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  • Kerry Johnson

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Anyone can fall victim to imposter syndrome, but what is it? It refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. This is something that’s very common in the counselling profession as well as a range of many other professions.


It might not seem like a big deal, because it’s fine to be a bit modest right? However, when we don’t feel confident at something it can really affect how well we perform. This can then impact how well we progress and therefore put us behind other people.


While it can affect anyone, it can be very common in women. Often, when I challenge clients on their self-perception and question their achievements, people start by becoming very defensive over their self-doubt and use it as a barrier. It almost feels safer to hide behind what we aren’t as good at, in fear that if we venture out of our comfort zone then we might fail. However, when the routes of the self-doubt are actually explored, we discover that not only are we more capable than our colleagues, but that there is a lot more fun to be had in diving in headfirst into a challenge then there is to be had in hiding away from opportunities.

It can feel safer to appear as though you can’t do something, in order to prevent yourself from falling headfirst.


The thing is, every doctor has to see their first patient, every teacher needs to teach their first class. Anything new innately has to be scary in order for it to be worth doing. This becomes so much easier once we believe we can actually do it.


According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this phenomenon in their lives.

What happens when you achieve something? Is the reason you have done well because of external factors? ‘Oh I did well in that exam because the questions were easier this year.’ Or, ‘I only got that job because it was only advertised internally so there was less competition.’ If you notice that you do this, then this could be a reoccurring behaviour for you, in which case, try on one occasion to say, ‘actually yes, I did do well!’ -Without adding that 'but' at the end. See how it feels for you to do this. If we say it aloud it could help you to believe it, and over time this could give you the confidence to tackle imposter syndrome.


If you are someone who generally suffers from perfectionism, where nothing you ever do seems to be good enough, you might be more likely to see yourself as an imposter. If you think this is you, it could be worth asking yourself, ‘Must I be perfect for others to approve of me?’


I could encourage you to share your feelings with other people, there’s nothing wrong with this, but if you can get to a point where you don’t need to rely on others to tell yourself that you are good at something, this could be better for you long term. It can be difficult to always find that confirmation from people, and as a therapist, I am always trying to encourage clients to learn to believe in themselves without needing external verification.

Try to find the source of where some of your insecurities come from. You may have grown up in an overly critical environment, but ask yourself, was that criticism helpful to you then? If not, then how much how is it helping you now? Not saying it’s easy, but if you can let go of your inner critic, you may find that many areas of your life improve instantly. You could progress faster in your job, make better friends and get rid of some of your anxieties as well!




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