The Imposter Complex

News and Updates

by Laura Johnston

The Imposter complex is a feeling of not belonging, of being a fraud, undeserving of success or attributing your successes as fluke or luck, with the fear that your peers will find out how inadequate you really are. I’m sure most of us may have felt this way before, whether it be in sport or work; standing on the start line of a big race, or wondering how you got that promotion. A little bit of the imposter complex can push us to our best, but turn it up a notch and it can be detrimental to our well being.

I may look the part, but I feel a fraud on the inside.

This is how I felt when I first joined a triathlon community, having NEVER done a triathlon before. I obviously don’t belong and I’m not good enough to do an actual triathlon, despite having swam, biked and ran separate events before. Thankfully the Pho3nix Club community do not judge and are full of encouragement and advice for everyone, no matter how far along you are on your journey. From new beginners, to accomplished athletes winning races, I hope you all feel welcome here. If you do anything swim, bike, run related then you are a triathlete; it doesn’t matter what the distance.

Being thrown into the world of triathlon, I suddenly found my social media feeds full of amazing and inspiring athletes who seem to have everything together. They have a good job, a family, do well at triathlon and have a social life too! We all know how deceptive social media can be and its important to filter out that information for yourself. Ask questions, learn from those who seem super organised and fit, share your experiences (good and bad) and realise that the fire of self-doubt rages in all of us. Will it ignite your dreams, or burn you down?

It still doesn’t feel like ‘Me’ who achieved all this.

The imposter complex has impacted me negatively for years and the constant feeling of not being enough, or that I don’t deserve what I have lead me down a pretty dark hole. But I want to focus on how it impacted my sport and my progress. Imposter syndrome is essentially a series of lies we tell ourselves, to justify our feelings or ‘poor’ performance when the evidence is often contradictory. Here are some lies I’ve told myself in the last year. Believing them the has hampered my progress and performance, which has only reinforced my feelings of not being good enough. What lies have you told yourself that have had a negative impact on your performance?

I’m not a ‘proper’ triathlete so can’t do Ironman events.
I’m not good enough to use gels/sports nutrition or hydration.
I don’t need running shoes, I’m not a real runner.
I’m not a good enough swimmer to have pull buoy and hand paddles etc..
If I race my local club XC races, everyone will see how slow I really am.
I don’t need new clothes, I’ll probably get fat again soon.
So telling myself I’m not an athlete enough to have a coach, means that I don’t progress as quickly as I could, there fore fulfilling the idea of not being good enough. Makes sense, right?

These thoughts are ridiculous and if I take a step back I can see that. I have become better at quietening the inner voice, as it has been fairly loud at times! It may all sound very confusing, but if I can feel like this, I guarantee that someone else does too. You need to remember that YOU earned those medals hanging up though YOUR hard work and determination. YOU are better than you think you are and YOU deserve it.


Together We Rise

The Pho3nix Foundation assists and inspires children worldwide to achieve their dreams and live healthy, inspired lives through sport.

From kids triathlons and workshops to teen sports camps and assistance for aspiring Olympians, Pho3nix projects create a pathway from participation to professionalism. Pho3nix Club memberships and donations support every step on that pathway.