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This Is What Imposter Syndrome Feels Like

Anxiety, Career
4 min read

Frame therapist Alyssa Mancao starts the conversation on this widely prevalent psychological pattern by answering four introductory questions about Imposter Syndrome.

I've worked really hard to get to where I am with my career, but sometimes I still feel like I'm not good enough, or like I'm a phony and people are going to realize that one day. Does that sound like imposter syndrome?

Alyssa: Imposter syndrome feels exactly like what was just described. It’s getting to a certain place in your career, in your life, in your education and despite your advancement and despite your accomplishments, there's this internalized belief that you don't belong there. That you're not good enough, or somehow you got to where you are because you got lucky. 

Another component of imposter syndrome is feeling like, because you feel like you don't belong there's this intense fear that somebody is going to “find out” one day that you don't know what you're doing and you're either going to get fired, you're going to get kicked out or you're going to get in trouble. 

Imposter syndrome is really the inability to internalize your success. And too frequently, it leads to chronic self-doubt. 

Q: Does experiencing imposter syndrome mean I'm not good at what I do? 

Alyssa: That's a really good question, and it's actually really a common thought amongst people who experience imposter syndrome. The answer is no. 

In fact, the answer is the opposite! - If you're experiencing imposter syndrome, it's actually a sign that you are advancing in what you're doing. It’s a sign that you are getting challenged, that you are uncomfortable and normally when we experience those feelings, we do wonder how did I get here? how did I make it this far? 

It doesn't mean that you're not good at what you do, or that you don’t know what you’re doing, it just means that you are stepping outside of your comfort zone and when we do that, sometimes that can be misinterpreted as I don't belong here

Q: What are the different ways that imposter syndrome can take shape for different people? 

Alyssa: Sometimes people can experience imposter syndrome at work and in their career, as we’ve mentioned, and that can show up like: I don't know what I'm doing. How did I make it this far? 

We can also experience imposter syndrome in our relationships with our partners. This can sound like: I don't know why they like me. Once they get to know who I really am, they're not going to want to be with me. They're going to find someone better than me. 

Imposter syndrome at school can sound like: I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know why I keep getting good grades. I'm just guessing at all of this

We can experience imposter syndrome in several different arenas, but the overall theme of imposter syndrome is feeling like you don't belong, feeling like you're going to get caught, minimizing your success and chalking it up to luck. 


Q: Does experiencing imposter syndrome mean I lack self-confidence? 

Alyssa: Experiencing imposter syndrome means that you may lack self-confidence in that specific area because our self-confidence comes out in our different areas of life. 

It doesn't mean that you lack self-confidence altogether in general. 

To hear how others have learned to navigate and work through their imposter syndrome, tune into any of these Frame Discussions: Unpacking the Experience of Imposter Syndrome, Learning Where Your Own Imposter Syndrome Stems From.


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