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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Written by Trishna Patnaik | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sunil Shroff, MBBS, MS, FRCS (UK), D. Urol (Lond) on Sep 01, 2020
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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Some common thoughts and feelings associated with imposter syndrome include:

"I must not fail"

There can be a huge internal pressure not to fail in order to avoid being 'found out.' Paradoxically, success also becomes an issue as it brings the added pressure of responsibility and visibility. This leads to an inability to the enjoy success.

"I feel like a fake."

Imposters believe they do not deserve success or professional accolades and feel that somehow others have been deceived into thinking otherwise. This goes hand in hand with a fear of being 'found out', discovered, or 'unmasked'. They believe they give the impression that they are more competent than they are and have deep feelings that they lack knowledge or expertise. Often they believe they don't deserve a position or a promotion and are anxious that "somebody made a mistake".

"It's all down to luck."

The tendency to attribute success to luck or to other external reasons and not their abilities is a clear indicator of imposter syndrome. They may typically say or think: "I just got lucky" or "It was a fluke". Often this masks the fear that they will not be able to succeed the next time.

"Success is no big deal."


The tendency to downplay success and discount it is marked in those with imposter syndrome. They might attribute their success to it being an easy task or having support and often have a hard time accepting compliments. Again, they think their success is down to luck, good timing, or having fooled others.

Discover How to Ditch Your Dread of 'Discovery'& Defeat Imposter Syndrome

So what can you do to mitigate the negative effects of Imposter syndrome? Here are more than 15 ways to overcome the syndrome.

Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
  • Awareness of the condition: Recognise imposter feelings when they emerge. Awareness is the first key step to change, so ensure you track these thoughts: what they are and when they emerge.
  • Take baby steps: Don't focus on doing things perfectly, but rather, do things reasonably well and reward yourself for taking action. For example, in a group conversation, offer an opinion or share a story about yourself.
  • Question your thoughts: As you start to assess your abilities and take baby steps, question whether your thoughts are rational. Does it make sense that you are a fraud, given everything that you know?
  • Rewrite your mental programs: Instead of telling yourself, they are going to find you out or that you don't deserve success, remind yourself that it's normal not to know everything and that you will find out more as you progress.
  • Stop comparing with others: Every time you compare yourself to others in a social situation, you will find some fault with yourself that fuels the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging. Instead, during conversations, focus on listening to what the other person is saying. Be genuinely interested in learning more.
  • Talk about your feelings: There may be others who feel like imposters too -it's better to have an open dialogue rather than harbour negative thoughts alone.
  • Consider the context: Most people will have experience moments or occasions where they don't feel 100% confident. There may be times when you feel out of your depth and self-doubt can be a normal reaction. If you catch yourself thinking that you are useless, reframe it: "the fact that I feel useless right now does not mean that I really am."
  • Reframe failure as a learning opportunity: Find out the lessons and use them constructively in future. This is a critical lesson for everyone.
  • Be kind to yourself: Remember that you are entitled to make small mistakes occasionally and forgive yourself. Don't forget to reward yourself for getting the big things right.
Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
  • Seek support: Everyone needs help: recognise that you can seek assistance and that you don't have to do everything alone. This will give you a good reality check and help you talk things through.
  • Focus on others: While this might feel counterintuitive, try to help others in the same situation as you. If you see someone who seems awkward or alone, ask that person a question to bring them into the group. As you practice your skills, you will build confidence in your own abilities.
  • Use social media moderately: We know that the overuse of social media may be related to feelings of inferiority. If you try to portray an image on social media that doesn't match your real you it will only worsen that feelings of being a fraud.
  • Assess your abilities: If you have long-held beliefs about your incompetence in social and performance situations, make a realistic assessment of your abilities. Write down your accomplishments and what you are good at, and compare that with your self-assessment.
  • Visualize your success: Keep an eye on the outcome – completing the task or making that important presentation, will keep you focused and calm.
  • Stop fighting your feelings: Don't fight the feelings of not belonging. Instead, try to lean into them and accept them. It's only when you acknowledge them that you can start to unravel those core beliefs that are holding you back.
  • Refuse to let it hold you back: No matter how much you feel like you don't belong, don't let that stop you from pursuing your goals. Keep going and refuse to be stopped.

Maya Angelou had written 11 books but each time she thought 'Uh-oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.'- so you are not alone to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Rewire and learn how to defeat it and you will need to fight your own battle.

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