Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong, even when you’ve earned that spot at school or worked your way up the ladder at work? This might be imposter syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome?

Impostor syndrome refers to the phenomenon when an individual cannot internalize their accomplishments, rather ascribing external factors for their successes in life. When someone experiences imposter syndrome, they feel like they do not deserve the praise they receive and are afraid they’ll be exposed as a “fraud.”

Those with imposter syndrome are psychologically uncomfortable with acknowledging their role in their own success, and their negative thoughts (often referred to as “cognitive distortions”) are based on anxiety, rather than objective facts. Although it was initially believed that imposter syndrome predominantly affected women, subsequent gender-related data on the subject has revealed this isn’t the case — many people of all backgrounds and identities can sometimes feel out-of-place amongst their achievements.

An adult with short brown hair and light skin, wearing a grey cardigan looking off to the side

Prevalence of imposter syndrome

While feelings of unworthiness can happen to anyone, anywhere, impostor syndrome is especially prevalent in the workplace. People feel like they’ll soon get in trouble for being in a role, even when they rightfully earned that position through a rigorous interview or competitive application process. They might even think, “I don’t deserve this good fortune! My boss must have made a mistake, hiring me.”

Imposter syndrome isn’t limited to professional life and can have detrimental effects on other parts of life This includes feeling inadequate in a relationship or as a partner, which could become a prolonged conflict in the relationship or relationship issues. Imposter syndrome might also look like the incapacity to accept personal praise or going overboard on challenging, often ambitious, goals, which can ultimately lead to burnout.

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Symptoms of impostor syndrome

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

In professional settings, typical examples include:

How to overcome imposter syndrome

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

Many therapists specialize in working with individuals who suffer from the impacts of imposter syndrome. A therapist can help you better understand your imposter syndrome-tendencies. Together, you’ll come up with ways to inhibit these tendencies so that you feel confident, empowered, and in-control of your emotions when it comes to acknowledging your accomplishments. Finding the right therapist begins with checking out multiple therapist profiles, which is easy to do on Zencare. Zencare includes personalized introductory videos for each therapist so you can get a feel for their approach and style. Once you find a therapist that matches your needs, schedule a consultation call with them through their Zencare profile — then you’re at the starting line for conquering your imposter syndrome!