imposter syndrome meaning

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

  • Why do I have imposter feelings?
  • How do I overcome them?

Imposter syndrome is a condition of feeling anxious about your abilities.  Most people with imposter syndrome are high-performing on the outside but feel like a fraud or phony on the inside.  They tend to outwardly portray themselves as confident and competent but internally they struggle with feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and fear of their inadequacy surfacing. Imposter syndrome stems from a lack of self-confidence and belief in your abilities.


How Do I Know If I Have Imposter Syndrome?

Anyone can suffer from imposter syndrome at anytime throughout their life.  However, most people experience imposter syndrome during transitional periods in their life such as starting a new job, school, or project.  They want to do well, work hard to accomplish their goals, but do not accept that they deserve the success that comes from doing a good job.  They tend to question their achievements and feel like a fraud, “If people only knew that I don’t deserve to be here.  It is pure luck.”


Symptoms of Imposter Phenomenon

Individuals who experience imposter syndrome experience the following symptoms:

  • Self-doubt
  • Undervaluing their achievements
  • Attributing their success to factors external of themselves
  • Sabotaging self-success
  • Overachieving
  • Setting unrealistic expectations
  • Fear of not living up to your expectations
  • Feeling like a fraud or phony despite your accomplishments

If you often find yourself feeling like you are a fraud or an imposter, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist. The negative thinking, self-doubt, and self-sabotage that often characterize imposter syndrome can affect many areas of your life.


Examples of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome looks differently for everyone.  Listed below are examples of imposter syndrome:


  • You started a new job that you are qualified to do but feel like a fraud because you don’t have experience.  You feel like the hiring department made a mistake and will find out that you don’t belong.
  • You started your own company and are qualified however, you feel like a phony because you don’t have the level of expertise as others in your field.
  • You receive recognition at work for outstanding job performance.  You feel like a fraud at the recognition meeting because you don’t feel that your achievements are good enough.  You believe it was all luck.
  • You were promoted at work and have a new title.  You feel like an imposter because you haven’t mastered that position.
What Caused Me To Have Imposter Syndrome?

There are many reasons for developing imposter syndrome.  Some research suggests that factors related to your upbringing play a crucial role.  Stereotypes, genders, age, and one’s background all contribute to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  Your family upbringing plays a key role: 


  • Are your parents controlling or overprotective?
  • Did your family push for over achievement?
  • Did your family praise and criticize you for your accomplishments?
  • Did you experience high levels of family conflict?

Other factors that contribute to imposter syndrome include:


Entering a new role.  You are starting a new job, new position, or school and feel like you don’t belong or don’t have the skills and experience to start on your new path.


Any life transition can trigger imposter syndrome.  Imposter phenomena is more common when people are going through a life transition or trying new things.  You might feel pressure to achieve and succeed.  When that pressure is combined with lack of experience it can trigger imposter syndromes symptoms.


Your personality.  Your personality traits can contribute to you experiencing imposter syndrome.  Some traits that play a role include:


Low self-esteem and low self-efficacy.  This is a belief that you do not have the ability to succeed in a new situation.


Perfectionism.  You are striving for perfection and want to say and do the “right “things.  Fear of doing or saying something wrong.  You are placing high, unachievable standards on yourself.


Neurotic tendencies.  These can include feeling negative emotions (sad, low mood, anger at self), poor self-regulation, difficulty handling stress, strong reaction to perceived threats, and a tendency to complain about yourself and others.


Intense feelings of inadequacy.  You can feel a lack of confidence and competence in certain situations.


How Can I cope With Imposter Syndrome?

If you think you experiencing imposter syndrome then get help now.  Contact Sobair Mental Health Counseling & EMDR Therapy.  They specialize in treating individuals suffering from imposter syndrome and offer coaching packages that are focused on improving your self-esteem and self-confidence.


To move past these feelings of imposter syndrome, you need to get to the core underlying reason for the feelings.  These beliefs might be ingrained into your subconscious.  This is why working with a trained mental health counselor can benefit you.  The following are some skills to assist you with identify and relieving your symptoms of imposter syndrome:


Talk about your feelings.  Stop keeping your emotions to yourself.  Find a trusted friend or co-worker and let your feelings out.  Make sure the person is supportive and empathic.  Sharing your feelings is okay and healthy.


Focus on your abilities.  Make a realistic assessment of your accomplishments and focus on the skills that you are good at and do not compare yourself to others.


Perfect doesn’t have to happen.  As long as you are doing your best and doing it reasonably well, congratulate yourself.  With time and experience, you will improve.  So, give yourself a break and keep learning and growing with an open mind.


Do not compare yourself to others.  You know you shouldn’t compare and when you do, it leads to doubt and feelings of inadequacy.  Feelings of “not good enough” and “I don’t deserve this.” Creep into your head.  This leads to self-sabotage and feelings of “I am a fraud.”


Push through your feelings of fraud.  You got where you are because you deserve to be there.  Don’t let your self-doubt keep you from pursuing your dreams. 


Talk To a Therapist

With the help of a skilled mental health therapist, you can overcome imposter syndrome and begin to live a life filled with accomplishment, praise, and success.  Appreciate what you have accomplished.  Be proud of yourself and all that you have completed.  A mental health therapist can help you recognize feelings associated with imposter syndrome and create new behaviors to get past them.

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