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Breaking Free from Imposter Syndrome: Tips and Strategies for Overcoming Self-Doubt

Part 1 – What is Imposter Syndrome (Aka Imposter Phenomena)

Impostor syndrome, Aka imposter phenomena, is a psychological phenomenon in which individuals experience persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a “fraud” or “impostor” in their chosen profession or field, despite having achieved high levels of success. This phenomenon is particularly common among high-achieving individuals, including executives, and has been found to be more prevalent among women and minorities. It is essential to recognize that impostor syndrome is a normal and shared experience and does not necessarily reflect one’s actual abilities or achievements.

The term “impostor syndrome” was first coined by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978, but the concept has been recognized for centuries. Impostor syndrome is often characterized by a range of negative thought patterns and behaviors, including:

  • A tendency to attribute success to external factors rather than one’s own abilities or efforts 
  • A tendency to attribute success to external factors, rather than one’s own abilities or efforts Fear of failure and a tendency to avoid taking risks
  • A tendency to downplay or discount one’s achievements
  • A tendency to compare oneself to others and a belief that others are more competent or successful

Imposter syndrome, although not officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is a common experience among successful individuals. It is characterized by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, despite evidence of success. Those struggling with imposter syndrome may feel they are frauds or that their accomplishments are not truly their own. These thoughts and feelings can lead to difficulty in accepting praise and a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. While imposter syndrome is not a diagnosable mental health condition, it can still significantly impact an individual’s well-being.

Potential causes of impostor syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a complex phenomenon that can have various causes. Some common factors that may contribute to imposter syndrome include perfectionism, fear of failure, low self-esteem, and internalized stereotypes. In this section, we will delve deeper into these potential causes of imposter syndrome and explore how they can impact our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. By understanding the root causes of imposter syndrome, we can take steps towards addressing and overcoming it.

  • Perfectionism: Individuals with impostor syndrome often set unrealistic standards for themselves and feel a constant pressure to perform at their best. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy when they are unable to meet these standards. 
  • Fear of failure: The fear of not living up to expectations or failing can lead to self-doubt and a belief that one’s accomplishments are due to luck or deceit, rather than skill or effort. 
  • Low self-esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem may have difficulty recognizing and accepting their own accomplishments and talents, leading to feelings of imposter syndrome. 
  • Internalized stereotypes: Internalizing societal stereotypes about certain groups (e.g. women in STEM fields) can lead to self-doubt and the belief that one does not belong in a certain field or role.
  • Comparison to others: High-achieving individuals may compare themselves to others in their field and feel they are not as competent or successful as their peers.
  • Lack of external validation: Some individuals may not receive enough external validation or recognition for their achievements, leading to self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. This can be particularly true for individuals who are not comfortable seeking recognition or who may feel that their contributions are not valued or recognized.

Negative effects of Impostor syndrome

Imposter syndrome can have a number of detrimental effects on individuals. One of the most significant impacts of imposter syndrome is a decrease in confidence and self-esteem. Individuals may doubt their abilities and feel like a fraud, which can lead to a lack of self-assurance in their personal and professional lives. Additionally, imposter syndrome can also lead to increased stress and anxiety as individuals may constantly fear being exposed as a fraud or not living up to expectations. Furthermore, imposter syndrome can also affect personal relationships as individuals may have difficulty forming and maintaining connections due to feelings of inadequacy. Finally, imposter syndrome can also limit individuals from taking on new challenges or opportunities as they may avoid them out of fear of failure or being exposed as a fraud.

Impostor syndrome is a common and often unrecognized phenomenon that can have negative consequences for individuals and organizations. By recognizing and addressing impostor syndrome, individuals and executives can build confidence, reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance their overall well-being and success. It is important to recognize that impostor syndrome is a normal and common experience, and that it is possible to overcome it with the right strategies and support.

Are you wondering “what are some ways I can cope with imposter syndrome?” If so, click CONTINUE to read Part 2: Ways To Cope With Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: How Dr. Raeburn Can Help

Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy or fraudulence that can hold people back from achieving their full potential. If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, you’re not alone, and help is available. Dr. Raeburn is a skilled psychologist who can help you understand and overcome your feelings of imposter syndrome. Through therapy and practical strategies, Dr. Raeburn can help you build confidence in your abilities and achieve your goals.


Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back any longer. Contact Dr. Smith today to schedule an appointment and start on the path to feeling more confident and successful.


Schedule a telehealth appointment by clicking here. Or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out through our contact page.


*All the information published in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Any information provided here is offered in generic form. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.


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