and how the rest of the world perceived her.

Watch Tiffany share her story in this interview @ GPeC SUMMIT 2019.

Promoting others’ work comes easily to marketers. But we’re terrified when it comes to promoting our own. That’s imposter syndrome manifesting itself in the most common ways.

~ 70% of professionals experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers

Research published by the International Journal of Behavioral Science

Tiffany's experience with imposter syndrome is not unique. Her story not only shows that the best of us are not spared from this but also that it’s possible to deal with it and bounce back.

The fear of being exposed as fraud can have a crippling effect on even the most accomplished individuals, leading to decreased self-esteem, anxiety, and burnout. Makers, builders, leaders, and entrepreneurs, all feel the same at some point.

And yet, it’s not often talked about, or even recognized. I also didn’t know about it till very recently and didn’t understand how it was impacting my work. I had a tough time researching as there is so little material on this topic from a modern marketing viewpoint.

And that’s why today’s edition is a deep dive into imposter syndrome amongst modern marketers - why it happens, warning signs, and practical strategies to overcome it.

4Ps of Marketing Imposter Syndrome

Clare Josa is a leading name when it comes to researching Imposter Syndrome and helping people with actionable frameworks and strategies.

In her landmark 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study, she describes common indicators to identify imposter syndrome early on as a framework of 4Ps - Perfectionism, Paralysis, People-pleasing, and Procrastination.

1. Perfectionism

The compulsive need to do everything perfectly

makes it hard to feel satisfied with one's achievements

Do you often find yourself spending countless hours obsessing over and perfecting a social media post, or a video, editing it until it feels right?

Watch out for

  • being overly critical of one's own work, even if others are impressed

  • struggling to delegate tasks, thinking that no one else can do them as well

  • fear of failure leading to procrastination and missing deadlines

2. Paralysis

The feeling of being stuck and unable to move forward

often due to fear of failure

Delayed launching a well-planned marketing campaign because you feared it won't be successful?

Watch out for

  • overanalyzing and second-guessing every move

  • too many cycles of feedback and editing before shipping out

  • over-dependence on research, data, and reference information

3. People-pleasing

The tendency to prioritize others' opinions and expectations over your own

leads to feelings of inadequacy

Have you found yourself leaning towards creating a campaign that pleases the client or boss rather than pushing boundaries and being truly innovative?

It's important to find a balance between meeting others' expectations and staying true to your own vision.

Watch out for

  • going crazy about deadlines

  • too much follow-up with everyone

  • asking for too much feedback from others

4. Procrastination

The pattern of putting off tasks until the last minute

often due to fear of failure or not feeling good enough

Spent hours scrolling through social media, cleaning the desk, and reorganizing files instead of working on a new campaign brief, leading to missed deadlines, and last-minute panic?

Watch out for

  • delaying tasks until the last minute, despite having ample time to complete them

  • avoiding tasks that feel intimidating or challenging

  • using distractions to avoid work

Watch out for these symptoms, and seek timely help

  • Feeling like a fraud or that you don't deserve your success

  • Fear of failure or making mistakes

  • Constantly comparing yourself to others

  • Perfectionism and obsessing over small details

  • Overworking and burnout

  • Difficulty accepting compliments or praise

5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

1. The Perfectionist

Always chasing perfection and never feeling good enough

A marketer who spends countless hours perfecting a single ad copy before finally publishing it.

2. The Expert

Feeling inadequate because they don't know everything there is to know about their field

A marketer who struggles to own it up because they don't know all the latest trends in social media marketing.

3. The Natural Genius

Feeling like a fraud because everything seems to be coming easily to them

A marketer who feels like a fraud simply because they've always been good at creating successful campaigns without much effort or setbacks.

4. The Soloist

Feeling like they have to do everything themselves and can't ask for help


A marketer who feels like a lone ranger because they struggle to collaborate with others on campaigns.

5. The Superperson

Feeling like they have to be perfect in all areas of their life, not just work

A marketer who feels like a lost cause because they struggle to balance work and personal life, and feel like they are failing in both areas.

I’ve been one or the other at different times. Which ones do you relate with?

Myths about Imposter Syndrome amongst Marketers

1. It only affects new or inexperienced marketers

Imposter syndrome can affect marketers of all levels of experience. In fact, it’s more common in senior marketers. As you grow in your career, you need to acknowledge your achievements and build on them.

2. It’s a sign of weakness

Imposter syndrome is a common experience and not a sign of weakness. It’s not even a diagnosable mental health issue or disease. It takes courage to acknowledge and work through these confusing feelings.

3. It’s a permanent state of mind

Imposter syndrome is not a permanent state of mind. It can be managed with strategies such as positive self-talk and seeking support. More on that coming up. Keep reading.

4. It only affects women

Psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance first used the term “Imposter Syndrome” in the 1970s while studying this phenomenon in women. That led many people to wrongly believe that it only affects women.

It affects individuals of all genders and demographic. It is important to recognize and address it regardless of differences in our identities.

Different demographics get affected in different ways, which is a discussion for another time.

5. It’s a self-esteem issue

Imposter syndrome is not solely a self-esteem issue. It is a complex phenomenon influenced by various factors, including societal and cultural norms. Seeking therapy or counseling can help to address these factors.

Why modern marketers are highly susceptible to Imposter Syndrome?

Common Causes

Rapidly evolving industry trends

With the constantly changing industry trends, modern marketers are pressed to constantly learn and adapt, leading to feelings of inadequacy.

High-pressure work environments

Marketers are often under immense pressure to deliver results while working under tight deadlines and many uncontrollable outside factors. This leads to a constant fear of failure, lack of control, and questioning of their abilities.

Imbalanced Feedback

A lack of constructive feedback or an abundance of negative feedback can cause a marketer to question their abilities and experience imposter syndrome.

Social media and the comparison trap

The rise of social media and the constant onslaught of marketing data has led to an increased comparison trap. Marketers compare themselves to their peers and industry leaders, causing feelings of self-doubt, and not having done enough.

Lack of diversity and representation

Marketers from underrepresented backgrounds often feel like they do not belong in the industry, feeling lost and like misfits who don’t deserve to win.

Imposter Syndrome normalization

The normalization of impostor syndrome in the industry can also cause marketers to feel like it's a common experience, leading them to dismiss their feelings as normal and not seek help.

There are even detailed theories trying to convince you that it’s a good thing and that you can use it as a hidden superpower to succeed. That’s bullshit bro talk.

These factors are often interlinked, one triggering the other and hence creating a vicious cycle.

Why should you bother about Imposter Syndrome?

The negative impact of imposter syndrome on modern marketing professionals can be significant, including:

  • Compromised mental health

  • Decreased confidence and self-esteem

  • Lack of job satisfaction and motivation

  • Burnout and mental exhaustion

  • Impaired creativity and innovation

  • Stunted career growth and progression

Enough said.

Actionable Strategies to Overcome Imposter Syndrome for Modern Marketers

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome takes time and effort, but it's possible

Recognize and accept your feelings, and behavioral patterns, especially if you notice a shift however subtle it might be. Watch out for tell-tale signs, do your homework, and seek help proactively.

There is no glory in being ignorant.

Take the IS quiz to find out if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome and what to do about it.

Acknowledge and celebrate your successes

One of the most effective ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to recognize your achievements

Keep a record of your accomplishments, and remind yourself of them when you start to doubt yourself.

E.g. if you launched a successful campaign that resulted in high engagement rates and sales, celebrate that achievement and take pride in it.

Embrace vulnerability

Acknowledge that it’s okay to make mistakes and that everyone has flaws

Share your insecurities with a trusted colleague or mentor. This will help you realize that you are not alone and that everyone struggles with feelings of inadequacy at some point.

Reframe negative self-talk

Negative self-talk is a common symptom of Imposter Syndrome. Instead of letting negative thoughts consume you, reframe them.

Reframing negative self-talk can help shift your mindset and boost your confidence

E.g., instead of saying "I'm not good enough," say "I may not know everything, but I'm constantly learning and growing."

Seek feedback

It's important to seek feedback from colleagues, managers, and mentors. Not only does it help you improve, but it can also help validate your skills and experience.

If you receive positive feedback, take it to heart and use it to counter any self-doubt you may be experiencing

Embrace and learn from mistakes

Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process, and we can use them to our advantage. Acknowledging and learning from our mistakes can build confidence in our abilities.

Everything is an experiment in modern marketing, and there are no absolute guarantees their you campaigns will succeed as per the plan.

A successful modern marketer experiments, optimizes, grows, and repeats

Practice self-compassion and self-care

Taking care of yourself is essential to overcoming Imposter Syndrome. This can include exercise, meditation, hobbies, or simply taking breaks throughout the day.

Prioritize self-care to help reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your overall well-being

Seek support from colleagues and mentors

Having a support system can be incredibly beneficial for marketers dealing with imposter syndrome. Colleagues and mentors can provide guidance, feedback, and encouragement.

Your close circle heavily influences how you operate. Build it carefully, and lean in when needed

Connect with other marketers

Connecting with other marketers can help you realize that you're not alone in your struggles. Join communities, attend industry events, and network with colleagues.

Building a support system can provide you with valuable insights and tips

Utilize resources

Make use of many resources available to help overcome Imposter Syndrome.

E.g., attending workshops or seminars on self-confidence and public speaking can help you build your skills and confidence. Tools like journaling or meditation apps can help you manage stress and negative self-talk.


Seek or suggest professional support and therapy in a timely manner.

The future outlook for Marketers

With the rise of remote work, the increasing importance of digital channels, and the growing emphasis on data-driven decision-making, struggles with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt are increasing.

However, as awareness grows, marketers can better recognize and combat its effects.

It's up to all of us to create a supportive and inclusive environment where no one feels like an imposter.

AQ Finds

  • Book - Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. Thank you, my dear friend and mentor Lokendra for this recommendation

  • Newsletter - Angel Investing and getting 1000x your investment is no more for the silicon valley elites. Learn how to do it yourself and discover opportunities in the Indian startup ecosystem with Rustic Flute 

  • Tool - Copysmith’s AI content generator supports Marketing and eCommerce teams in their journey to produce amazing content

AQ Shoutout

Anyword has been my go-to solution for creating top-performing, on-brand copy at scale for many projects, be it for content marketing or performance marketing. Give it a try.

Have you also experienced imposter syndrome as a marketer?

If yes, how do you cope with it?

If no, what’s your secret?

Join the conversation

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