Defining and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Defining and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Do you think that other people see you in a more positive light than they should? Do you believe that you’re just “faking it”, and that you’re not what other people think you are? If this is the case, chances are that you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is linked to low self-esteem and can significantly affect your general well-being. It most certainly isn’t something you’d want to ignore. Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome imposter syndrome. Here at Therapy Central, we have numerous therapists who can help you better understand and deal with the symptoms of imposter syndrome you’re experiencing and move on with your life.

The meaning and definition of imposter syndrome are the following: 

  • Feeling like a fraud.
  • Doubting your achievements, talents, and skills. 
  • Feeling like you’re not the same person others believe you to be. 

Imposter syndrome is not simply unpleasant; it can significantly affect your self-respect, confidence, and achievements. It’s not something you’d want to ignore, as not dealing with and trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome can lead to more suffering down the line.

Among UK, Australian, and Kiwi nursing students, for instance, it was found that:

  • 45% experience moderate imposter syndrome
  • 33.4% experience more intense and more frequent symptoms
  • 8.3% have very severe imposter syndrome symptoms

Research has shown that imposter syndrome is a big hurdle to professional development and can affect certain groups more than others. For instance, women are more likely to experience imposter syndrome due to being subject to other discriminatory phenomena. 

Signs you Might have Imposter Syndrome

  • Feeling as if you’re falsely presenting yourself to others
  • Feeling that others perceive you as a better person than you really are
  • Doubting your previous successes and achievements
  • Low-self esteem
  • Pessimism

What is Imposter Syndrome

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Are There Different Types of Imposter Syndrome?

In understanding and defining imposter syndrome, it’s helpful to look at how this issue can manifest. For instance:

Imposter syndrome at work

Sometimes, people might feel as if their professional accomplishments are worth less than other people believe. In the modern age, women can still feel like imposters in high executive positions, even though they can perfectly do the work. 

Imposter syndrome in relationships

In relationships, imposter syndrome manifests as a belief that how you behave towards the other person is fraudulent. For instance, you may feel you don’t invest enough emotionally while your partner invests everything. 

Imposter syndrome in Academia

It’s not rare for imposter syndrome to manifest in people working in academia (e.g., lecturers, researchers, etc.). The world of universities can be highly competitive, and some may feel as if they’re just pretending to be a part of it. Even in this context, women are somewhat more likely to experience imposter syndrome, also due to academia being traditionally male-dominated. 

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What’s the Opposite of Imposter Syndrome?

We already gave you a hint; perhaps narcissism is the most accredited opposite of feeling like an imposter. While narcissism involves an (over)abundance of (apparent) confidence, people with imposter syndrome generally lack self-confidence. Narcissists tend to take praise for the things they didn’t do. In contrast, people with imposter syndrome cannot recognise and take credit even for their actual achievements. 

Imposter Syndrome Test

Take a quick test to see if you’re perhaps feeling too much like an imposter. Simply answer yes/no to each question (yes=1; no=0), and add up all the “yes” answers to see your “Imposter Score”:

  1. Other people think I’m a better person than I really am.
  2. People think I’m smart, but I don’t think so. 
  3. My partner thinks I’m a good person, but I know this is not true.
  4. Every time I meet people, I’m putting on a different character.
  5. Others think I’m nice, but this really isn’t true. 
  6. I had good grades in school, but I didn’t deserve them. 
  7. Other people look more authentic than me. 
  8. It’s hard for me to simply be myself. 

While keeping in mind that this is just a quick imposter syndrome test and in no way a diagnostic tool, high scores (e.g. over 4) can indicate that you might struggle with this issue. The good news is that imposter syndrome can be effectively overcome with the help of psychotherapy.

How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome?

Therapy can be a systematic and effective way to overcome imposter syndrome. Especially when it is linked to issues such as depression and anxiety, it’s necessary to understand the deep underlying beliefs that bring and maintain your struggle. These may often look like this:

  • “I’m weak.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “Others will see through me.”
  • “I will be discovered.”
  • “What I have will be taken away”.

Here at Therapy Central, we have therapists who will help you overcome imposter syndrome and related issues, improving your general well-being and life quality.

4 Tips to Start Managing Imposter Syndrome

There are also a few things you can do on your own to start dealing with imposter syndrome before starting therapy:

Gain Perspective

Balance your viewpoint with the viewpoint of your loved ones, don’t rely solely on your perspective of your achievements, performance, goodness, etc.

Focus on the positives

For instance, think about all the ways you’re positively contributing to, say, a group project. Inversely, make sure your attention doesn’t exclusively focus on the negatives.

Track It Down

Identify situations in which you’re feeling like an imposter. Perhaps the negative thoughts are coming to you late in the evening as you try to fall asleep.Tracking down your imposter syndrome triggers, will help you predict it and take measures against it. For example, you can plan to engage in helpful coping strategies, such as looking at your achievement journal, engage in pleasant activities, relaxation exercises, etc.

Exercise and Relax

Negative feelings often come to us when we’re tired or anxious. See if it’s possible not to give too much credence to such thoughts and actively work against them by exercising moderately and relaxing. In addition, you can try some relaxation exercises, such as mindful breathing.

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Treating Imposter Syndrome

Many types of treatment can help overcome imposter syndrome. Our therapists are trained in a variety of approaches, from CBT (and other third-wave approaches) to psychodynamic therapy and person-centred approaches. They are able to combine different types of modalities to tailor them around your unique individual circumstances.

CBT for imposter syndrome, for example, can focus on the dysfunctional beliefs related to your issues (e.g. “I’m a fraud” or “Other people think I’m a good person, but deep down, I know I’m bad”). It can also tackle practical problems such as dysfunctional coping styles (e.g. substance use, avoidance, etc.) and skills training (e.g. assertiveness, relaxation exercises) and eventually help you make significant changes in how you act.

Therapy for imposter syndrome will help you learn how to deal with unproductive thoughts and feelings, increasing life quality and well-being. Moreover, treating imposter syndrome will often help you deal with other connected issues, such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and social anxiety

If you’re struggling with feeling like an impostor, you can contact us for a free 15-minute consultation, and see if our help can fit your needs.

Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, K. O., & Hagg, H. K. (2020). Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review. Journal of general internal medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275.

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