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Recognizing And Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

“Soon everyone is going to discover that I don’t belong here.” If you have ever had thoughts like this, you may have experienced imposter syndrome, and you are not alone. It is estimated that over 70% of people have had this experience at some point in their lives, and many high achievers suffer from it frequently.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

While it is not a psychological diagnosis, imposter syndrome refers to the experience of feeling like a fraud in spite of evidence of one’s accomplishments. Victims often live in fear that others will discover “the truth” about their unworthiness. Someone who experiences imposter syndrome may find themselves in a cycle of self-doubt, over-functioning to compensate for feelings of inadequacy, and downplaying one’s accomplishments. Damage to one’s personal and professional life can include anxiety, depression, missed opportunities, unfulfilled ambitions, overwork, and relationship struggles.

Origins of Imposter Syndrome

The origins of imposter syndrome in individuals may differ, but roots can often be traced back to the family of origin. Growing up in a family where achievement is valued above all else and where there is high conflict and low support, this problem can often arise.  It can also come from homes where parents are highly controlling or overprotective. In households where parents frequently flip between lavishing praise and piling on criticism, or where there is an extremely high-achieving sibling, this problem can often arise.

A by-product of Perfectionism

The personality trait of perfectionism can also make one more susceptible to imposter syndrome, as can social anxiety. Systemic issues such as being different from the majority of those who surround you in your workplace or social group, either by race or gender, can also fuel feelings of being a fraud. When imposter syndrome was first studied, the subjects were women in leadership positions, who at the time were few and therefore “different” from their work peers.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

The first step toward overcoming imposter syndrome is examining where in your experiences or belief system it might have originated. Some questions to ask yourself might include:

  • Growing up, did you feel loved and valued?

  • What do you believe makes you loveable and worthy as a person?

  • Do you think you need to do everything perfectly or be the best at something, to earn others’ approval?

Naming and confronting the deeply ingrained beliefs that have led to imposter syndrome begins to take away their power, and then questioning and countering them with evidence can help form a healthier, more realistic, and more accepting concept of self.

Other Strategies for Managing Imposter Syndrome

  • Give yourself credit for your accomplishments as well as your efforts: It may feel unnatural at first because you are accustomed to chalking up your successes to luck or other external factors, but practice praising yourself through self-talk or journaling. Focus not just on the result, but also the effort itself.

  • Set limits and boundaries to fight perfectionism: If you overwork as a way to compensate for feelings of incompetence, have limits to how much time you devote to a project or task, set realistic goals, and find a way to let go of the obsession with perfecting every detail. This will help break the loop of overwork and anxiety in which those with imposter syndrome often find themselves stuck.

  • Find your definition of success: One that is based on your values rather than approval or validation from others.

  • Avoid comparisons: Comparing yourself to others in social or professional situations can fuel feelings of inadequacy, so try to view people as different, complex individuals rather than compare their accomplishments or qualities to your own. This may mean limiting your social media usage as well because social media breeds comparisons between one’s reality and other people’s highly curated images. This is a sure recipe for feelings of inferiority in anyone, and all the more so for those who suffer from imposter syndrome.

Talking to someone you trust can help you see yourself and your accomplishments more clearly. It can also help you figure out where your imposter syndrome originated from, and challenge the negative consequences that come with it. At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, we have a team of licensed professionals with day, evening, and weekend hours available to help you deal with this problem. Hellenic Therapy Center is highly regarded for its professional therapy services, catering to a wide array of needs. Our services encompass couples therapy, marriage counseling, support for those dealing with anxiety, panic, and depression, and many more. Through our holistic approach and compassionate guidance, we empower clients on their journey towards recovery.

For more information about our treatment for imposter syndrome, do not hesitate to fill out our contact form, and we will get in touch with you shortly.


Langford, J, & Clance PR. (1993). The imposter phenomenon: Recent research findings regarding dynamics, personality and family patterns and their implications for treatment. Psychother Theory Res Pract Train. 30(3):495-501. doi:10.1037/0033-3204.30.3.495

Li, S, Hughes, JL, & Myat, Thu S. (2014) The links between parenting styles and imposter phenomenon. Psi Chi J. 19(2):50-57. doi:10.24839/2164-8204.JN19.2.50.

Weir K. (2013).  Feel like a fraud? American Psychological Association.


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