Do you often feel like you are not as capable or adequate as others perceive or evaluate you to be?
Could you have impostor syndrome?
Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome, perceived fraudulence, or impostor experience, describes high-achieving individuals who fail to recognize their accomplishments and have persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud or impostor despite their objective successes (Kolligian Jr. & Sternberg, 1991 as cited in Bravata et al., 2019).
Up to 82% of people have experienced symptoms of impostor syndrome (Bravata et al., 2019). While impostor syndrome was found to be common among men and women and across ages ranging from adolescents to late-state professionals (Bravata et al., 2019), it is often linked to women and members of ethnic minority groups (McGregor et al., 2008; Peteet et al., 2015 as cited in Feenstra et al., 2020). Having feelings of impostor syndrome can cause worsened experiences in both academic and professional settings.
How To Overcome Impostor Syndrome
1. Recognize it
Arguably, the hardest step in any direction is recognizing that you need to take that step.
2. Separate your thoughts and emotions
Okay, this one is tough. Your feelings are yours and are valid. However, your feelings are the result of your thoughts and beliefs, which are not always rational. For example, you may interpret that because your supervisor didn’t tell you she liked your work on the most recent project (fact) that she probably hates it and thinks you’re not doing well (thought) and because of this, you feel embarrassed and sad (feeling). Identifying your thoughts and feelings as separate experiences helps to build insight, which is ultimately the foundation for desired change.
3. Write down your strengths
The psychological experience of believing that one’s accomplishments came about not through genuine ability, but as a result of having been lucky, having worked harder than others, or having manipulated other people’s impressions, has been labeled the impostor phenomenon (Clance & Imes, 1978). Writing down your strengths can help you see that you possess the qualities and strengths that can play a large part in your accomplishments, thus proving it is not luck.
4. Set Realistic Goals
Giving yourself S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) can help you set and consistently accomplish tasks/goals. When you set and accomplish goals on a consistent basis, you give yourself a chance to see yourself purposefully working hard to reach the desired results.
5. Internalize compliments
Listen to the compliment, say thank you, and take it in. You are worthy of compliments and deserve to feel good when receiving one. Next time you receive a compliment, take a second and consider it, try to embody it.
It has been found that compliments contribute to improved mood (Boothby & Bohns, 2020). Plus, having the ability to recognize the good in one’s self is crucial in overcoming self-defeating activities, alleviating fears, and increasing self-esteem which all contribute to living a meaningful life (Weiste et al., 2021).
Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?
6. Lean into Support
You are not alone. People with impostor syndrome often experience themselves as being the only persons who are feeling as though they are a fraud and they often feel isolated as a result. (Matthews & Clance, 1985) An alarming number of people experience impostor syndrome. Your friends, family, and even coworkers or supervisors may be able to help you recognize your strengths and accomplishments when you may struggle to recall them. In addition, group therapy is a great tool to talk through your issues while being surrounded by others with similar feelings.
7. Accentuate the Positive
Engage in activities that bring you joy and add more self-care such as increasing movement and exercise, whether that’s a fun new dance class, a walk in the park, or resistance training; stimulate your mind whether that’s taking a cooking class, learning a language or maybe reading a book, or kickback and relax whether that’s going to a spa, creating a spa at home, or maybe people watching in the park.
8. Practice Positive Self-talk
Self-talk is something we do everyday. When you hear yourself say, ‘I don’t deserve this’ over and over, it’s likely you will begin to believe it. Practicing positive self talk is saying something along the lines of, ‘I have worked hard to be where I am. I deserve this success.’ Look in a mirror and tell yourself something positive about yourself right now!
9. Create a schedule
Research has also suggested a significant link between procrastination and impostor syndrome (Maftei et al., 2021). Having a weekly or even daily schedule or routine can help bring consistency into your life and help prevent procrastination. It can also allow for much needed self-care for those who usually do not have the time.
10. Understand that perfection doesn’t exist.
Everyone, regardless of their ages, ethnicities, genders, and any other differences, have strengths and opportunities of growth.
Thinking you may need a bit more help?
If you think you may be struggling with impostor syndrome in NYC and you’re looking for help, speaking to a therapist may be beneficial for you. Finding a therapist can be overwhelming, and costly, especially in NYC. If you’re looking for a cost effective therapist, you can either search for one who accepts your insurance or find an outpatient practice that offers lower fees. Here at NYBH we offer reduced rates for intern therapists. Plus, many places offer virtual options in addition to in-person sessions. It’s important you find someone who you feel comfortable with and trust. It is not uncommon to speak with multiple therapists before finding one that works for you.
Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?
Boothby, E. J., & Bohns, V. K. (2020). Why a simple act of kindness is not as simple as it seems: Underestimating the positive impact of our compliments on others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 47(5), 826–840. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167220949003
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. (2019). Prevalence, predictors, and treatment of Impostor Syndrome: A systematic review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-019-05364-1
Feenstra, S., Begeny, C. T., Ryan, M. K., Rink, F. A., Stoker, J. I., & Jordan, J. (2020). Contextualizing the impostor “syndrome.” Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.575024
Kahalon, R., Shnabel, N., & Becker, J. C. (2018). “Don’t bother your pretty little head.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, 42(2), 136–150. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684318758596
Kolligian Jr., J., & Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Perceived fraudulence in young adults: Is there an ‘imposter syndrome’? Journal of Personality Assessment, 56(2), 308–326. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa5602_10
Maftei, A., Dumitriu, A., & Holman, A.-corneliu. (2021). ”they will discover I’m a fraud!” the impostor syndrome among psychology students. Studia Psychologica, 63(4), 337–351. https://doi.org/10.31577/sp.2021.04.831
Matthews, G., & Clance, P. R. (1985). Treatment of the impostor phenomenon in psychotherapy clients. Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 3(1), 71–81. https://doi.org/10.1300/j294v03n01_09
Persky, A. M. (2018). Intellectual self-doubt and how to get out of it. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 82(2), 6990. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe6990
Weiste, E., Lindholm, C., Valkeapää, T., & Stevanovic, M. (2021). Interactional use of compliments in Mental Health Rehabilitation. Journal of Pragmatics, 177, 224–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2021.02.019