Tell-Tale Signs Imposter Syndrome Is Taking Over Your Life (And How To Overcome It)

Every one of us has the occasional moment of self-doubt. Starting up a new side hustle, becoming a parent, or moving into season two of that widely successful podcast you launched just a month ago can all leave us wondering: Do I really know what I'm doing?

While periodic self-doubt is completely normal, for some people, these emotions accompany them throughout the day. This ongoing questioning of one's competency and success is known as imposter syndrome. Information published in StatPearls explains that highly driven individuals — often thought of as overachievers — are particularly susceptible to imposter syndrome, especially individuals who work in the medical field (via National Library of Medicine). Those who experience imposter syndrome on a regular basis tend to be more prone to mental health issues like anxiety, burnout, or depression. Therefore, it's important to be on the lookout for signs that imposter syndrome has started to run the show and learn how to effectively cope with these emotions.

One tell-tale sign that imposter syndrome is seeping into other areas of your life pertains to your task preparation style. People with imposter syndrome tend to either over-prepare (sometimes referred to as super-heroism) in an attempt to prove capability or cram in their preparation right before a deadline, which can lead to feelings of guilt or fraudulence.

Techniques for alleviating feelings of imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome can also show up in the form of perfectionism or even denial (per StatPearls). If you're crediting happenstance as the reason for your success or downplaying your own knowledge or skill set, these can be signs of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome can also show up as fear, most predominantly fear of failure, or oppositely, fear of success.

If any of these characteristics sound familiar, know there are techniques one can turn to to help alleviate these feelings. Experts at McLean Hospital suggest talking to a trusted friend or family member to discuss these emotions — you may find out that they, too, struggle with imposter syndrome. Additionally, you can implement positive self-talk in your day-to-day life and practice receiving positive feedback from others by saying "thank you" rather than side-stepping the praise. Even better, you can write down the compliments you receive and make it a habit to regularly revisit them.

Managing these feelings should not be the sole responsibility of the patient, however. Research has shown imposter syndrome to be more prevalent among women and members of historically underserved communities. As a result, experts emphasize the need for increased access to behavioral health services as well as the importance of patient education, particularly among students in high-stress academic environments.