Imposter Syndrome: What It is and How to Overcome It

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Imposter Syndrome: What It is and How to Overcome It

A term that has been appearing in recent conversations about self-esteem and mental wellbeing is imposter syndrome. If you haven’t heard the phrase before, its meaning is probably very close to what you’re imagining. Imposter syndrome is the name of a phenomenon in which a person feels as though they are not worthy of the success they’ve had. In other words, someone with imposter syndrome feels as though they themselves are an “imposter” in their own life, someone who is posing as a person they are not.

Imposter syndrome is relatively common, with an estimated 70% of people admitting that they identify as having signs of the condition at one point in their lives. In recent years, even celebrities like Maya Angelou and Michelle Obama, who would be deemed incredibly successful by most people’s standards, have publicly stated they are affected by the syndrome.

Some common elements of the syndrome include:

  • Feeling as though one day you will be “exposed” for the “fraud” that you are. For example, someone who has earned their PhD and started a highly respected career may fear their colleagues will one day realize they are not “supposed” to be in such a high-level position.
  • Feeling as though you have achieved your success by mistake. You may feel that you only earn your current salary or hold your current position due to some error along the way. You may think thoughts such as “If only my boss had noticed that one time I didn’t perform that task” or “I only got this job because the hiring team didn’t pay close enough attention.”

Imposter syndrome can develop from existing issues like low self-esteem and struggling to feel worthy as a person. Addressing these existing issues can help to mitigate the effects of imposter syndrome. Reflect on your current feelings about yourself.

Do you feel that you are deserving of love, success, and rewards? What are some of the reasons you may not feel as though you are deserving? Perhaps a family member or ex-partner made comments to you in the past that affected you so much that those feelings remain with you. Did you encounter any barriers performing well in school or on the job that left an imprint in your mind?

Helping to identify these root causes can make healing from imposter syndrome easier. Practice using positive statements about yourself. For example, you can make a list of affirmations such as, “I deserve to have this job,” or “I deserve to have a loving and respectful relationship.” Try voicing these statements out loud. Using positive language towards ourselves can often feel uncomfortable at first.

One tip to make using healthy language towards ourselves easier is to consider whether you would talk to a friend the way you would talk to yourself. Would you ever tell a friend that she doesn’t deserve a promotion, or that she doesn’t deserve the great partner she has found?

While changing negative self-talk habits can be difficult, over time, learning to feel worthy of your success can get easier.

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