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understanding and overcoming imposter syndrome

August 20, 2021

Everyone feels like an imposter at some point in their life. Whether it be walking in the door of a new job exuding confidence externally but doubting your abilities within or refusing to give yourself credit for a job well done because it was obviously just luck. Imposter syndrome comes in many forms, and none of them are healthy. However, once you recognize the characteristics of imposter syndrome, you can work towards overcoming it.

Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is an internal belief that you are not what other people believe you to be. Because of this, you strive even harder to live up to what you see as the false reality others perceive as the real you.  Some signs of imposter syndrome include:

  • Setting yourself up for disappointment by setting unrealistic goals
  • Putting yourself down for things beyond your control
  • Giving credit to anyone or anything but yourself for your success
  • Constant fear of not meeting the expectations of yourself and others
  • Need to overachieve to make up for perceived incompetence

Causes of Imposter Syndrome

The origins of imposter syndrome are varied and difficult to pinpoint.

It can come from a family background that places an enormous emphasis on achievement or provides little support at all. Individuals who struggle with anxiety may be more prone to imposter syndrome.  An expectation of perfectionism in oneself can also lead to imposter syndrome.

Those who have faced lack of representation or discrimination may find themselves facing imposter syndrome. Sometimes it’s as little as the discomfort of a new job that can initiate imposter syndrome.

While the causes of imposter syndrome are varied, imposter syndrome affects every race and socioeconomic background and can be crippling.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is rooted in internal dialogue. By utilizing mindfulness and cognitive behavior strategies, you can overcome imposter syndrome.

Believe in the wins. Emotionally embrace your success and recognize your own talents and abilities.

Be aware of your thoughts. When negative self-worth enters your internal dialogue, take the time to examine those thoughts and their truthfulness.

Replace the negative. Practice reframing unhelpful thoughts into positive affirmations.

Give yourself grace. Show yourself at least an equal measure of the compassion you give to others. Experience and growth come from both success and failure.

Recognize facts. Imposter syndrome is often based on assumptions, rather than on facts. Take the time to differentiate facts from assumptions.

Stay grounded. Find a trusted friend or therapist to talk through your feelings to provide perspective and stay rooted in reality.

Imposter syndrome does not have to control your self-worth. By knowing the characteristics and causes of imposter syndrome and practicing mindfulness and cognitive behavior strategies, you can see the real you the rest of the world already knows to be true.


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