Your Imposter is the Fraud, Not You

By Amy Brightman, LCSW

As I sit on a plane and listen to Spotify on shuffle, Radiohead’s “Creep” catches my attention. Maybe it was because it followed a fun, upbeat One Direction song (yes, I said One Direction), but it also felt oddly familiar to many therapy sessions that start with: “I definitely have imposter syndrome.” Despite this psychological phenomenon being around since the 70's, it seems like clients just found a name for their self-doubt and self-defeating voice.

I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.

Sound familiar?

The thoughts we have about our abilities and accomplishments that lead to self-doubt begin to become conclusions about ourselves and our situations that are not based in reality. We get trapped in our feelings being facts. You probably do feel like a weirdo, an imposter, a faker (whatever you want to call it)—most of us do in some way—but this doesn’t mean you don’t belong. It means you need to use skills, be open to learning, gather information, ask for help, and be receptive to feedback. You must be vulnerable to develop new roles in your life. If you were a fraud, you wouldn’t even bother with process, you would be looking for the shortcuts instead.

Another characteristic of imposter syndrome is attributing our achievements, successes, and opportunities to luck. This understandably leads us to believe we have neither earned these gains nor deserved the success. As a result, we may begin to think we deserve to be “found out” or “punished,” leading to more anxiety about making mistakes for fear that it will expose us.  It is clear why we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to be “perfect.”

If we perceive our achievements as being products of luck, then we prevent ourselves from seeing the true cause for our progress. As a result, we are quick to deny reality—that we have, in fact, received training, experience, and education. Things in our past have allowed us to develop and new challenges in the future push us to grow. Just because you don’t know 100% of what you’re doing in your present life, that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be where you are. We are all learning in our present lives, isn’t every minute technically brand new?

Imposter and impossible are similar words for a reason. Stop doubting yourself and start participating in your life. The more you make things happen, the more you prove that rotten imposter wrong! Your imposter is the fraud, not you.

Amy Brightman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.