What Is Imposter Syndrome? And How To Combat It

What Is Imposter Syndrome? And How To Combat It

When I graduated from my yoga teacher training and first stepped into the studio to teach, I was overcome by this feeling that I should not be there. 

I almost felt that I was on the wrong side of the room. I should be facing the teacher, not the students.

Most likely, you’ve also felt this way in work or life. 

I later learned that this sensation has a name - Imposter Syndrome - and is a real thing experienced by many other people, especially women.

If you’ve ever felt undeserving of your position or like a fraud who is about to be found out, despite having the skills and qualifications for the role, this article is for.

Let’s discuss what imposter syndrome means, why it occurs, and most importantly, how we can move past it when it rears its ugly head.

What Does Imposter Syndrome Mean?

Impostor syndrome is a form of intellectual self-doubt where you doubt your capabilities to do a job or task you are qualified for. It is a false belief that you’re not as capable as others perceive you to be and a constant fear that soon, people will sense this and call you out as a fraud.

It relates to a difficulty in internalizing and accepting your success. For example, someone with imposter syndrome may believe that they have only got where they are today through luck or even a miracle rather than due to their skills. 

Because they feel they are not supposed to have success or power, they live in fear that, at any moment, it will be pulled from under them. 

Is Imposter Syndrome The Same As Low Self-Esteem?

Imposter syndrome and low self-esteem share some similarities, but they are not the same. Low self-esteem means you don’t believe you are good enough to achieve anything. 

However, people suffer from imposter syndrome when they have already achieved something significant. Rather than believing they cannot achieve something, they struggle to realize and accept that they have attained all the knowledge and skills and, thus, are worthy of what they are doing. 

That being said, research suggests people with low self-esteem have a higher risk of experiencing impostor syndrome than those with high self-confidence.

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Interestingly, studies show that Imposter Syndrome is most common in high-achieving women and members of ethnic minority groups. One likely reason for this is the long-running gender and race bias in the workplace.

For years, women and ethnic minorities have been undermined by white men in higher managerial roles. So it’s only natural that most people who reach this level of success and do not fit the stereotype fail to accept and believe in their capabilities. 

It is also believed that people with certain personality traits, like perfectionism, are more likely to experience imposter syndrome. 

Another cause could be if you have climbed the career ladder quickly or “shot to fame.”

How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

So what do you do if you find yourself feeling like an imposter? 

While there is no quick fix to make this sensation disappear overnight, the following strategies can help lessen and resolve the symptoms over time.

1. Acknowledge your feelings

The first step is to acknowledge and accept the way you feel rather than trying to ignore it or push it away. Opening up with a trusted friend or mentor can help you identify your feelings, and mindfulness practices like meditation can guide you to accepting and “sitting with” those emotions.

Also, know that you are not alone. Research has found that a staggering 70% of people have experienced imposter syndrome at least once.

2. Build your self-worth

The next step is to find coping mechanisms that help you silence your inner critic before it leads to self-sabotaging behaviors. 

What I found helpful was reminding myself of my qualifications and achievements. 

Write a list of 10 or more things you have achieved. This can include both work and personal wins, as the more achievements you realize, the more you’ll start believing in your capabilities.

You can also build self-worth by using positive affirmations and visualizing yourself achieving future success. 

3. Challenge your doubts

When you start to feel that you shouldn’t be where you are or that you do not deserve your success, challenge those thoughts. 

Each time you notice negative self-talk arise, ask ‘where is the truth in this?’ 

This will push you to look for proof or evidence to back up your inner critic, which you won’t be able to do. After doing this a few times, you’ll start to call b*llsh*t on your inner critic and develop more belief in yourself. 

Final Thoughts

Imposter Syndrome can feel paralyzing and mess with your emotional and mental well-being. But there is a way out! By acknowledging your feelings, building your self-worth, and challenging your doubts, you can finally feel deserving of the successes you worked so hard for!


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