Many people secretly deal with imposter syndrome. It is especially common among high-achievers. Up to 82% of the population experience the feelings associated with imposter syndrome. It is pervasive across social, racial, and gender groups but is much more common in women. Men tend to experience more anxiety but have less awareness of what is occurring. This can be a very isolating and discouraging experience which should be normalized and talked about more openly. Below is an inspiring Ted Talk I came across about changing your mentality to challenge those feelings and the beliefs that come with them. Let’s take a closer look at the term and its associated feelings, then I want to highlight some strategies for dealing with the experience.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

​If unaddressed over time, imposter syndrome can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression. Despite its clinical sound, imposter syndrome isn’t a diagnosable disorder. Sadly, it has historically been used to pathologize normal feelings of anxiety and uncertainty many women experience in the workplace. It has been found that many of those experiences actually stem from microaggressions, stereotyping, and discrimination. As such, it is good for us carve out space to look at and acknowledge the role biased and oppressive systems perpetuate these feelings. By including systemic factors into the equation, you can learn to deal with imposter syndrome more effectively. To challenge the implications and helpfulness of the term, “imposter syndrome,” the term imposter phenomenon was created.

How Our Environment Contributes to Imposter Phenomenon

A new idea is being proposed: the environment where people work needs to make changes so imposter phenomenon doesn’t have a place to flourish and grow.  Systems need to be held accountable for the part they play in perpetuating the problem. The main point, here: we should increase our awareness of how our environment greatly impacts our mental state and how people come to view themselves in the workplace. Many of us may not be in charge of our work culture but can influence it. By encouraging a work culture of honesty and transparency around these feelings, their effects can be minimized. Acknowledging bias in the workplace and being intentional to identify growth areas is an important factor in combating the effects of imposter phenomenon. Admittedly, this is not easy to do, but empathy, support, and not minimizing the problem are key. Holding our companies and ourselves accountable for these changes is also crucial and something to aspire to.

Take Steps to Combat Imposter Phenomenon

1. Speak Out

There is no magic cure to get rid of the feeling of being an imposter, but you can better learn to manage it with time. Andrea Salazar-Nuñez, a licensed psychologist with a heavy emphasis on the importance of a multicultural/multiracial worldview lens, talks about ways in which all of us can increase our resiliency to these feelings. She also acknowledges the importance of demanding greater equity in the settings people find themselves in. Using our voices to speak up is one of the most impactful things that can be done to fight the feeling of being an imposter. Naming your experience is the first thing you can do to combat the often overwhelming negative impact it can have.

2. Know Your Worth

Practice speaking to yourself with kindness; identifying your specific strengths and what you have to offer goes a long way toward helping to fight the negative effects of imposter phenomenon. Creating a list of the positive and unique qualities you possess should serve you well in distinguishing between real growth areas and imagined, or to identify mistreatment due to bias in your environment.  

3. Seek Help

​It can be extremely difficult to ask for help, but vulnerability sheds light on the struggles all of us face. This makes it easier for others to ask for help as well. When this issue is viewed as a normal experience, more people can find a way to get the support needed around an ongoing struggle.    

4. Increase Self-Care

Strive to be kinder to yourself. Self-care should be a regular practice for everyone at all stages of life. Taking care of the self on a daily basis, in big and small ways, is a way of honoring your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being. Imposter phenomenon may take a huge toll on one’s mental state and therefore negatively impact the other parts of the self. Increasing awareness of the times when extra care and attention should be paid to nurturing the self is key to having resilience against imposter phenomenon. Let us find ways to encourage others, nurture ourselves, and hold our places of work accountable for making the changes which are in the best interest of all. 

Start Therapy to Reach Your Full Potential

Are you experiencing overwhelming imposter phenomenon that is holding you back from reaching your full potential? Are you experiencing microaggressions, bias, and systemic oppression that cause you to doubt your abilities, worth, and deservedness? Work with one of our therapists who is multiculturally-aware and  and uses anti-oppression approaches to therapy can help you overcome feelings of anxiety and thoughts of self-doubt. Combating imposter phenomenon is a speciality of our practice. Begin therapy today by scheduling a free 15-minute phone consultation.