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  • Writer's pictureOdile McKenzie, LCSW

3 Strategies To Help You Overcome Imposter Syndrome

I am writing this blog because I have seen Imposter Syndrome come up again and again in my work with clients. Do you hear about Imposter Syndrome or experienced it but don't know what to do about it? In this blog post, I review three valuable recommendations that I give clients to help overcome Imposter Syndrome.

First, what is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome(IS) is characterized as chronic feelings of self-doubt and fear of being discovered as a fraud, despite evidence of the contrary. In its simplest form, IS can be described as chronically doubting your intellectual abilities. You may experience IS when you start something new: a promotion, new job, new school, new role, or new project.

Who gets Imposter Syndrome?

The cause of IS is often discussed in the context of the individual. The role of racism, ablism, and patriarchy is very rarely talked about or studied. However, multiple studies indicate that women and people of Color are more likely to experience Imposter Syndrome. The lack of representation in the media and workplace can often cause one to question whether they belong. People who are part of a minority group may feel inauthentic because of the pressure to conform with the dominant social practices at work or school. This then creates feelings of inauthenticity and doubt. Minority groups may also internalize stereotypes. Being the only one leads to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and sadness which consequently can cause cognitive errors. Although Imposter Syndrome is not a mental illness, it can manifest itself in the form of anxiety, sleep disturbances, and depression. It can also contribute to burnout.

3 Strategies to overcome IS

1. Extend Compassion To Yourself

It’s important to acknowledge that IS is not all your fault. Your institution should create a supportive and welcoming environment for all. So when you feel and recognize that you are experiencing feelings of fraudulence or self-doubt, stop and extend compassion to that part of you that needs reassurance and care. You can do this in the form of an affirmation or mantra.

For Example:

I belong in every space, even when I don't see myself represented.

My feelings of impostorism do not make me an impostor.

I am capable of completing this task or responsibility, despite what my thoughts or feelings tell me.

2. Practice Looking For The Evidence

We sometimes accept our feelings as facts. It is true that our feelings are trying to communicate something about our inner world, but they can thereby indicate a need for continued healing and nurturing. When the feelings of impostorism arise on your first day of work/school, or when taking on a new project, practice looking for evidence to support that you have the skills and spend at least 30 seconds internalizing it.

  1. Recognize what sensation comes up in your body when you experience IP.

  2. Acknowledge that it’s there without judgment. IS is not a psychological disorder; it is neither good, bad, nor a weakness.

  3. Look for and write down the evidence that you have the skills and experience to complete the task—for example, your degree, previous assignments, positive feedback from colleagues or boss, awards etc.

  4. Make it a daily practice to reflect on the evidence you have written down.

3. Avoid Perfectionism and Avoidance.

Practice observing how you cope with IS. Do you avoid tasks or engage in perfectionism? Do you overwork yourself to complete tasks or compensate for perceived lack? Spend an unusually amount of time overthinking emails? Rehearse what you are going to say in meetings/class? Say yes to everything? Constantly seek validation from colleagues and boss? You may avoid a task because you fear that you might not be able to complete it, or that you will be exposed. Avoidance only reinforces your impostorism. Instead, create a plan to take small steps towards accomplishing the task and ask for help from someone you trust. When you are ready, take more risks and practice speaking up in meetings/classes without prior rehearsal, or go ahead and send that email in less time than usual.

Click here to connect to a therapist to learn more about how to overcome Imposter Syndrome.

Take this test If you want to find out if you have Imposter Syndrome.

By Odile McKenzie, LCSW

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