We’re all faking it. Really. When I got to grad school, I looked around and saw accomplished, eloquent, and well-established men and women. Instead of feeling excited about being able to learn from and get to know these people, I felt flooded with feelings of inadequacy. Common thoughts included “I feel like a fake” and “When are people going to realize I have no idea what I’m doing? Admissions made a mistake by accepting me!”
I was experiencing imposter syndrome. It’s not a diagnosable disorder; instead, it refers to a phenomenon in which people doubt their capabilities and accomplishments with a persistent and pervasive fear of being exposed as an “imposter.” This syndrome is common among a variety of people, especially (but not limited to) college students, recent graduates, and people in high-stakes occupations.
Do You Think You Have Imposter Syndrome?
If you’re not sure if imposter syndrome resonates with you, check out Dr. Aletta’s quiz on her blog post, Who Do You Think You Are? 8 Tips to Beat the Imposter Syndrome, to see if certain scenarios resonate with you.
- Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?
- Sometimes do you shy away from challenges because of nagging self-doubt?
- Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?
- Does making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly make you doubt yourself?
- Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”
- When you do succeed, do you think, “Phew, I fooled ’em this time but I may not be so lucky next time.”
- Do you believe that other people (students, colleagues, competitors) are smarter and more capable than you are?
- Do you live in fear of being found out, discovered, unmasked?
What To Do With Imposter Syndrome?
Although there is a very powerful illusion that those around us are confidently and effortlessly having great success while we’re struggling, it is unlikely that they feel the way we perceive them. In a recent interview, even Michelle Obama disclosed that she struggles with imposter syndrome. Many people experience imposter syndrome, although knowing this doesn’t necessarily prevent us from feeling like we’re going through it alone. So, how do we manage it?
5 Tips For Managing Imposter Syndrome
1. Accept responsibility. You didn’t get to where you are based on complete luck—you did something to get here! Sometimes we experience imposter syndrome partly as a result of minimizing the efforts we put in. We credit luck, other people, or circumstances for the opportunity that we have instead of paying attention to the things we did something to actually deserve our position. Life isn’t fair, for sure, but you took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to you that allowed you to get to this place!
2. Consider talking about it. We often feel very alone in this feeling of imposter syndrome. Sometimes, disclosing how we feel to a colleague, friend, or even boss can be validating and normalizing. It might not make the feelings go away, but it might make you feel less alone.
3. Defuse from the thought that you’re a failure. We tend to believe what we think, which can be dangerous! Just because you think, “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “I don’t deserve to be here,” doesn’t mean those thoughts are true. We all feel stupid and full of doubt sometimes; realizing that just because it feels true doesn’t mean it is true can be helpful.
4. Where’s the evidence? Why do you feel inadequate and like an imposter? You probably can come up with a list, but take a look to see what is fact and what is a thought or feeling. Then, take a look at the “other side” and pay attention to the evidence against the idea that you’re an imposter. You don’t have to ignore the negative, but pay attention to the positives, too! This can help you rewrite your narrative. After making a mistake, it might help to say “I’m human and made a mistake; I’m good at what I do overall” instead of “Just wait until they find out I’m completely faking it!” Being wrong doesn’t make you an imposter or a fake.
And Finally . . .
5. Reward yourself! When we feel inadequate, it’s easy to punish ourselves when we make mistakes. It’s also sometimes difficult to notice when we’re successful. It might be worthwhile to try to look at ourselves objectively and give ourselves a pat on the back when we do well. This could be a mental “good job” or external rewards like Starbucks, especially during these cold winter months!
If you think that you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome Tacianna Indoviana, PhD can help.
Tacianna Indovina, PhD
Dr. Tacianna Indovina knew that she wanted to be a therapist since she was in high school. From that time, her love and enthusiasm for the healing power of psychotherapy hasn’t wavered. It’s a good thing for our community that Tacianna is as enthusiastic as ever for helping people when they feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and alone.
Through her authenticity, gentle directness, and sense of humor, Tacianna works with you to identify patterns of thinking and behaving that may be making it difficult for you to meet your goals. Tacianna’s easy rapport encourages, validates, challenges, and empowers!
With her down-to-earth and relatable style, Tacianna provides counseling for late adolescents, adults, and couples, to provide support to recover from interpersonal loss and trauma, overcome mood struggles, cope with anxiety, and adjust positively to life transitions. Tacianna adapts her approach to what you want and need, and aims to help you build healthier relationships with yourself and others.
Contact Dr. Tacianna to schedule your free initial consultation today!
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