Breaking Free from Imposter Syndrome

Written by Brittany Dawson, Founder of Brittany Dawson Coaching LLC.

I struggled with social anxiety for almost 10 years. I’d avoid human interaction to the point where even asking for the check at a restaurant felt like the last challenge on Fear Factor. Little did I know that what was actually happening underneath was anxiety and Imposter Syndrome. As explained by Psychology Today, “people who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held.” Despite being successful academically and in many regards living my life in alignment to my personal values, there was a huge gap between how I perceived myself and how the world saw me, thus, stalling my ability to put myself out there, be seen, and build relationships with people.

I remember leaving a friend’s birthday party in college after only five minutes, overwhelmed by the sheer presence of others, only to sit in my car and break down in tears. This breaking point became my turning point—I resolved never to let social anxiety and Imposter Syndrome control my life again.

This defining moment inspired an almost decade-long journey of self-reconstruction. As a student at the University of South Carolina preparing to step into my first “big girl” job as a high school teacher, I knew that my anxiety and Imposter Syndrome couldn’t block my gifts anymore. With the help of therapy and a committed friend group, I envisioned my ideal self—confident, sociable, and unafraid of human connection. I imagined myself walking up to the center of the classroom, greeting students, and being excited for each day. To become her, I knew I had to build her from the ground up.

In my sophomore year, I gradually embraced the discomfort of “peopling” and practiced as an athlete preparing for a championship game who I wanted to be. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and quit a desk job on campus to take on people-facing roles to challenge my Imposter Syndrome. I accepted a Cashier/Food Runner role at Chicken Salad Chick in one of the busiest intersections in Lexington, South Carolina. Saturdays were game days when eager football fans would barrel through the door asking for the latest chicken salad concoction to bring to the tailgate. Instead of simply asking what customers wanted, I’d take the next step to people: “So who do you think is going to win today?” or “Did you hear about the recruiting class? Looks like we’re in for star-studded talent” rolled off my tongue clunkily, or at least I thought so. I was surprised to see how people responded with genuine answers and at times, the line was held up because I started to get the hang of it and massaged the knots out of my greatest fear one customer at a time. On the inside it felt like a flame was burning inside of me yet on the outside, my body language was teeming with joy and curiosity. These bite-sized interactions built my courage up to challenge the Imposter Syndrome that told me that I couldn’t talk to people. I challenged Imposter Syndrome head-on by creating evidence in real-time of the possibilities. As you can imagine, over the course of my undergraduate career these experiences translated into the courage to teach, where I won Teacher of the Last 9 Weeks in my first year, was spotlighted by the district as a model classroom for novice teachers, and later was invited by my Principal to speak on a district panel in Houston on best practices of creating culturally responsive teaching. Who would’ve thought!?

Now I stand before you as someone who has since then built a coaching, speaking, and training practice where I’ve hosted 200+ virtual and global engagements. It wasn’t easy by far, however, now I can be in crowds, having even landed a TEDx talk on one of the biggest stages of all. I engage with people daily, finding joy in connections where I once feared.

So why am I sharing this? The reality is we all have our battles and Imposter Syndrome can hold us back from being who we are meant to be. Whether it’s speaking up in meetings, attending networking events, or even posting on social media, if left unchecked Imposter Syndrome will keep you operating at 5% of your greatest potential.

As you spring forward this season, I encourage you to confront your fears daily, no matter how small. Be 1% better each day. Life happens on the other side of fear.
Bio: Brittany Dawson is the Founder of Brittany Dawson Coaching LLC whose mission is to unlock the best in teams through actionable and energizing training, workshops, and speeches. Brittany has hosted 200+ global and virtual trainings with clients like Constellation Brands, Social Venture Partners Denver, and Amazon. When she’s not coaching, Brittany enjoys trying out the latest sushi restaurants, hiking, and listening to Afrobeats. You can learn more about her at