What Is Imposter Syndrome?

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What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Jennifer Nelson

Written by Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Reviewed by Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

June 30, 2021 / Read Time 3 minutes

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Do you often feel like your success came through good luck rather than your own talent? Do you worry that others will someday discover that you’re a “fraud”? You may be struggling with imposter syndrome, and you aren’t alone. As many as 7 in 10 adults will deal with imposter syndrome at some point in their careers.

Now you’re probably wondering how to overcome imposter syndrome. What is it, exactly? What’s the treatment? Is there a way to get help online? Here’s what you should know about imposter syndrome.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Despite the imposing name, imposter syndrome isn’t actually a diagnosis or medical problem. 

Instead, it’s a pattern of thinking that can lead to negative self-talk, self-doubt, and missed opportunities. It may feel like everyone except you knows exactly what they’re doing and that they will expose you as a fraud.

The good news is that imposter syndrome can be treated by owning your accomplishments and learning how to tackle those self-doubts before they become crippling. Imposter syndrome isn’t something you need to live with for the rest of your life.

Imposter Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of imposter syndrome may include:

  • Overachieving

  • Self-doubt

  • Sabotaging your success

  • Not being able to assess your skills and competence realistically

  • Setting very high goals and feeling disappointed when you don’t reach them

  • Attributing your success to external factors, like luck

  • Worrying that you won’t live up to expectations

  • Berating your performance

What Triggers Imposter Syndrome?

While there are likely many different triggers, imposter syndrome causes may include things like:

  • Entering a new role (like starting college or a new job, or a recent promotion)

  • Becoming a parent

  • Family background (like families that value achievement over anything else)

  • Being a minority race or gender

  • An underlying anxiety disorder (like generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety)

  • Certain personality traits (like perfectionism)

  • Cultural background (the United States, for example, tends to be individualistic with high pressure to succeed)

Imposter Syndrome and Social Anxiety

While not everybody with imposter syndrome has social anxiety, and not everybody with social anxiety has imposter syndrome, there is often an overlap. People with social anxiety may feel like they don’t belong in social situations and worry that their perceived social incompetence will be discovered.

For people who struggle with both social anxiety and imposter syndrome, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help improve the symptoms of both.

How to Cope With Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome treatment can involve therapy, but there are ways you may be able to deal with it on your own. Here are some tips:

  • Separate facts from feelings. Your accomplishments are yours, regardless of how you feel about them. Find examples of proof that you are actually good at your job (or whatever you feel like you’re an imposter at), like awards or praise from your boss.

  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Another person’s accomplishments don’t make yours any less real. This is especially true for social media. Remember that people tend to put their best selves forward on social media - and not their real lives.

  • Talk about it. Since most people will deal with imposter syndrome at some point, you may be surprised at how many people can relate to you. Feeling less alone with your experience may help.

If you’re struggling to overcome your imposter syndrome, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be able to help. In fact, the entire point of CBT is to identify and change disturbing or disruptive thought patterns that have a negative effect on emotions and behaviors. A licensed therapist can help you alter these thought patterns so you have a healthier mindset.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Imposter Syndrome Feel Like?

While it will feel different for everybody, imposter syndrome may make you feel:

  • Incompetent

  • Undeserving of promotions or praise

  • Unworthy of your accomplishments

  • Inadequate

  • Like you don’t belong

  • Intense fear of being exposed as a fraud

  • Like you’re the only person struggling while everybody else has things figured out

Does Imposter Syndrome Go Away?

Imposter syndrome can go away, especially if you can figure out what’s causing those feelings of not being good enough and find healthy ways to overcome them.

If you’re struggling to deal with imposter syndrome, therapy may be able to help. A professional therapist will be able to help you figure out why you have these beliefs and will help you come up with a strategy to change your thinking and overcome your insecurities.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Imposter Syndrome Therapy Online

If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, online therapy with PlushCare could help. For an affordable rate, you get a 45-minute weekly session with a licensed therapist who can help you combat your imposter syndrome with therapy.


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

  • Cleveland Clinic. A Psychologist Explains How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome. Accessed on May 18, 2021 at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/a-psychologist-explains-how-to-deal-with-imposter-syndrome/

  • National Institutes of Health. Contextualizing the Impostor “Syndrome”. Accessed on May 18, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7703426/

  • National Institutes of Health. Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review. Accessed on May 18, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7174434/

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