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Is Imposter’s Syndrome a Real Thing?

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Is Imposter’s Syndrome a Real Thing?

Imposter Syndrome is a topic that has been trending. However, it is not a new concept. The

term was coined in the 1970’s by Clance and Imes as Imposter Phenomenon. Dr. Pauline Rose

Clancy developed the Imposter Phenomenon Scale to determine whether you possess any

Imposter Syndrome characteristics. The initial study was focused on women, but in my

experience, I have found that it impacts all genders. The idea of Imposter Syndrome is where an

individual doubts their abilities, skills or accomplishments. This often manifests into Depression

or Anxiety, but can also trigger past traumas. Sometimes, environments can perpetuate an

Imposter’s Syndrome Mindset. For example, if you experienced lots of pressure from your

parents to achieve highly in academics, sports or other activities, you may develop feelings of

Imposter’s Syndrome.

How does Imposter Syndrome Look?

There is not one definitive answer to this question because Imposter’s Syndrome can look

different in different people. Some common characteristics of Imposter’s Syndrome can be

low/poor self esteem, self-sabotaging, constant need to be the best, second guessing decisions

and having a hard time accepting constructive criticism(views this as negative), constantly

overachieving and setting unrealistic goals. Here are descriptions of the different types of


1. The Expert- feels like they are an Imposter because they do not know everything about a

topic. They spend lots of time researching more information on topics which stops them

from completing tasks.

2. The Perfectionist-feels like they are an Imposter because they are always searching for

“perfection” or that they could have done something better instead of celebrating their


3. The Natural Genius-feels like they are an Imposter because it may take them longer to

master a skill or if something is not done right the first time especially things usually

come naturally to them.

4. The Soloist-feels like they are an Imposter because they may have had to ask for help.

They believe that you must get to a certain level by yourself to be recognized for


5. The Superhero-feels like they are an Imposter because they may not have reached the

highest level of achievement possible. They often overload themselves with work and

experience high levels of burnout.

Some questions to ask yourself are:

1. Do you worry that people will find out that you are a “fraud” because you do not know


2. Do you minimize your skills or talents and attribute your success to luck?

3. Do you have a hard time accessing your competence or skills?

4. Do you struggle with making mistakes or not being perfect?

If so, you may have some characteristics of Imposter’s Syndrome.

Can Imposter Syndrome be treated?

While there is no actual diagnosis for Imposter Syndrome, its symptoms can be treated. In my

practice, some things that I help my clients to focus on are: normalizing the feelings of doubt as

they are a common feeling, to focus on the things that they have accomplished, perfection is an

idea, so it is ok no to know what you’re doing and that failing is normal, but it does not make

you a failure. Working with a Mental Health Professional or Coach can help you work through

these feelings and help to change the Imposter’s Syndrome Mindset. Having a mentor or circle

of friends who have experienced this can be helpful as well. Some activities that are helpful

tools that my clients enjoy are journaling and doing positive affirmations.

It is important to remember that feelings of self-doubt are normal. If you are experiencing this

consistently, talking to a Mental Health Professional can help you learn coping skills to help with questioning, negative thoughts and comparing yourself

By: Katrina R. Bell, LPC LPCS


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