Are You Living or Just Existing?
September 7, 2020

3 Reasons Why Athletes Deal with Imposter Syndrome


At the age of 23, Alex Yee had his Olympic debut in Tokyo and made Great Britain proud.

He came away from the Games with a gold and silver. After competing in only 7 triathlons prior to being selected for Team GB, his accomplishment is an incredible feat.

On the surface, Alex achieved everything an triathlete could possibly dream of so early in his career. You see a rising star celebrating with his teammates in Tokyo and then a beautiful welcome from his Mum and Dad upon returning to London.

But in an interview with Radio 1 Newsbeat, Alex shared that "I didn't feel worthy to stand on the start line."

“Alex says he suffered from ‘a mild form of impostor syndrome’ when he came on to the competitive triathlete circuit in 2019.”

HIs transparency shed light on how mental blocks are right under the surface of a stellar performance.

No one would guess that Alex was feeling like he didn’t belong, but we don’t see the deeper thoughts and beliefs that athletes are playing over and over in their minds.

If you can relate to Alex and wonder why you feel like you don’t belong in your sport, here are 3 reasons why you're dealing with imposter syndrome.

#1: Your Self Worth is Built By Society’s Worth

Since early in our lives, our self worth is built by what people model to us. Our first thoughts and beliefs are given to us, not created from inside of us.

So we’re taught to look at others for their opinions and approval. What makes us feel good. What makes us feel loved. What makes us feel like enough.

Eventually, that turns to the desire to fit in. To want to blend with peers and become accepted.

As an athlete, that manifests on an even bigger scale. When your performance is improving, expectations on you start building.

So you feel the need to perform not just for yourself, but for all of the eyes on you. The outside pressure is the catalyst that makes you start to doubt whether you belong.

#2: You Have Expectations and Fear Disappointment

Every athlete runs on goals. Some get met. Some don’t. But no matter the goal, athletes always expect the best out of themselves.

But when you pile on expectations from the outside world, you start to fear letting others down.

Imposter syndrome, by definition, means having a pervasive feeling if you don’t belong.

So if you don’t have your confidence locked in, expectations that create pressure will ultimately lead to doubt, which will make you fear whether you’re ready even more.

That fear ultimately isn’t about how preparing you are, but how well you will do what’s expected of you.

The fear is about the preparation. It’s about the fear of failing. No one wants to fail and no one wants to disappoint others.

So no matter how much you have physically trained, if your beliefs are filled with doubt, then it’s an open door for imposter syndrome to walk in.

#3: You’re Minding the Gap

If you feel like you don’t belong, it’s because you feel like you aren’t at the level of your competitors. You’re spending too much time on comparison. You laser in on your weaknesses. You question if you've prepared as much as them. You look at their form, their physiques, their routines wondering if you’ve done enough. If you are enough.

You’re minding the gap.

You see yourself as a distant competitor to your competition. Between you and them is a chasm of doubt that feels too wide to simply step over.

So rather than look past the gap, you stare down into it, and it’s a downward spiral that wreak havoc on your self worth.

For athletes like Alex, the key to breaking free from imposter syndrome doesn’t lie in performing or training himself out of it, it lies in breaking out of the mental blocks that are making you feel like you don’t belong.

Your self worth is built over a lifetime, so rebuilding your self worth also takes time.

Imposter syndrome will mask your full potential if you let it. But like strengthening a muscle, if you apply the right methods, the right coaching, and the right discipline, imposter syndrome will just be a buzzword from your past, not a reflection of your self worth.


If you're ready to dial in your mental game and build unstoppable confidence, click here to join MINDFLEX - and get mindset and performance coaching, on-demand.

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About Dr. Jen

Dr. Jen Faber, DC is a performance and mental conditioning coach, working with elite athletes, olympic competitors, sports professionals, high-profile individuals and more. She helps clients train their mind as hard as their body to create world class results.

Dr. Jen is the author of Know or Be Told: How Identity Defines Success and founder of MINDFLEX, an online mental conditioning membership designed to help high-performing athletes gain a competitive edge and dominate the mental blocks that are holding them back.. She has been featured on CBS, CW, TalentCulture, iHeartRadio, and more. Throughout her career Dr. Jen has worked with NFL players, Triathletes, The Lady Gaga Tour, Broadway Performers, The Washington Ballet, The Kennedy Center, National Geographic.

If you want to work with Dr. Jen directly, send Dr. Jen a voice message.