The Montfort Group

Do You Feel Like an Imposter?

I was recently asked to share some professional tips for coping with anxiety. The invitation was both humbling and terrifying. I wasn’t worried about the content. I help clients transform their relationships with anxiety in my practice every day. I was terrified to step into a space occupied by well-respected mental health experts. I questioned if I deserved to share this space. What made me qualified to speak publicly on the topic? I was overcome by self-doubt. I didn’t trust my own education, experience, and accomplishments. I felt like an imposter.

If you have ever experienced feelings of inadequacy; fear of somehow being exposed as a fraud despite abundant evidence to the contrary; or if you struggle to embrace your success, then you are familiar with the phenomenon widely known as imposter syndrome.

The Imposter Experience: Embracing Our Shared Humanity

No one is immune to feeling like an imposter. Research shows that nearly 70% of us have experienced it. This statistic includes people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds, regardless of achievements or competence. In fact, the more successful, educated, and accomplished a person is, the more likely they are to feel inadequate, that their status is a fluke, and that they have somehow managed to fool everyone they are deserving of what they have achieved.

Imposter thoughts and feelings can pop up at any point in life. However, they tend to be most intense when we are required to step outside our comfort zones, take on new challenges, or face high expectations. They reflect our vulnerability as we navigate life’s uncertainties.

Reframing Our Approach

When we care deeply about a job, a cause, a new role in life, we put forth effort and strive for excellence. Some level of discomfort and anxiety is to be expected when we work towards what we value and desire success. The occasional self-doubt and questioning could be a sign we long for recognition and appreciation. To feel like we matter is a core human need.

Unfortunately, our culture rewards external measures of success: social status, influence, wealth, career advancement and many of us equate worthiness with achievement. While I view imposter feelings as a normal part of growth and learning, and as such they are not be pathologized, I also recognize that they can hinder individual progress. When we significantly underestimate our abilities and allow the fear of “unmasking” to take over, we are likely to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors for protection: perfectionism, procrastination, and avoidance.

Those of us who have internalized the belief that worth is conditional on success are particularly vulnerable to this.
If you find yourself turning away from opportunities, look inwards, notice what comes up, acknowledge the feelings and identify the blocks. The goal is to find a way to take risks and move forward despite self-doubt and fear of failure.

Strategies to Manage Imposter Feelings

Normalize Your Experience: Remind yourself that feeling like an imposter is not a sign of inadequacy but a natural response to new challenges.
Challenge Negative Thoughts: Is there any evidence to back your inner critic’s harsh judgment? Often, you’ll find that negative self-talk is based on unreasonable self-imposed expectations rather than reality.
Avoid Comparisons: Comparisons can exacerbate feelings of inferiority especially for those who have been marginalized and/ or conditioned to feel less than in some way. Instead, focus on aligning with your values and move towards what matters most to you in the current season of life.
Celebrate Your Journey: Revel in the accolades and own your successes, no matter how small. Strive for growth not perfection. It is impossible to learn and evolve without taking risks and facing occasional setbacks.
Seek Support: Share your feelings with friends, family, or colleagues whom you trust. Talking openly about impostor feelings can help normalize your experience. You might also learn about new helpful ways to manage them successfully.
Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. You will inevitably stumble on occasion, mistakes and imperfections are a natural part of the human experience.
Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Embrace challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. View failures as valuable lessons that contribute to your development.

Embracing our humanity, vulnerabilities, and flaws empowers us to navigate imposter feelings with greater resilience and self-compassion.

Picture of Gergana Markov, MBA, MS, LPC

Gergana Markov, MBA, MS, LPC

I am a National Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas. I received my Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University and also hold a Masters in Business Administration from Georgia State University. I had a successful career in real estate acquisitions, corporate marketing, and advertising prior to becoming a counselor. My clinical training and experiences include counseling individuals, couples, and groups in various treatment settings, including private practice, community clinics, and hospitals. I am an EMDR trained therapist and utilize trauma-informed interventions in my practice. Additionally, I have specialized training in parent-child dynamics, gender and sexuality issues, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Safe Conversations for couples and communities. I am also a passionate LGBTQ+ ally.

Schedule Online

It's easy to set up an appointment with us - see what's available now!

Our Blog

Therapy thoughts

defining motherhood
Cory Montfort, MS, LPC-S

Defining Motherhood

Most of us mothers, no matter the circumstance, feel inadequate at times. Unprepared and unappreciated. Too busy and not doing enough. Overbearing and overindulging.

Read More »
losing connection
Dr. Lee Kinsey

Fearing Loss, Losing Connection

The truth is that loss is a part of life. It is as important as love, as important as security, as important as holding on to the things we value. Accepting loss gives us the power to change. If we accept the inevitability of loss, we free ourselves to feel vulnerable. And if we free ourselves to feel vulnerable, to fear losing, then we empower ourselves to examine what must change. And when we examine what must change, we enable the possibility that we can hang on to those we love. When we change, we heal. And when we heal, we love harder and longer and better.

Read More »
Cory Montfort, MS, LPC-S

Stories Matter: Listening

I have decided to focus this year on the importance of stories. Your story, my story, “their” story. Not just the stories we find easy to digest, but learning to hear – truly hear – the stories that are difficult to agree with, and perhaps hard to understand.

Read More »