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Mastering the Mind: How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

By Remy Meraz July 28, 2023


Key Takeaways

  • Understand the science and impact of Imposter Syndrome.
  • Learn how self-doubt is intertwined with Imposter Syndrome.
  • Discover strategies and steps to combat Imposter Syndrome.
  • Learn to support others grappling with Imposter Syndrome.
  • Get book recommendations for further understanding and overcoming Imposter Syndrome.
Mastering the Mind: How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

Do you ever feel like a fraud at work? Or maybe you've won an award or achieved a milestone, but can't shake the nagging feeling that you just got lucky? This invisible yet palpable sense of doubt may be something more common than you think, a psychological pattern known as the impostor syndrome. It lurks in the shadows of our achievements, whispering that we're not as competent as others perceive us to be.

Impostor syndrome can be a disruptive force in both our personal and professional lives, causing stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even burnout. High achievers and successful women are among the many who experience imposter syndrome. This sense of inadequacy can hold back career growth and stifle personal development.

In this post, we'll be taking a deep dive into understanding and overcoming imposter syndrome. Through insightful examples, expert tips, and practical steps, we aim to arm you with tools to combat imposter syndrome, nurture your self-confidence, and empower you to embrace your own success.

You are in good company, as many people, from individual contributors to people managers, grapple with these same feelings of self-doubt. In addition to imposter syndrome, many high achievers also struggle with work-related anxiety. To understand more about this issue and how to mitigate it, read our blog post titled 'Understanding How to Calm Anxiety at Work'.

Stay with us as we delve into the intricate nature of impostor feelings, separate the feelings from the facts, and take the first step towards overcoming impostor syndrome. It's time to stop hiding, start believing in your own potential, and realize that you are more than capable, you are deserving.

If you've ever found yourself thinking, "I feel like an impostor," remember, you are not alone. Welcome to a journey of self-compassion, personal growth, and most importantly, overcoming that persistent feeling of being an "imposter".

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Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is not just a buzzword; it's a complex psychological phenomenon backed by science and characterized by persistent doubt in one's own competence. It's a common misbelief that this syndrome is a rare occurrence or merely a symptom of low self-esteem. However, it's important to dispel these misconceptions and grasp the true nature of this impostor phenomenon.

The Science Behind Imposter Syndrome

Impostor syndrome was first identified in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. According to a systematic review of research, it impacts a wide demographic and is not confined to any specific group. In essence, it's an internal experience of intellectual fraudulence. Despite positive feedback and external achievements, individuals with impostor syndrome often attribute their success to luck or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more competent than they perceive themselves to be. This cycle of doubt and misattribution perpetuates the feelings of being an imposter.

Common Misconceptions about Imposter Syndrome

One common misconception about impostor syndrome is that it's a form of extreme egomania or an inability to accept success. On the contrary, individuals experiencing imposter syndrome often have a hard time acknowledging their success as a result of their own hard work and capabilities. Another myth is that impostor syndrome is solely an individual problem. However, certain environmental factors, such as a highly competitive workplace or a lack of diversity, can foster these imposter feelings.

For more insights into what imposter syndrome really is, who it affects, and how it manifests, head over to our comprehensive guide on What is Imposter Syndrome?

As we delve deeper into the intricacies of impostor syndrome, it's crucial to remember that these feelings of self-doubt are common and experienced by many. Recognizing it is the first step to combating it.

The Impact of Imposter Syndrome

The Impact of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome does not limit its effects to one aspect of a person's life. It can permeate through both personal and professional domains, often leading to a complete feeling of self-doubt and a decrease in mental health.

Impact on Personal Life and Self-esteem

Imposter syndrome can have significant ramifications on a person's mental health and personal life. This often invisible enemy feeds on self-doubt, sows seeds of negative self-talk, and can lead to feelings of being like a fraud even in non-work-related areas of life. It undermines self-confidence, sometimes leading to low self-esteem. The constant fear of being exposed as an imposter may even prevent individuals from pursuing hobbies, relationships, or personal growth opportunities.

Impact on Professional Life and Productivity

In a professional setting, imposter syndrome can severely hinder career growth. Individuals often find themselves doubting their own competence, leading to reduced productivity and missed opportunities. It can also affect relationships with co-workers, as those experiencing imposter syndrome may feel that they are falling short, despite evidence to the contrary. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the fear of failure makes failure more likely. High achievers and successful women are particularly at risk, with many of them secretly grappling with imposter feelings.

For a deeper understanding of the emotional toll of impostor syndrome, refer to our blog post on Why don’t I feel like myself?

Remember, recognizing and accepting these feelings is the first step towards overcoming impostor syndrome.

The Connection between Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome

The Connection between Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome

While imposter syndrome and self-doubt may seem like separate feelings, they are in fact intricately connected. This connection forms a vicious cycle that can be challenging to break.

How Self-Doubt Feeds into Imposter Syndrome

Self-doubt is often the spark that ignites the flame of imposter syndrome. When an individual doubts their abilities or achievements, they are more likely to feel like a fraud. This negative self-talk fuels the imposter feelings and intensifies the imposter syndrome. Every success may be discounted as luck, and each failure taken as confirmation of their own perceived inadequacy.

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The Cycle of Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome and self-doubt feed off each other, creating a cycle that can be tough to break. The negative emotions and thoughts associated with feeling like an imposter exacerbate self-doubt, which in turn strengthens the imposter syndrome. This cycle can be particularly detrimental to one's well-being and mental health, causing stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

To break free from this cycle, one needs to recognize the signs of imposter syndrome and self-doubt, understand their roots, and seek strategies to combat these feelings. For comprehensive guidance on promoting mental fitness and overcoming self-doubt, have a look at our blog post: Navigating the Path to Mental Fitness: Strategies and Benefits.

Strategies on How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

Strategies on How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming imposter syndrome can feel like a daunting task, but with the right strategies, you can overcome these feelings and gain confidence in your own success and abilities. Here are some effective methods to combat imposter syndrome:

Recognizing Your Achievements

Often, individuals with imposter syndrome discount their own successes, attributing them to luck or external factors rather than their own competence and hard work. An essential step to combat imposter syndrome is to recognize your achievements and take credit for your successes. Reflect on your past successes, your growth, and the hard work you put in to achieve your goals. This can help to build self-confidence and to lessen the grip of imposter feelings.

Building a Supportive Network

Talking about your feelings of imposter syndrome with trusted friends, co-workers, or a supportive network can provide relief. Realize that you're in good company, as many successful individuals experience imposter syndrome at one point in their lives. Sharing your experiences can also help you realize that you're not alone in these feelings, which can lessen the sense of isolation often associated with imposter syndrome.

Seeking Professional Help

If your imposter feelings are significantly impacting your mental health and personal life, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Coaches and therapists can provide strategies and tools to overcome imposter syndrome, enhance your self-confidence, and promote personal growth and well-being.

To gain additional insights and tips on overcoming imposter syndrome and boosting performance, check out our blog post: Boosting Business Performance: Certification Programs for Training and Development.

For a deeper dive, listen to The Imposter Syndrome Files Podcast where various high achievers share their personal experiences with imposter syndrome and their journeys towards overcoming these feelings.

Learn more about the shadow self and its potential for personal growth in our blog post on the topic

Steps on How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Steps on How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming imposter syndrome requires a series of intentional steps aimed at confronting the problem and changing the patterns of thinking that feed into it. Here are some actionable steps to help you move forward:

Changing Your Mindset

Imposter syndrome thrives on negative self-talk and doubt. It's crucial to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations and to develop self-compassion. Try to maintain a growth mindset and view challenges as opportunities for personal growth rather than threats to your self-esteem. Remember that everyone, even the most successful people, experience fear and doubt. What matters is how you respond to these feelings.

Confronting and Discussing Your Feelings

Often, the first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge your feelings and confront them. Discuss your imposter feelings with a trusted friend, mentor, or professional coach. Speaking about your feelings can lessen their power over you and provide a fresh perspective.

Understanding That Everyone Makes Mistakes

Recognize that making mistakes is part of life and does not make you a fraud. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow. Don't allow fear of failure to paralyze you. Instead, see it as a chance to improve and develop your skills.

To learn more about transforming comparison into motivation, visit our blog post: People Better Than Me? How to Transform Comparison into Motivation.

For expert tips and deeper insights on overcoming imposter syndrome, consider reading this insightful article from the Harvard Business Review: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome.

How to Help Someone Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

How to Help Someone Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

To help someone grappling with imposter syndrome, it can be helpful to enhance your skills and understanding by becoming an executive coach. You can learn more about this in our ultimate guide on how to become an executive coach.

If you're in a position to support someone grappling with imposter syndrome—whether as a friend, family member, or people manager—there are several key steps to take:

Recognizing the Signs

Imposter syndrome often manifests as chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence. High achievers who constantly fear failure, downplay their accomplishments, and feel like a fraud may be experiencing imposter syndrome. By understanding these signs, you'll be better equipped to identify those in your life who might be struggling.

Approaching a Conversation about Imposter Syndrome

Approaching a person about their imposter feelings requires sensitivity and tact. Make sure to create a safe, non-judgmental space for them to open up about their feelings. Use empathetic and understanding language, emphasizing that imposter syndrome is a common experience shared by many.

Providing Support and Encouragement

Reassure the person that their feelings of being an imposter are not an accurate reflection of their abilities or achievements. Encourage them to celebrate their accomplishments and to share their fears and doubts. Offer positive feedback and reinforcement, focusing on their strengths and achievements.

For those in a leadership position, understanding how to effectively manage and support your team is crucial. Check out our blog post: How to Become a Good Manager: The Ultimate Success Blueprint.

Also, for a deeper understanding of imposter syndrome and effective ways to combat it, I highly recommend Dr. Valerie Young's podcast: The Imposter Syndrome with Dr. Valerie Young.

Books to Read about Imposter Syndrome

Books to Read about Imposter Syndrome

Expanding your knowledge about imposter syndrome can provide you with the tools to understand, confront, and ultimately overcome this self-limiting belief. Here are three book recommendations that delve into the subject:

  1. "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It" by Dr. Valerie Young. In this book, Dr. Valerie Young delves into the reasons why so many accomplished women feel as though they're 'faking it', and provides actionable advice to banish the imposter feelings once and for all.
  2. "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" by Sheryl Sandberg. While not solely focused on imposter syndrome, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg explores the insecurities many women feel in the workplace, which often manifest as imposter syndrome. The book also offers strategies for women to claim their deserved success.
  3. "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are" by Brené Brown. Celebrated researcher and author Brené Brown dives deep into the power of wholehearted living - a lifestyle that embraces vulnerability and combats feelings of unworthiness, such as those produced by imposter syndrome.

These books offer deep insights into the causes and solutions of imposter syndrome, offering readers a pathway towards a more confident, authentic life. On a related note, you can also go through Zella's Top 10 shadow work books to help you heal.


Imposter Syndrome can be a crippling experience, impacting our personal lives, self-esteem, professional success, and overall mental fitness. It is a silent enemy, often going unrecognized and undiagnosed, but it doesn't have to be this way. By understanding the science behind it, recognizing its impact, and learning how it interplays with self-doubt, we can begin to dismantle the structures of this syndrome in our minds.

The journey towards overcoming Imposter Syndrome starts with recognizing your achievements and accepting that everyone makes mistakes. Building a supportive network and seeking professional help are also instrumental in combating this issue. Remember, it's okay to ask for help when you need it, and there's no shame in discussing your feelings.

If you notice someone around you grappling with Imposter Syndrome, lend a helping hand. Recognize the signs, initiate a conversation, and provide the needed support and encouragement. We all play a crucial role in fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and successful.

Moreover, knowledge is a powerful tool. Reading books like "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women" by Dr. Valerie Young, "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg, and "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown, can provide more insights into Imposter Syndrome and equip you with strategies to overcome it.

Imposter Syndrome might be common, but it doesn't have to be your reality. The path towards overcoming it may seem daunting, but every step you take brings you closer to embracing your authentic self and acknowledging your true potential. Remember, you are more capable than you think, and the world needs what only you can offer.

For more on Zella Life's mission and accomplishments, explore our story as one of the recipients of the Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund.

Read more about: Imposter Syndrome, Self Advocacy, Professional Development, Executive Coaching

About Remy Meraz

Remy Meraz, co-founder, and CEO of Zella Life, is a visionary leader who leveraged corporate glass ceiling challenges as a woman of color to drive systemic change.

While leading and cultivating high-performance teams from VC-backed startups to Fortune 500, she consistently faced obstacles such as inadequate mentorship, lack of psychological safety, and non-personalized training. Taking matters into her own hands, she turned to executive coaching and NLP training. This life-changing growth experience led to breaking leadership barriers and a passion for cognitive psychology.

Motivated by her experiences, she co-founded Zella Life, an innovative AI-driven coaching platform bridging the talent development gap by enhancing soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace.

Her vision with Zella Life is to transform professional development into an inclusive and impactful journey, focused on the distinct needs of both individuals and organizations. She aims to promote advancement and culture change by ensuring every professional's growth is acknowledged and supported.

Today, Remy is recognized as an influential innovator, trainer, mentor, and business leader. Under her leadership, Zella Life has delivered significant measurable outcomes for numerous well-known brands. This track record of positive outcomes garnered attention and funding from Google for Startups and Pledge LA, establishing Zella Life as a pivotal force in the learning and development arena tackling and resolving fundamental talent development issues for organizations of all sizes.

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