Tips, Tools & Tactics for Overcoming the Imposter SyndromeAug 02, 2021
Gents. It’s a universal experience to worry whether we’re a fraud or imposter. Try these exercises to help you shift out of this negative cycle of self-criticism and social comparison.
1 - Recognize
Like any concern or issue you experience, taking time to recognize the problem is the first step. Developing awareness enables you to determine what to focus on in terms of change.
Start by benchmarking your experience. What thoughts do you have about yourself? What do you think you bring to the table? How might you be comparing yourself to others? Document how your thoughts influence your behavior, i.e., how does the fear of being ‘caught as a fraud, or an imposter’ lead you to act?
Also, think about the messages you learned about what it takes to be successful as a man. Do you believe your worth is achievement-based?
2 - Seek and Learn.
There’s a lot of great information available on the topic of the imposter phenomenon, however much of it focuses only on women’s experience of the phenomenon. Knowing that both men and women share the same experience, even though they may respond to it differently, the research we do have can be helpful.
Educating yourself, and reaching out to others – especially men, can help you overcome the thoughts that you’re alone in this experience, which can support you in accepting, and even harnessing your thoughts.
3 - Dispute Your Thoughts.
The main experience that men disclose about their experience of ‘being an imposter’ is the vast amount of intrusive negative self-talk. It’s not uncommon to rate yourself low or discount your achievements or abilities. Here it’s highly valuable to disprove or dispute these thoughts.
I’ve written previously about the impact of the pathological critic (Five Actions to Conquer the Mental Jerk in Your Head) and how when this critic becomes the dominant voice in our heads, it has the power to make us second guess our every move, doubt our own abilities and feel fearful that things are always going to go wrong. Ask yourself these two powerful questions (thanks to my mate, Socrates).
Q1 - What real evidence do you have, that supports the thought that you are a fraud? Is this evidence absolutely, or even remotely true? Be brutally honest with yourself.
Q2 - What evidence do you have that supports the contrary - that you are competent, and that you’re the ‘real deal’?
4 - Acknowledge That You’re Not Alone
The experience of Imposter Syndrome is oddly a universal one. It occurs regardless of gender, culture and age, lived experiences and intelligence. The knowledge that EVERYONE experiences Imposter Syndrome, either ongoing or at some point in their life, is a huge step in reducing its impact.
5 - Differentiate Yourself.
Differentiating yourself is all about celebrating your uniqueness. As we discussed earlier, a significant problem is that we readily fall into the trap of comparison. We rate ourselves against biased, or subjective standards that we impose on ourselves and/or the world about us.
The result is we never feel like we’re enough, and no matter how significant our accomplishments or achievements are.
The antidote to this comparison is to only compare yourself – to your former self. By acknowledging, accepting and honoring all the uniqueness of who you are – warts and all - you are better able to assess your abilities and be content with who you are.
If you are experiencing thoughts about being an imposter and it’s no proving to be problematic – take that important step and contact me to schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation. Invest in the most valuable assets you possess; your mind and your mental health and your wellbeing.
Simon G. Niblock, MA, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in men’s mental health and wellness. He provides specialized psychotherapy services and online programs for men and is the author of the Anxiety Workbook for Men, Evidence-based Exercises to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and Worry.
Important Notice: The content in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace direct professional mental health, medical treatment, or professional care in any way. Seek the support of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider to diagnose and treat any mental health concern directly. Contact 911 or your local emergency services number if you are experiencing a mental health emergency.
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Clance, P.R., & Imes, S.A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241.
Gólman, D. (1984). Therapists Find Many Achievers Feel They're Fakes. New York Times, 11, C1.
de Vries, M. F. R. K. (2005). The dangers of feeling like a fake. Harvard Business Review, 83(9), 108–159.
Neureiter, M., & Traut-Mattausch, E. (2016). Inspecting the dangers of feeling like a fake: An empirical investigation of the impostor phenomenon in the world of work. Frontiers in psychology, 7.
Neureiter, M., & Traut-Mattausch, E. (2017). Two sides of the career resources coin: Career adaptability resources and the impostor phenomenon. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 98, 56-69.
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Ted Talks. (2021). What is Imposter Syndrome and How Can You Combat It? Accessed: https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_cox_what_is_imposter_syndrome_and_how_can_you_combat_it/transcript