Overcoming Imposter Syndrome & Embracing Successes
Everyone has experienced varying levels of self-doubt at one point or another, whether at a job, in academics, during athletics, or elsewhere. You may think, “I am in over my head,” and feeling nervous about performance is a natural part of being human—because doing well is typically desired.
However, if you find yourself struggling with increasing self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy despite having success, then you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is defined as the persistent disbelief that one’s success is deserved as the result of knowledge, qualification, and hard work.
Internally, whether they reveal it or not, those experiencing Imposter Syndrome feel like they are a fraud in some way, even if they have worked hard to get where they are. Instead, they attribute their achievements to things like luck or timing.
Imposter Syndrome is common, and about 70% of adults experience it at some point in their lifetime. However, it is most prevalent among physicians and recent graduates in the medical field.
Are You Experiencing Imposter Syndrome?
How do you know if you are truly experiencing imposter syndrome? After all, it is normal to experience a wave of self-doubt here and there—especially in important and demanding industries like healthcare.
A key difference is a fear of being “found out” or exposed “as a fraud.” With Imposter Syndrome, you have a sincere belief that you are not worthy of your role or recognition and likely spend a lot of time worrying that those around you will find out, write you off, or even out you to the world.
As a result, perceived fraudulence includes feelings of impending doom, like humiliation and isolation.
In addition to this fear, you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome if you:
- are experiencing increased self-doubt, even in areas where you do well.
- are consistently nervous, restless, or experiencing symptoms linked to anxiety or depression.
- find yourself engaging in varying levels of negative self-talk, self-deprecation, or giving into cognitive distortions.
- have a difficult time assessing your own skills or expertise, including a tendency to downplay your value.
- attempt to sabotage your opportunities and success due to your fear of not being good enough.
- have a habit of setting unattainable goals and then allowing nearly inevitable failures to fuel your self-doubt.
It is not currently recognized as a diagnosable condition, but it is linked with anxiety, depression, and symptoms of both.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
When left unaddressed, Imposter Syndrome can catch up to you and negatively impact your future.
In a workplace setting, you may avoid opportunities for growth that further your career due to false beliefs that your inadequacy will damage the quality and harm the entire team. When you do take on projects, you likely set extremely high expectations for yourself, resulting in you spending too much time on them—or procrastinating altogether due to fear of failure.
Trying to navigate these complex feelings and fears is exhausting, and whether you realize it or not, you’re well on your way to burnout at work and worsened brain health in all aspects of your life.
It’s Time to Challenge Your Beliefs
You may think that your Imposter Syndrome is just how life is, especially if you have been coping with it for a long time. But the truth is: it shouldn’t be—and doesn’t have to be.
But you can’t overcome Imposter Syndrome if you aren’t honest about it. Tell your mentor, loved one, or friend about how you’ve been feeling. Building and strengthening your relationships is a great way to establish safe, trusted outlets that work both ways. You know what they say: there’s strength in numbers. Don’t feel like you must do everything on your own.
Because Imposter Syndrome is deeply rooted in your beliefs about yourself, it is crucial to reframe your negative beliefs and build confidence in yourself. When your feelings of self-doubt creep in, challenge them. Use evidence and logic to poke holes in the stories you tell yourself.
In therapy, this approach is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. This can be challenging to do on your own. Seeking help from a brain health professional can be incredibly helpful when working to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Even though it’s not a diagnosis, CBT methods can still work.
Replace Negative Beliefs with Positive Ones
As you work on disproving your negative beliefs, start introducing positive ones. This can be done by identifying and reciting daily affirmations. For those with Imposter Syndrome and negative self-beliefs, this is going to feel very awkward at first. That’s okay, embrace it.
Over time these affirmations can shift your subconscious thoughts about yourself. Some experts recommend putting up reminders for yourself in places you see every day. Try putting your affirmations on sticky notes at your desk, on your mirror, in your car, or even on your phone.
Most importantly, remind yourself that asking for help is a sign of strength and the key to becoming the happiest, healthiest version of yourself. For other brain health resources, visit our website.