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Imposter Syndrome – A Toxic Relationship With Yourself

Dr. Leslie Davis is a survivor of toxic relationships and a healing agent of broken hearts. As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Relationship Expert near St. Louis, MO, Dr. D is on a mission to empower others to improve their relationships.

Executive Contributor Dr. Leslie Davis

Do you ever feel like an imposter? Go ahead, nod your head and know this, you’re not alone, because I do. Imposter Syndrome among women has been on the rise, especially for those who also identify as a Strong Black Woman. I’m a Black single mom in America with a PhD, and despite the evidence of my hard work and long list of accomplishments, I sometimes experience imposter syndrome in the form of being a Perfectionist and Superwoman, two of the five identified types of imposters.


Young woman with dark curly hair checking clothes in the mirror in modern washroom

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome highlights an internalized experience of being a fraud despite evidence of your personal and professional achievements.


This term was originally proposed in 1978 by Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Ime as a result of their study of high achieving women. One thing to take note of regarding this study is the lack of inclusivity of women of color or women of varying economic classes. Please also be advised that Imposter syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, but it can contribute to clinical mental health diagnoses such as generalized anxiety, social phobia and depression among others.


After some time processing imposter syndrome in my own life, I’ve come to realize that.. Imposter Syndrome is a decision to engage in a toxic relationship with oneself.


Are you an imposter?

Think about yourself as a little girl, especially the version of yourself during your teen years. This is likely when imposter syndrome was initiated as you attempted to define yourself for the first time in life. For those who eventually became mothers, it’s likely that imposter syndrome overwhelms you at times as you judge your capabilities to raise another human being in this chaotic world.


Consider some of the messages you tell yourself today when you view yourself as a fraud.


“I can't do this.”

“I'm not good enough.”

“I’m not doing enough.”

These are toxic messages that we repeat in our minds that eventually seep into our hearts, and we act on them believing that everyone else believes it too. If you identify with imposter syndrome, you likely have a difficult time accepting compliments because you don’t believe you’ve done enough to deserve the acknowledgement. You might hear someone praise your character or your hard work and tell yourself, “they are lying,” simply because you secretly believe you are a fraud.


The 5 types of imposters

Dr. Valerie Young, the author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, highlights 5 Competence Types, which some deem the 5 Types of Imposters. I encourage you to read the book or listen to the audio version to learn more about each type.


  1. The Perfectionist

  2. The Natural Genius

  3. The Soloist

  4. The Expert

  5. The Superhuman (Superwoman)


How to stop the toxic cycle with yourself

No matter which type of imposter you identify with, the toxic cycle you have entered into with yourself has to stop. Maybe you’ve been stuck in this cycle for years, only to recognize it when you feel that you are being challenged to prove yourself.


If you want to break free from this toxicity, here’s a simple yet powerful solution.


  • Think of the toxic message you often tell yourself about yourself and write it down.

  • Reframe this message into something positive.

  • Investigate the evidence of your new positive self-talk and identity, and make a list of your accomplishments both great and small.

  • Commit to releasing the negative automatic thoughts as they arise, and implement your new positive message about yourself as a weapon against the toxic cycle.

A fight against imposter syndrome involves a commitment to loving yourself.


  • Love yourself for who you are, despite your imperfections.

  • Love yourself and know that sometimes you might not know it all, and that’s okay.

  • Love yourself and know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness or lack of ability.

  • Love yourself and learn that you don’t have to know it all because it’s impossible to know everything about everything.

  • Love yourself and rest in knowing you don’t have to wear that cape because no one expects you to be Superwoman.


If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome and feel stuck in this toxic relationship, I’d love to connect with you. Let’s fight this battle together. Connect with me for relationship therapy or coaching here.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Dr. Leslie Davis, Clinical Counselor and Relationship Expert

Dr. Leslie Davis is a survivor of toxic relationships and a healing agent of broken hearts. As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Relationship Expert near St. Louis, MO, Dr. D is on a mission to empower others to improve their relationships. Her experience as a Black single mom in America inspires her podcast, SHE Matters with Dr. Leslie Davis, available on Apple Podcast and Spotify. Her hope is to empower single moms around the world to develop healthy attachments, with a goal of reducing depression and suicidal thoughts. When she's not in counselor mode, Dr. D enjoys training the gentle art of jiu jitsu at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu.



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