Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

When I entered my PhD program at the age of thirty-nine, I knew my classmates would soon recognize I was a fraud. Earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees didn’t seem enough to cover the fact that I dropped out of high school when I was fifteen. During the first several months of the doctorate program, I felt inadequate. I didn’t belong. Someone would realize. Someone would find me out. Despite accomplishing plenty and proving myself deserving to be part of that doctorate program, I was experiencing a bad case of Imposter Syndrome.

If you feel like you don’t belong, even in areas you’re most qualified, you’re not alone. Imposter Syndrome can affect anyone, including and especially higher achievers. Regardless of your intelligence, education, gender, age, race, or background, it’s not uncommon to feel like an imposter.

For some, experiencing Imposter Syndrome can be debilitating. Perhaps you’ve felt it so strongly, it’s held you back from applying for higher positions, going back to school, or trying something new. Maybe you’re simply exhausted from feeling inadequate. Here are a few ways to overcome the feeling you don’t belong.


Reconcile with your past

Because Imposter Syndrome can play off your past, come to terms with any letdowns, failures, and inadequacies that occurred when you were younger. Let past events remain the past; embrace how it’s shaped you but let go of any pain. We’ve heard it often said, “Your past doesn’t define you.”

Redefine yourself

Because Imposter Syndrome feeds off any negative perceptions you have about yourself, you must focus on what is true, not merely perceived. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, what you’ve done to get where you are now, and how far you’ve come.

Choose your future path

If you’ve experienced difficult setbacks earlier in life, understand your future is still filled with endless opportunities. Set a few goals you want to achieve, practice daily affirmations, and focus on what you can and will do; ignore what you haven’t done or couldn’t do.

It wasn’t until I was nearly fifty that I learned more about what I was experiencing and began working to quiet the doubts. Much work was required to reconcile with my past failures, but now I’m able to focus on future accomplishments. Imagine what you can do once you’ve silenced those doubts.