Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: 7 Ways to Defeat the Feeling

Amber Murphy
Amber Murphy

If you feel inadequate and continuously doubt yourself, you are not alone. Many individuals experience the phenomenon known as imposter syndrome. Psychologists initially identified this term in the late 70s based on disregarding, ignoring, or minimizing their capabilities.

A majority of people will deal with the fear of being exposed as fakes at some point in their lives, regardless of how accomplished they are. Individuals who believe they are imposters find it challenging to own and internalize their achievements. They usually attribute them to things such as associating with certain people, timing, and good luck.

Feelings of being an imposter tend to be prevalent among creative professionals in music, art, and writing. Students are also susceptible because they are also judged based on how well they performed the last time. For example, if you are a musician, you frequently have to prove how good you are and outdo yourself repeatedly.

Self-doubt may also be common among groups of people who are stereotyped when it comes to skills. These include women and individuals who grew up under challenging circumstances. However, it can affect everyone, no matter their level of expertise, knowledge, professional background, and social status.

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The internal feeling of thinking that you are not as capable as other people believe you can be applied to success and intellect and socialization and perfectionism. Basically, the imposter phenomenon is in the context of feeling like a fraud and thinking that your phoniness will be discovered at any moment. You feel you shouldn’t be where you are, and the only reason you made it is through sheer luck.

Symptoms of imposter syndrome

Woman looking at herself in the mirror

Imposter syndrome is characterized by severe self-doubt and inadequacy that may leave individuals fearing that they will eventually be exposed as fakes. Although not officially classified as a mental disorder, this state of mind can have adverse effects on people’s work and careers if allowed to persist. It affects a wide range of people, regardless of their accomplishments. Many successful entrepreneurs and celebrities have shared their experiences on public platforms.

Dynamics within the family from an early age and societal stereotypes later on in life have been cited as contributing factors to the phenomenon. Even with remarkable educational and professional achievements, many women contend that they are not really smart, and anyone who thinks they are has been tricked.

In regards to the link between men and the syndrome, research shows that it happens at lower intensity and regularity levels. However, ongoing studies reveal that men who work under the pressure of society’s demands may experience it more due to the expectations placed on them.

Several symptoms look out for, including low self-esteem, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and doubting your accomplishments. It is not unusual for people who experience the syndrome to say how fake they feel doing a specific job or not deserving of a position.

  • Setting extreme goals and feeling disappointed when you don’t deliver
  • Self-doubt
  • Self-sabotage
  • Overachieving
  • Fearing that you will not meet expectations
  • Criticizing your performance
  • Crediting external factors for your success
  • Being unable to evaluate your skills and competence

Reasons why you might have imposter syndrome

Various factors can lead to the development of the imposter phenomenon. For instance, you may have been brought up in a family that prioritized success or exposed to extreme levels of criticism and praise as you grew up. It is also common for people to feel like they are incapable or do not belong in a particular place when taking on a new responsibility, such as a promotion.

Internalizing the idea that you must achieve for you to be accepted can lead to a vicious cycle that stems from childhood memories or personality traits such as anxiety.

Diagnosing imposter syndrome

Although imposter syndrome can motivate some people to achieve more in their lives, this is usually outweighed by ongoing frustration. You may work much harder than you need to or plan excessively to ensure that nobody discovers you’re a phony.

This leads to an endless cycle of thinking that you achieve certain things because you were lucky or in the right place at the right time. The challenging aspect of this situation is that performing well does not change how you feel. Even when you excel during a presentation or successfully host an event, you keep questioning your worth. The more you attain, the more you feel like a con.

If you suspect that you have the syndrome, consider asking yourself several questions based on the following:

  • Minimizing your expertise, including within areas where you are actually more competent than others
  • Feeling like you will eventually be found out as a fraud
  • Being extremely sensitive to all forms of criticism
  • Attributing your accomplishments to factors such as luck
  • Stressing over minor errors when you work

When your thoughts are dominated by feelings of being an imposter or fraud, it is essential to identify practical ways to overcome them. The self-sabotage, self-doubt, and negativity that usually characterize the syndrome can adversely affect different aspects of your life.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

Woman looking confidently into the mirror

Overcoming imposter syndrome involves facing the beliefs that are deeply entrenched within you. This may be challenging, primarily if you have never acknowledged them. Consider whether you value yourself and why you feel the need to be perfect for gaining acceptance from other people.

While this syndrome can motivate you to do more, it can also be harmful, resulting in burnout, anxiety, and general discontent. When any possible benefits are outweighed by the risks, there are some methods you can use to effectively move past feelings of not being good enough.

Change your mindset

You have to stop thinking like an imposter if you want to stop feeling fraudulent. This consists of changing the way you perceive fear, failure, and ability. If you encounter an opportunity that you think is out of your reach, rather than telling yourself you have no idea what is going on, take it as a chance to learn.

Recognize the causes

Think about why you actually feel inadequate. The imposter syndrome phenomenon is often described in a personal context without considering how experiences during childhood or at the workplace can affect a person’s beliefs. You need to figure out how you feel about yourself and your skills to determine whether they are rooted in inner principles or other sources.

Focus on thoughts that inspire, guide, and preserve you instead of those that hold you back and discourage you. It can be easier to know your value and become more confident when recognizing the role that other people’s outlook plays in your life.

Understand that you are not unusual

People usually think that lack of confidence is the only proof they need to establish their imposter status. However, struggling to convince yourself that you are worthy of a specific job or accomplishment is not abnormal. It is natural for many individuals to feel unsure but instead of thinking you do not belong somewhere, accept that you face a new challenge that requires hard work.

Avoid comparisons

With each precious moment you waste on comparing yourself to someone else, you will probably find a reason to diminish anything you have achieved and fuel thoughts of not belonging or being inadequate. Stop comparing yourself to others. During interactions, it is a good idea to pay attention to what people are saying and learn from them rather than focus on whether they are better than you.

Talk about your feelings

Therapy is among the recommended approaches to overcoming the symptoms. It is useful for finding out where the beliefs you have about yourself come from. Share your thoughts with other people regarding how you feel. Unreasonable anxieties usually become worse when they are disguised and not discussed.

Use social media sparingly

Excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and imposter syndrome. Attempting to create perceptions of who you are that do not match your reality can make you feel faker than you already do. Social media is an excellent tool for communication, networking, and gathering information. However, using it to portray yourself unrealistically or exaggeratedly can work against you. Try a social media detox if you feel like your social media use and consumption is harming you.

Take your time

Instead of doing everything correctly, take a step back, and do things at your pace. Reward yourself along the way and appreciate every moment you take an active step towards your goals. For instance, contributing an idea for a project means that you are getting involved in the process.


Imposter syndrome is discussed among people ranging from politicians to Hollywood celebrities. It refers to the psychological experience of feeling successful because of luck and not due to your qualifications or talent. Anyone can be affected by it, whether you are a business executive, actor, student, man, or woman.

Many people deal with doubt throughout their lives. The key is to prevent self-doubt from taking over your existence. Believe that you deserve your achievements. Equipping yourself with the tools you need to combat negative thoughts and sabotaging influences is an essential step towards a fulfilling life.

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