Impostor Syndrome | What It Is and How to Deal With It: Easy Methods From Therapists

Impostor syndrome is a condition in which a person devalues his achievements. He attributes any of his own success to chance, luck, the coincidence of circumstances and considers it undeserved. People of all professions are susceptible to impostor syndrome. Let’s figure out how to get rid of it and get your successes back.

American scientists Pauline Clance and Susan Eames first described what impostor syndrome means in psychology in 1978. This condition is actively investigated by psychologists of different directions to this day. It can appear in representatives of different professions: both beginners and experienced professionals.

Impostor syndrome is so-called because of the constant feeling that others are about to reveal the person and realize that he is not who he claims to be.

Signs of Impostor Syndrome

There is a lot of talk and writing about impostor syndrome, but few places provide clear criteria by which you can check yourself. So, you may be experiencing impostor syndrome if:

  • You have a hard time accepting praise. It seems that you have nothing to praise for.
  • Feel insecure, despite objective signs of success: the goals achieved, the recognition of others.
  • Think that all the good things in life you do not deserve.
  • Afraid of any mistakes, such as typos in the report, or even in an email.
  • Think that your successes have occurred not because of the efforts made, but by fate or chance.

Write out the Imposter Thoughts

Write out the impostor’s thoughts and compare them to reality. For example, the imposter’s thought: “Everybody thinks I know everything about how to select online slots to win real money, but I know nothing, I have too little experience, I still have to learn”. Compare these thoughts with reality and replace them with a more constructive and adequate one.

Let’s look at how you can fight imposter syndrome, using an example for therapists. Replace the destructive “It’s too early for me to open my own practice, I don’t have enough knowledge and experience” with the positive “I have a proper education. I regularly undergo supervision, read professional literature and improve my qualifications. I can help people.”

Keep a Success Diary

Practices from coaching can help defeat imposter syndrome. For example, a success diary in which you describe all your achievements, their causes, and their importance to you.

It will take you 5-10 minutes a day to fill out the diary. By doing this regularly, you will soon notice an increase in motivation and self-esteem, an increase in self-confidence, and an improvement in your mood.

Praise Yourself

Praise yourself for any successes and achievements, reward yourself. For example, for coping with a work task faster than before and maintaining, or perhaps improving, the result.

Learn to Accept With Gratitude

Learn to accept what happens with gratitude and see it as an invaluable experience rather than a fatal event. Shift the focus of attention from yourself to the outside world. For example, if your boss criticized your idea, suggesting his own version, then think about how to use it in the future in a relationship with him.

Remember that your worldview and views, the other person’s experience may be different, but that doesn’t make you a bad specialist.

Determine Boundaries

The main emotion in the person in the state of imposter syndrome is fear: “I’m afraid to work, I can’t do it, I don’t know enough.” It’s often accompanied by increased perfectionism: “I have to do everything perfectly and on the first try. I have no right to make a mistake.” A person is so afraid of making a mistake that he or she is afraid to start: “I won’t do it, what if I can’t help the client, I’d better study some more.”

Fear is okay, but you can act in spite of it. Examine your competencies. Make a list of your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Separately break down your professional experience: what you’ve already succeeded in, what you’ve tried. Focus on this, creating successful situations for yourself – they increase your self-confidence. And at the same time try your hand at things where you still have little practice.

Allow yourself to make mistakes and always ask the question, “What did this experience teach me?” Sometimes personal failures are even more helpful than successful experiences.

Think about what imposter syndrome indicates, how to get rid of it through accepting the experience. After all, before you probably tried to run away from fears and negative thoughts.

Write Down the Pros and Cons

At the end of the workday, write down the successful and unsuccessful moments. What succeeded and what didn’t and why? What worked better than last time? Similarly, you can summarize not only the day but the results of the week, month, and year. And you can record the results of your work: feedback from satisfied customers, praise from your boss, gratitude, and recognition from colleagues.

This method will not devalue the positive moments, focusing only on the negative.

Understand the Positive Motivations of Imposter Syndrome and Achieve Them in a Different Way

People with imposter syndrome may face a tendency to focus on their failures and shortcomings. With self-criticism, devaluing their accomplishments. Often, they set exaggerated or even unattainable goals, demanding too much from themselves, and sometimes even the impossible.

Understand what imposter syndrome looks like in your case. There is no general syndrome for everyone. It’s just a fancy formulation. It’s important to understand what exactly it looks like for you. If at work, when does it manifest itself? And at what moments does it not manifest itself?

It’s also important to understand not only the specifics of imposter syndrome but also the causes.

Within imposter syndrome:

  • Fear of making a mistake and being overly demanding of oneself.
  • Trauma from a personal bad experience (something didn’t work out, there were consequences you couldn’t handle).
  • Pressure from parents or other significant adults as a child and excessive expectations or demands on their part.

Study your impostor syndrome and its psychology. Remember when you first felt it, in what situations does it recur.

Art Therapy in Dealing With Impostor Syndrome

Understand the underlying feelings. To do this, use one of the art therapy techniques:

  • Draw your impostor syndrome. There is nothing right or wrong, no task to draw beautiful or ugly, only expression. Don’t set any boundaries or rules, just fantasize. Draw the way you want, the way it works. Let the picture “draw itself,” without creating it on purpose, let it appear by itself, under your hands and movements of the brush or crayon. Maybe it will just be colors and lines and shapes. Or maybe you’ll have an image.
  • Concentrate on your drawing. Is there something that catches your eye? Does it surprise you? What feelings are encapsulated in it? What do you feel when you look at the drawing?
  • Talk to the drawing. Imagine that this image or the whole drawing has a voice. What would it say? What does it want? What do you want to ask about your syndrome? What does it say or answer you? This kind of dialogue can be very helpful. You can even fantasize and write it down and reread it later.
  • Negotiate with your fear. Suggest that he reach his goal, which is positive for you, in a different way. For example, ask to allow you to try and make mistakes. And then agree that you will analyze the work done and note the pros and cons, the moments that need to be improved. This way you’ll gain experience and your professionalism will grow with each time. And the positive goal of fear – to improve you – will be achieved. After all, as cliché, as it may sound, only he who does nothing makes mistakes – and that is the most important mistake. Maybe you agree that you can successfully perform the work and get a positive grade for it – after all, there are blunders in any work, but often even with the blunders the work is done well.
  • Redraw the drawing you have created. What do you want to change in the drawing? What would you like to add? Perhaps it will be new colors? Or maybe you want to completely redraw it, then you can do that. So, through the transformation of the image, there is a transformation of feeling. By changing shapes, we also change feelings, for example, fear can be replaced by care, pride, trust, confidence, respect, or something else.
  • Look at the transformed drawing and think of a new name for it. Answer yourself, how are you feeling right now? How can this experience in the territory of art be projected into life? What can it say to you? What is the smallest first step you can take?

So, through the art technique, you have met and agreed with your impostor syndrome. What else can you do?

Perhaps the following exercises will resonate with you:

  • Create a visual series of successes. Collect a collection of your photos taken at moments of success or just happy moments in life – photos where you like yourself, are happy, confident in yourself. Create a collage of them, or hang them in any order above your desk, in any other place.
  • Make a list of your strengths and successes, personality traits that you are proud of yourself. Make it in the form of a sun, write your name on the inside and write your strengths on the outside. If you notice the voice of your inner critic in you, try to look at that situation or qualities in terms of the pluses.
  • Make friends with your inner critic. When you hear it again, try not to argue, but to agree, but do it in a special formulation: “Thank you, dear critic, but I will listen to you a little later, now I want…”. This is a method I often recommend to clients when in art therapy they are unable to begin work because of the fear of “I can’t draw.”
  • Create a box of joy. Put in it meaningful photos, cards, beautiful objects, something tasty, pleasant to smell, or tactile to you. We experience joy when we get pleasure from the 5 senses. If you feel that the critic’s voice is strong again, look in the box and use it to tune yourself into joy. Usually, in a joyful state, we are less likely to criticize, fear, or be afraid of ourselves.

Impostor syndrome interferes in work, professional development, and at home. If you identify yourself with this condition, follow the recommendations of our experts. And if you feel that you can not cope alone, discuss your problems with a therapist.

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