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You're Not A Fraud! Techniques To Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Written by: Gurpreet Kaur, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


"How did I get here?" "I'm a complete fraud... and soon everybody will discover it.". "Oh, I am just lucky." "I am just good at pulling things out of my ass, and it works."

These are some of the typical comments I hear from my clients regularly. These comments have one thing in common: underplaying of success and achievements. You are not a fraud. You feel like one. There is a difference. Let's look at what this feeling like a fraud is all about and what you can do about it.

Understanding Impostor Syndrome Early studies on the impostor phenomenon focused primarily on well-established, successful, and high-achieving women. However, current literature shows that impostor syndrome is not limited to successful women but can impact a wide range of people from graduate students to executives.

What does impostor syndrome feel like? People who experience impostor feelings feel like a fraud. They fear their achievements and success result from some luck or transient causes out of their control. Highly intelligent or gifted people often feel like this.

It's a negative self-perception that causes you to think you're not as good as others. Or just not good enough. It happens when your brain overvalues how inadequate it feels and undervalues all the positive results you've achieved.

What causes imposter syndrome? People's characteristics mainly drive impostor syndrome, namely self-efficacy, perfectionism and neuroticism. Competitive environments are one way to build a foundation for this. In fact some people who had developed an impostoric experience in childhood faced pressure to succeed academically.

Why do I fear success? When caught between a passion for success and a fear of success, it may cause pain and paralysis. This fear may represent a specific fear, such as fear of responsibility, failure or uncertainty. Learning to accept imperfections is the best way to overcome fear that prevents people from achieving.

How does perfectionism influence impostor syndrome? Impostor syndrome is closely related with perfectionism. When a person doesn't perform 100% they feel incompetent and anxious. I primarily work with perfectionists, and they tend to look at things with All or None perception, which means you are expecting perfection all the time. If you miss the mark by 1%, it is counted as a failure. The focus goes on the missed 1%, not 99% completed. People can change their perspective about perfection and combat feeling like an impostor. You cannot get rid of your perfectionist tendencies, but you can learn to tone them down, which helps to eliminate self-doubt.

Are women more susceptible to imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome has primarily been reported in females achieving great success in the 1960s and 1980s. Although impostor syndrome still is a more widespread phenomenon among women especially those of color, males have the tendency to develop such a mentality. In my professional experience, I have witnessed impostor syndrome affecting both men and women equally. High achievers and perfectionists are more susceptible to having it, though.

Is imposter syndrome a mental illness? Impostor syndrome is not a mental illness or official diagnosis listed in DSM V. However, people who suffer from impostor syndrome are vulnerable to anxiety and depression in addition to negative and obsessive thinking. However, good mental health does help to cope with low self-confidence and self-doubt.

How do I deal with impostor feelings? To avoid the impostor syndrome, you have to start with accepting your perfectionist tendencies. Awareness of your beliefs and thinking patterns help you assess them and evaluate their role in feeling fraudulent. It may be a good idea to confront those ingrained beliefs to get past the fraudulent feelings. Performing this exercise can be demanding as you are used to confronting your thoughts and fears. Here are some additional techniques to help you get started:


Name It What You Feel Just by saying things out loud is a great help. You want to allow your feelings to come to the surface. Suppressing or repressing your feelings is not good for mental health, and it certainly is not good you are working with fraudulent feelings. Journaling is a great and safe way to start on this journey.

Gather Evidence When you are caught up in negative thoughts, gather evidence around those negative thoughts. You will often find that you will have no proof that you are not worthy, deserving, or being a fraud. Separate your feelings from facts. Remind yourself that feelings are temporary and only you feel them. Facts are permanent and what others see. Think of the most recent praise you received from your boss or a great review you had. You often overlook these achievements as not a big deal, but they are.

Develop a list of positive attributes As mentioned above, having a list of things you are good at or do well is very handy when combatting fraudulent feelings. Trust your own abilities and do not expect to have all the answers all the time. This list will also help you for being grateful for what and who you are instead of comparing yourself with others all the time.

Practice mindfulness Practicing mindfulness on daily basis can enhance your mental health in general. It helps you keep everyday anxiety at bay. All you have to do is to be present in this moment. One of the biggest benefits of being now is how calm and grounded you feel instead of rushing to the next goal or next achievement.

I work with individuals who feel "not enough" on daily basis. Impostor feelings are not easy to get rid of but you can work around them. Try these techniques and let me know how they were helpful.

Follow Gurpreet on her Facebook, Instagram and visit her website for more info!


Gurpreet Kaur, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Gurpreet Kaur is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Speaker, and an Author. Dr. Kaur is very passionate about self-love, self-empowerment, wellness, reaching the full potential, and applying quantum mechanics principles to daily life. Dr. Kaur teaches a step-by-step self-care process to live a mentally and emotionally healthy life.



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