Imposter Syndrome: Why Do We Have It and How Do We Defeat It?


I work and speak with many women over 50 who are looking to redefine in some way. I’ve met women who have relocated to other countries and didn’t even know the language. Women who have written books and started businesses. Women who have found love. One of the women in my community adopted two infants and a toddler in her very early 50s!

Each of these women could not be more different. Yet, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, when we talked about barriers, described imposter syndrome as being one.

When we get excited about something new that we want to try – whether it be taking a class, learning a new hobby, starting a business, or retiring – imposter syndrome is that voice in our head that says to us: “Who do you think you are? You don’t know the first thing about ___________. What makes you think you can do that?”

Unfortunately, imposter syndrome can occur not only in our heads but also externally, as well meaning friends and family ask us the same questions. This does nothing but validate our own negative thoughts.

I interviewed Lisa – a stay-at-home mom who decided after 50 to up and move to Italy from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was back and forth in her own mind between sheer excitement and butterflies in her stomach over this move to the terror of “What do I think I’m doing? I don’t even speak the language!”

Lisa had no shortage of friends who, when she told them what she was planning to do, said, “Wait… do you speak Italian?” or “Wait… you’re leaving your kids (who, by the way were independent adults) and everyone you know to go somewhere where you don’t know ANYONE??”

In spite of all that, Lisa pushed forward, moved to Italy and said, “For the first time in a long time I had joy.”

I’ve spoken with women from all walks of life who have redefined in some way. Women who have been stay-at-home moms to women who had high up corporate positions. Every single one of them describes experiencing imposter syndrome each time they decided to try something new and different.

And each one described being faced with imposter syndrome type questions and opinions coming from those around them.

We, as humans, are wired to resist and even fear change. There is a part of our brain called the amygdala which interprets change as an actual threat. Imposter syndrome is one of the many ways our brain protects us from diverting from the comfortable and safe routine.  

How many of us have said, “The evil we know is better than the evil we don’t”?

It’s Just a Thought

Most importantly, understand that it’s just a thought, and that it’s your brain trying to keep you safe and in the status quo.

I jokingly thank my brain for taking good care of me, push my anxiety aside, and move forward.

Formulating some goal specific affirmations to say and journaling every day is a helpful trick. This will start to replace the stories that your brain is hearing and giving back to you. Some examples might be:

  • “I am a woman who flips her hair and moves forward with her goals and plans every day;”
  • “I deserve to live the life that I want to live every day;”
  • “I am a healthy, active woman every day;”
  • “I am learning and growing every day.”

Visualize Yourself Doing the Thing That You Want to Be Doing

Find a quiet spot and really visualize. Where are you? What are you wearing? What are you doing? What do you see around you?

Get so excited about it that the thought of not doing it would be too disappointing to even fathom.

Surround Yourself with Others Who Share Similar Goals and Aspirations

There has never been an easier time to do this than now. Find a community of women who want to do the thing that you want to do, either online or in person. This community will provide you with:

  • Motivation and encouragement when that “imposter voice” rears its ugly head;
  • Validation – that the change you are making is a positive one when many in your life might be hinting or outright telling you otherwise;
  • Resources – Sixty and Me is a community that can provide you with resources and tools that will help you on your journey.

What will happen if I never take action on this thing that I’m really excited about doing?

Imposter syndrome is a universal, natural, and automatic reaction to us doing anything outside of the status quo. Knowing that and understanding that can help you to overcome it, move forward, and continue to learn and grow as much as you want to regardless of your age or background.

Are you thinking of redefining in some way? Have you experienced imposter syndrome? Have you had to handle those imposter syndrome type questions from friends and family? Did it cause you to rethink your plans or goals?



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