Strategies for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome


  Strategies for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome, or imposter phenomenon, is the internal experience of feeling like a fraud and not measuring up in light of accomplishments. The overwhelming feelings that you don't deserve your success result in a lot of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety that can negatively impact your life. It can directly lead to stress-related health problems like depression and low self-esteem due to feeling like a fake. Most people have experienced these feelings at some point in their lives but sometimes they become more regular patterns which are unhealthy.

"Everyone has impostor feelings sometimes, but if you have them often, strongly, and longer than a few months, they could be an indication that something more is going on. Most experts believe it's a sign of a lack of self-confidence." (Huffington Post)

Impostor syndrome is not limited to certain industries either - it happens to people in all fields from artists to accountants. There are many celebrities who have admitted in interviews that they feel like frauds at times or were labeled as the 'fool' by their peers as children for having unconventional interests. (Source:

This topic of impostor syndrome is a common one for many. According to a survey conducted in 2014, about 40% of women and 43% of men said they were affected by impostor syndrome at some point in their lives. (Source: Harvard Business Review)

According to a study from the American Psychological Association, students who identified as women had double the chance of feeling like an imposter due to gender roles, which were instilled in them at a young age. (Source: Harvard Business Review)

Imposter syndrome can also be broken down into subcategories such as perfectionism and low self-esteem which are both associated with feelings of being an imposter. (Source: Harvard Business Review)

"Just ask yourself if you are a people pleaser. If you are, chances are that you will have impostor syndrome or some other type of perfectionist problem." - Beth Kobliner, featured expert on The Rachel Ray Show (Source: Huffington Post)

Like many things, impostor syndrome can be explained by the environment in which one lives. In a study conducted by Kristi Hedgpeth and James Locke, two professors at the University of Texas at Austin's Department of Psychology, they found that undergraduate students who received extra help on an exam had lower feelings of being an imposter than students who did not receive extra help. (Source: Huffinton Post)

"When you're getting help and support from teachers or even just classmates," the study's author Kristi Hedgpeth said, "it reduces your imposter thoughts because you feel like you are really part of this community of learners and the help that you're getting is part of that process." (Source: Huffington Post)

Getting regular encouragement from others can be the biggest boost to counteracting your impostor syndrome. It can also come in other forms such as pushing yourself to learn a new skill or putting yourself out there more. These activities will not only boost your confidence but it will also help broaden your experiences and views of the world.

Why Do People Develop Impostor Syndrome?

The cause of impostor syndrome can be traced back to childhood. Often times, parents do not encourage their children to pursue creative interests or hobbies which is a big part of leading to egos that are fragile and continue into adulthood. (Source: Business Insider)

"One reason people feel like impostors is that they've sort of internalized the negative messages they got about their abilities when they were young," says Dr. Valerie Young, who wrote a book called The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women . "What that means is, even though things are going well now, they still have old tapes playing in their heads. They still hear, 'You're not good enough.' They're still keeping up this vigilance, looking for these negative signals that they think will show them whether they're impostors or not." (Source: Huffington Post)

Young says that part of the reason impostor syndrome happens to so many people is due to the expectations we put on ourselves. It can be similar to self-doubt which if you look back at your childhood, you can tell how much pressure you put on yourself. (Source: Huffington Post)

"What happens when you're around other people who are successful or do something special is that it sends a message that what you're doing is pointless," Young continues. "Then you feel the need to say or do something even more special in order to justify your existence." (Source: Huffington Post)

Dr. Michele Pouliot of the University of Toronto says that impostor syndrome can be explained by a series of underlying beliefs that are related to low self-esteem and perfectionism. One belief is feeling like you're not as good as others, especially those who are successful, which can lead to being a perfectionist. (Source: Harvard Business School)

If you're affected by impostor syndrome often, it can negatively impact your life especially if you continue to think that way and have more doubts about yourself. When you're constantly doubting yourself, you're not able to see positive aspects of your life or give yourself credit when something is going well.

How to Treat Impostor Syndrome

According to Young, there are a lot of new strategies out there at the moment that people can use in order to combat their impostor syndrome. For example, found on the website BetterMe , they have a list of tools which they hope will help people deal with impostor feelings by encouraging them that they are more than enough. (Source: BetterMe)

"Some of these strategies might seem silly at first and might not work for you at some point in your life," Young explains. "But the more of them you do, the more you're sending a message to yourself that you're enough. That your confidence is not based on what other people think of you, it's based on who you are." (Source: Huffington Post)

Here are some of the strategies found on BetterMe that can help overcome impostor syndrome:

Finishing what you start. This was put into place by the brain-boosting technique known as "future targeting." By planning out what your next goal is, it can help remind yourself that you're capable enough to finish off projects and reach new milestones. (Source: The New York Times)

Reward yourself. Rewarding yourself for completing a goal is a good way to boost your confidence and feel good about reaching your next milestone. Rewards don't have to be expensive, in fact, it can be something simple like getting dinner with friends the next time you get a promotion at work or being able to go on an outing with the family who you haven't seen in awhile.

Take time to relax. This tip was inspired by Dr. Brene Brown's TED Talk from 2010 about vulnerability and letting yourself feel emotions such as fear.


Overall, we can all relate to this sensation that happens when we meet someone who seems to have it all. You might find yourself feeling that you're complete rubbish for not being able to get the same thing as them. However, it's important to realize that everyone has their own definition of success and we can be equally great at what we do even if other people seem better at something else. (Source: Huffington Post)

You may feel like a failure in your current career or in class, but don't let this pessimism influence you. These feelings are only temporary. It's something that is simply an explanation for why you may be getting poor grades or failing with your career goals.

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