Self-Esteem Explained: Impostor Syndrome 

3 min read
Evidence based
Dainius Jakucionis, MD
By Dainius Jakucionis, MD Updated on 2024 Jan 23
Impostor syndrome affecting a person

Ever thought that you tricked everyone into believing you’re a kind person, a qualified specialist, or just a great person in general? If the answer is yes, it’s a telltale sign of impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where a person doubts their abilities and qualities despite the existing evidence of their competence. 

Hence, the feeling of being a fraud – you feel that you tricked everyone into believing you’re capable of something when in reality, you’re probably more than competent.

However, when it comes to impostor syndrome, emotions play a bigger role than logic, making the person blind to the evidence of their abilities.

How Does Impostor Syndrome Appear?

Impostor syndrome is closely linked to low self-esteem – individuals who have trouble acknowledging their self-value and lack confidence are more sensitive to this phenomenon.

It’s quite common among high-achievers, such as academics, artists, and other types of professionals. 

Approximately 65% of professionals are estimated to occasionally deal with the feeling of being an impostor. 

People are often more susceptible to their faults than achievements – they tend to struggle to accept and internalize their successes and accomplishments. This way of thinking paves the way for impostor syndrome. 

Signs and Strategies for Healing

Impostor syndrome can manifest in various ways, such as anxiety, self-doubt, and even self-sabotage. 

In many cases, prolonged feelings of self-doubt can lead to decreased confidence, missed career opportunities, and even burnout. 

As a self-esteem issue, impostor syndrome can be eliminated with the right tools and a change of mindset. The first step is to acknowledge it and take action.

#1 Accept your feelings

Even if you sometimes feel like an impostor, it does not mean that you are one. However, guilt and self-doubt can be upsetting and overwhelming. 

Don’t try to invalidate your feelings – sit down with them and explore where they come from and what made you feel this way.

Some people can find it difficult to accept their accomplishments because of their upbringing – an unsupportive or abusive childhood environment can affect how you feel about yourself.

#2 Reframe your thoughts

Loads of individuals experience impostor syndrome – even the ones you think are well accomplished.  

If you feel like a fraud or simply lucky most of the time, try reframing your thoughts. If you do well 7 times out of 10, it’s probably your skills and competence paving your way to success rather than mere luck.

A way to actively associate your achievements with your skills is by writing down a list of them. This could be anything from receiving good grades at school to winning multiple competitions in your area of expertise.

You can also ask other people for feedback – hearing what people think about you can rewire your own thoughts about yourself.

#3 Practice self-compassion

Give yourself a break and live in the moment – you wouldn’t be where you are in life if it wasn’t for bigger or smaller personal wins.

Moreover, don’t try to compare your journey to someone else’s. While having a successful business by your 30s might look like a huge achievement to you, the definition of success is fluid and means different things to each person. Some people probably perceive you as highly successful in some areas!

Try to be at peace with yourself and practice compassion if you experience downfalls. Setbacks happen to everybody, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a fraud. 

Growing Without Impostor Syndrome Holding You Back

Impostor syndrome is a common experience, and if that’s comforting, you’re not the only one with it. While being realistic about your abilities can hinder personal growth and stop you from experiencing an inflated sense of accomplishment, usually, impostor syndrome holds us back from our true potential.

It all comes down to self-esteem – by recognizing your negative thinking patterns and addressing past experiences that made you doubt your self-worth, you can boost your self-esteem and keep your inner critic at bay.

All in all, success and accomplishments tell a story about your growth and progress rather than perfection. Focus on being the best you can be instead of looming over your mistakes.

Dainius Jakucionis, MD

Dainius is a renowned psychotherapist, holding a Master’s Degree in Medicine and additional training in Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy.