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Overcoming Impostor Syndrome: Recognizing and Conquering Self-Doubt

Updated: Jan 22

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Impostor Syndrome, despite its name, is a very real and common phenomenon that affects people across all walks of life. It's a persistent feeling of self-doubt and inadequacy, where individuals believe that they are undeserving of their accomplishments and that they will eventually be exposed as "frauds." In this blog post, we'll explore what Impostor Syndrome is, why it happens, and most importantly, how to recognize and conquer it.

Understanding Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome can manifest in various aspects of life, including education, career, relationships, and personal goals. It's often accompanied by anxiety, stress, and a persistent feeling of being a "fraud" in your own life. Impostor Syndrome is characterised by feelings of:


Believing that your achievements are a result of luck or external factors rather than your abilities or effort.


Constantly questioning your competence and fearing that others will discover your lack of skill or knowledge.

Fear of Failure

Being overly concerned about making mistakes or failing to meet high expectations, even in situations where it's normal to make errors.

Attributing Success to External Factors

Believing that any success is due to external factors like help from others, easy tasks, or fortunate circumstances, rather than acknowledging your own abilities.

Girl sitting on the floor in the dark

5 Examples of Why Impostor Syndrome Happens

Several factors can contribute to Impostor Syndrome:

1. Perfectionism

People with perfectionistic tendencies set extremely high standards for themselves. When they don't meet these unrealistic expectations, they feel like failures, leading to self-doubt and the belief that they're impostors.

2. Early Experiences

Negative experiences or criticism in early life, like receiving harsh feedback or being told that you're not good enough, can lead to persistent self-doubt in adulthood.

3. Cultural and Societal Pressures

Cultural and societal expectations, such as gender roles or academic pressures, can make individuals feel like they must continually prove themselves, even when they've already achieved success.

4. Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection or not being accepted by others can lead individuals to downplay their achievements or attribute them to external factors.

5. Comparing to Others

Constantly comparing oneself to others, especially those who appear more successful, can intensify feelings of inadequacy and impostor syndrome.

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How to Recognise Impostor Syndrome

The first step in overcoming Impostor Syndrome is recognising that you may be experiencing it. Here are some common signs:

Downplaying Achievements

Whilst it's good to have gratitude for the help of others, you also need to acknowledge your own efforts in achieving your successes. If you often attribute your successes to luck, help from others, or external factors, rather than acknowledging your own abilities, you aren't able to see your true potential and imposter syndrome can limit further progress.

Fearing Failure

You're highly anxious about failing or making mistakes, and this fear sometimes prevents you from taking on new challenges.


You frequently doubt your skills, knowledge, or qualifications, even when you have evidence to the contrary.


You tend to overwork or strive for perfection to prove yourself, often at the expense of your well-being.

Difficulty Accepting Praise

When praised or complimented, you might deflect or minimize your achievements.

Woman in a white shirt giving a talk

10 Ways to Conquer Impostor Syndrome

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome is a journey that involves self-awareness and active effort. Here are some strategies to help you conquer it:

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

The first step is acknowledging that you're experiencing Impostor Syndrome. Recognise that these feelings are common and not indicative of your actual abilities.

2. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Whenever you experience self-doubt, challenge those negative thoughts. Ask yourself for evidence of your competence and achievements. Remind yourself of your successes and remember that none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, don't let the highlight reels of other peoples social media allow you think your failures are unique to you.

3. Set Realistic Goals

Perfectionism often fuels Impostor Syndrome. Set realistic, achievable goals, and understand that it's okay to make mistakes and learn from them.

4. Keep a Record of Achievements

Maintain a journal or record of your achievements and successes. When you're feeling like an impostor, refer to this record as a reminder of your accomplishments. See the evidence before you and remind yourself daily that you have earned your right to be doing what you're doing.

Woman sitting on the floor writing on paper

5. Talk About It

Open up about your feelings with trusted friends, family members, or a therapist. Sharing your thoughts and fears can provide valuable perspective and support.

6. Learn to Accept Praise

When praised or complimented, practice accepting it graciously instead of deflecting it. A simple "Thank you" can go a long way in acknowledging your achievements. Often we struggle to accept praise because our subconscious doesn't believe it to be true, so begin to work on your inner monologue with self-affirmations and learn to praise yourself too.

7. Focus on Growth

Shift your focus from proving yourself to personal growth and development. Embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and improve. If you are always looking to the end point rather than focusing on the journey, you will never be satisfied.

8. Seek Mentorship

Consider seeking mentorship or guidance from someone you admire in your field. They can provide valuable insights and help boost your confidence. If you don't have access to anyone like this, in our age of social media, you can build a network online by following people who are on the same journey as you. But make sure you curate the content you're seeing because some will only ever show the highlight reel of achievements and not the difficulties of the work that went into reaching those goals. You want to follow accounts that are honest and realistic about the journey.

9. Embrace Failure

Failure is a natural part of life and growth. Instead of fearing it, embrace it as a learning experience that contributes to your development.

10. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Understand that nobody is perfect, and it's okay to make mistakes or have moments of self-doubt.

Two wrist tattoos saying compassion and courage


Our Take Away

Impostor Syndrome is a common but conquerable phenomenon that can hinder personal and professional growth. Recognising its signs and taking proactive steps to challenge self-doubt are essential for overcoming it. Remember that you are not alone in experiencing these feelings, and with time and effort, you can learn to appreciate your accomplishments and believe in your abilities.

You've got this!


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