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What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon that affects many people. It essentially means that people may question their abilities or may feel fraudulent, as if they do not deserve to be in the role that they are in. They may also feel as though they do not deserve the praise they receive for the work that they do. There are many reasons and factors that contribute to someone’s imposter syndrome. Generalized anxiety, low self-esteem, and social comparison can be some of the main reasons for people to experience imposter syndrome. Further, there are certain groups of people who may be more susceptible to imposter syndrome than others. These groups of people include: women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people. This is because of social and historical forms of oppression which have marginalized these communities in academia and the workforce.

How does imposter syndrome affect me?

Imposter syndrome is unfortunately very common, and anyone who has ever experienced it can attest to how debilitating it can be. People experiencing imposter syndrome often experience excessive self-doubt, which can lead to anxiety, persistent psychological distress, and depression. These people will not only feel like a fraud or ill-deserving of their successes, but they also tend to become debilitated at work. They may begin to perform poorly, avoid taking on responsibility, develop a sense of shame, and avoid seeking promotions. In turn, these individuals may develop a sense of job dissatisfaction which can lead to cynicism and burnout.

How can I combat imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a cognitive distortion that is rooted in historical oppression. Some of the best ways to deal with imposter syndrome is to start challenging these negative thoughts: seek the evidence that disproves the doubt you are feeling. Talking to others you trust about how you may be feeling can be helpful as well, as we may all need and benefit from reassurance every now and then. Journaling about how you have been feeling and acknowledging and validating your fears may be helpful as well. Finally, if you find that you cannot unlearn these cognitions on your own, therapy is a great and safe space to work through symptoms of imposter syndrome.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.