Imposter Syndrome

What is imposter syndrome?

Impostor syndrome refers to the phenomenon when an individual internalizes their accomplishments, due to fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

Those with imposter syndrome are psychologically uncomfortable with acknowledging their role in their own success, but their negative thoughts (often referred to as “cognitive distortions”) are based on anxiety, rather than objective facts.

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Although it was initially believed that imposter syndrome exclusively affected women, subsequent gender-related data on the subject has revealed this isn’t the case.

When does imposter syndrome occur?

While feelings of unworthiness can happen to anyone, anywhere, impostor syndrome is especially prevalent in the workplace. Typical examples include taking on extra work to make sure you’re “doing it all”; shrugging off accolades; and not applying to job postings unless you meet every single requirement.

Imposter syndrome isn’t limited to professional life, though; it can impact personal life as well. Some instances where it may occur in your personal life include feeling inadequate in a relationship or as a partner, incapacity to accept personal praise, and going overboard on challenging, often ambitious, goals.

What are some symptoms of impostor syndrome?

Symptoms of impostor syndrome can look different for different people, though there are some consistent and tell-tale red flags.

Symptoms might include:

  • Extreme lack of self confidence

  • Feelings of inadequacy

  • Constant comparison to other people

  • Anxiety

  • Self doubt

  • Distrust in one’s own intuition and capabilities

  • Negative self-talk

  • Dwelling on the past

  • Irrational fears of the future

How can you overcome imposter syndrome?  

Here are some small steps you can take to identify and overcome your unique imposter syndrome patterns:

  • Remember that success is subjective

  • Set boundaries around systems or individuals who detract from your personal wellness and growth 

  • Take ownership of objective successes

  • Perform consistent self-care check ins

  • Speak with a therapist

Find therapists who specialize in self-esteem issues near you

Find therapists who self-esteem issues, including imposter syndrome, on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.