In a world that often equates success with confidence, it’s easy to feel like an impostor when self-doubt creeps in. You’ve achieved remarkable things, yet you can’t shake the feeling that you’re a fraud, that your accomplishments are mere flukes, and that at any moment, you’ll be exposed. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Impostor Syndrome, a term coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, affects an estimated 70% of people at some point in their lives[1].

But what exactly is Impostor Syndrome, and how can we break free from its grip? In this blog post, we’ll delve into the nature of this phenomenon and explore a 5-step guide to silencing your inner critic and overcoming self-doubt.

Understanding Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome is characterised by persistent feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, despite evidence of success and competence. Those who struggle with Impostor Syndrome often attribute their achievements to luck, timing, or deceiving others, rather than their own abilities and hard work. They live in fear of being exposed as frauds, believing that they don’t deserve their success and that it’s only a matter of time before others discover the truth[2].

While Impostor Syndrome affects people from all walks of life, it is particularly prevalent among high achievers, perfectionists, and those in competitive or male-dominated fields. Women and marginalised groups are also more likely to experience Impostor Syndrome, as they often face additional barriers and stereotypes that can fuel feelings of self-doubt[3].

impostor syndrome self doubt inner critic mind health

Real-Life Examples of Impostor Syndrome

To better understand how Impostor Syndrome manifests, let’s look at some real-life examples:

  1. Sarah, a successful entrepreneur, constantly downplays her achievements, attributing her company’s success to her “amazing team” and “lucky breaks,” despite being the driving force behind its growth.
  2. David, a brilliant surgeon, lives in fear of making a mistake, convinced that he’s not as skilled as his colleagues and that his patients’ lives are at risk every time he enters the operating room.
  3. Jasmine, a published author, dismisses her writing as “nothing special,” convinced that her success is a fluke and that she doesn’t deserve the praise she receives.

These examples demonstrate how Impostor Syndrome can affect individuals across various fields and how it can manifest in different ways, from downplaying achievements to living in constant fear of failure.

The 5-Step Guide to Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

1. Acknowledge and Normalise Your Feelings

The first step in overcoming Impostor Syndrome is to recognize that your feelings are normal and valid. Acknowledge that self-doubt is a common human experience and that even the most successful people grapple with feelings of inadequacy at times. By normalizing your experiences, you can begin to separate your feelings from the facts of your achievements.

2. Challenge Your Inner Critic

Impostor Syndrome thrives on negative self-talk and irrational beliefs. To break free from its grip, you must learn to challenge your inner critic. When you find yourself engaging in self-doubt, ask yourself: “Is this thought based on evidence, or is it just my fear talking?” Look for concrete examples of your competence and success, and use them to counter your inner critic’s claims[4].

For example, if your inner critic tells you, “You’re not qualified for this promotion,” challenge that thought by listing your relevant skills, experience, and achievements that demonstrate your readiness for the role.

3. Reframe Failure as Growth

Perfectionism and fear of failure often fuel Impostor Syndrome. To combat this, reframe failure as an opportunity for growth and learning. Embrace the idea that mistakes and setbacks are inevitable parts of the journey to success, and that each challenge you face is an opportunity to build resilience and skill[5].

Consider the example of Thomas Edison, who famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” By reframing his “failures” as steps toward success, Edison maintained the resilience and perseverance needed to become one of history’s most renowned inventors.

4. Celebrate Your Successes

Those with Impostor Syndrome often struggle to internalise their achievements, brushing off successes as flukes or strokes of luck. To counteract this tendency, make a conscious effort to celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Keep a “success journal” where you record your accomplishments, positive feedback, and moments of pride. Regularly reviewing this journal can help you internalize your successes and build a more accurate sense of your competence.

For example, if you receive a glowing performance review at work, take the time to savor the positive feedback and record it in your success journal. Regularly revisit these entries to remind yourself of your competence and value.

5. Seek Support and Share Your Experiences

Impostor Syndrome thrives in isolation. By sharing your experiences with trusted friends, family members, or mentors, you can gain perspective and realize that you’re not alone in your struggles. Seek out supportive relationships and communities where you can be vulnerable, share your fears, and receive encouragement and validation[6].

Consider joining a professional network or support group related to your field, where you can connect with others who may have faced similar challenges and can offer guidance and support.

The Power of Self-Compassion

As you navigate the journey of overcoming Impostor Syndrome, remember to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness, understanding, and forgiveness that you would extend to a dear friend. Recognize that your self-worth is not defined by your achievements or failures, but by your inherent human dignity and potential for growth[7].

For example, when you face a setback or make a mistake, instead of berating yourself, try speaking to yourself with compassion and understanding. Acknowledge that setbacks are a normal part of the human experience and that they do not diminish your worth or potential.


Impostor Syndrome is a common and often debilitating experience, but it is not an insurmountable obstacle. By acknowledging your feelings, challenging your inner critic, reframing failure, celebrating your successes, and seeking support, you can begin to break free from the grip of self-doubt and embrace your true potential.

Remember, your achievements are real, your competence is valid, and you are deserving of your success. As you continue to grow and evolve, may you learn to silence your inner impostor and step into your power with confidence and grace.


  1. Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The impostor phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241-247.
  2. Clance, P. R., & O’Toole, M. A. (1987). The impostor phenomenon: An internal barrier to empowerment and achievement. Women & Therapy, 6(3), 51-64.
  3. Cokley, K., Awad, G., Smith, L., Jackson, S., Awosogba, O., Hurst, A., … & Roberts, D. (2015). The roles of gender stigma consciousness, impostor phenomenon and academic self-concept in the academic outcomes of women and men. Sex Roles, 73(9-10), 414-426.
  4. Leary, M. R., Patton, K. M., Orlando, A. E., & Wagoner Funk, W. (2000). The impostor phenomenon: Self‐perceptions, reflected appraisals, and interpersonal strategies. Journal of Personality, 68(4), 725-756.
  5. Sakulku, J., & Alexander, J. (2011). The impostor phenomenon. International Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1), 73-92.
  6. Lane, J. A. (2015). The imposter phenomenon among emerging adults transitioning into professional life: Developing a grounded theory. Adultspan Journal, 14(2), 114-128.
  7. Neff, K. D. (2011). Self‐compassion, self‐esteem, and well‐being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1-12.