5 Ideas to Combat the Impostor Within 

Written by: Jason Howard, M.A.

Do you ever feel like a fraud, despite your accomplishments and successes? Do you worry that your achievements are due to luck or deception, rather than your own abilities? You’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with Impostor Syndrome. Firstidentified in 1978 by Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, this phenomenon occurs when our internal experience of feeling inadequate overrides the external evidence of our competence.1, 2

To combat the negative thought patterns that arise from impostor syndrome and to restore a sense of reality within, consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Acknowledge your accomplishments: Make a list of your achievements, skills, and positive feedback. This is essential, not boastful. Your brain needs to recognize the hard work, effort, and talent that contributed to your successes.
  • Challenge negative self-talk: Write down negative self-statements or labels, followed by more positive and realistic statements for each. You are successful, but your brain is wired to discount positives and focus on negatives that might derail you. Help your brain remember what is real and see your strengths hiding in plain sight.
  • Talk about it: Impostor Syndrome can severely distort your perception of reality. If needed, share your feelings with trusted friends, family members, a life coach, a mentor, or a therapist and seek examples from them. Gain relief from a different perspective and the realization that you are not alone.
  • Embrace failure: View setbacks as opportunities for growth and improvement. List two or three recent mistakes and next to each mistake, write down one learning or personal improvement that would not have happened if the failure had not occurred.
  • Break down goals: When looking ahead, break down goals and expectations into smaller steps and celebrate your achievements along the way with simple positives. This uses behavior science and positive reinforcement to counteract feeling overwhelmed and engaging in self-doubt.

Remember that overcoming impostor syndrome takes time and effort. Be patient and be kind to yourself as you work towards building self-confidence and recognizing your worth.

1. Clance, P., & Imes, S. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0086006
Clance, P. (2013). Impostor Phenomenon (IP). Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., ABPP. https://paulineroseclance.com/impostor_phenomenon.html