confidence,Counselling,Mental Health,Psychotherapy,self esteem,Therapy And Counselling

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is about feeling inadequate and a fraud. It creates thoughts that sound like “one day soon, they’ll realise I’m a phony,” or “who was I to think I could this, it was a stupid idea.”

With imposter syndrome, you don’t feel confident or particularly competent. Feelings of success and achievement are hard to come by because of a sense of waiting for your perceived inadequacy to come to light.

It’s important to note that knowing we aren’t and can’t be good at everything is totally healthy. Questioning ourselves with caution and modesty is valid. For example, “I’m not sure I can climb this mountain, but I’ll try.”


Imposter syndrome causes you to doubt your skills and your accomplishments, even based on your history and previous achievements. For example, “I am going to fail this exam,” even though you know you passed the last one. When others try to reassure you or offer praise, very often you doubt their regard of you and dismiss them.

Imposter syndrome in its mildest form appears in many of us at various times. It can come from many sources, such as,

Over critical parents: Feeling a huge sense of pride, a child says, “I got 9 out of 10 on my test today.”  And the parent/s respond with “why didn’t you get 10 out of 10?”

Social pressures: Where approval or being of value comes from achievement. “I got a promotion at work, they finally recognised how hard I’ve worked.” Met with a response like “I’ve had 2 promotions in the last year.”

A sense of belonging: this is around a fear of being cast out or excluded. Any experience that made you feel different; language, ethnicity, culture, gender, socioeconomic status can add to imposter syndrome and a sense of “not being good enough”.

For example, I was born with Spina Bifida and underwent lots of surgeries on my feet (especially my left foot) as a child and I was always picked last by other kids for games that involved running because I was “too slow” or “you can’t run properly”.

These sources then impact how we view ourselves and can lead a doubting of abilities so when success is achieved, we can be attribute it to just luck, or because of someone else’s efforts. This then creates a self fulfilling prophecy that is self sabotage.

You may find you talk yourself out of trying new things, or don’t apply for that job because you doubt your abilities, or you give up quite quickly because you convince yourself you’re not good enough.

Ways to gently challenge self,

  1. Press pause on your thoughts, try and chat with someone you trust or write the thoughts down.
  2. Reframe your thoughts, ask yourself what you could gain instead of what you might lose.
  3. Stop, breathe and practice being in the moment. Ask yourself, “am I being fair to myself?”