Dear Kirsten

I really suffer badly from imposter syndrome. It affects all the jobs I have had in the past and undermines my confidence. I feel like I am a fraud and that I don't deserve to have the job, and that someone else could do it better than me.

Because of this, I have worked extra hard to try to prove to my boss that I can do the job, so I put far more hours into the day than my colleagues and work from home in the evening.

Colleagues say I am a workaholic, but really it is me trying to justify my place at work.

Even though I know deep down that I have enough skills and experience to do to my job effectively, I put so much pressure on myself and now I feel like I am burning out and exhausted.

How can I get rid that inner voice which tells me I am a fraud, sabotaging my life and how I feel about myself?

Kirsten replies:

Imposter syndrome was first cited as a term by psychologists in 1978 and a recent review cited that over 70 per cent of us have identified with it at some point in our lives.

Imposter syndrome basically means you believe you have succeeded due to luck rather than your own innate skill set and worth.

It means you struggle to hold on and internalise your own success and own it as a product of your own capabilities.

This thought process leaves us feeling anxious, depleted and leads to behavioural changes such as overworking to compensate - desperately hoping no one will see us as the fraud we believe ourselves to be.

It's likely there are factors in your personality and upbringing which have exacerbated the feelings you have now - for example we know that perfectionists are more likely to suffer with imposter syndrome or people who struggle to ask for help and support and will battle on alone.

This sounds like a long term pattern for you - and one which is starting to have an impact on your physical health, it's something to get on top of.

Talk about it:

The first thing you could do is talk to your line manager about your feelings of inadequacy, they will be able to give you a realistic picture of how you are really doing and you need to hear that to be able to challenge your thought pattern.

I know speaking about these things are hard - and you've probably struggled alone with this for some time - but now is the prefect time to start to challenge this way of thinking and to do that you need to get some support.

I would also really like you to have a few counselling sessions, this type of thinking can really pull us down and it's something that can be really helped by talking therapies.

Separate feelings from fact:

Check out with yourself if the feeling of being an imposter is being driven from an irrational feelings place rather than a logical place.

Start to get into a habit of writing your fears down - get everything out on paper after work and then leave it for a few minutes, grab a drink and come back to it.

Write the logical response to your fears - use the information and the facts you know to be true about your performance.

Try to get into a habit of pulling yourself back to the facts of the situation rather than being spiralled by your feelings.

Celebrate your achievements 

Start a practice whereby each day you find three things you have achieved- they might be really small and that's ok, the trick is to get into recognising the things you are doing well.

Develop self compassion

Watch how you speak to yourself in your mind about mistakes and failures, try to catch yourself when you are pulled to being critical about yourself: this isn't a useful way of thinking, it just creates fear, try instead to find some nurturing responses - things you might say to a friend.

As hard as it is, you need to stop overworking, I imagine as you have been running this pattern for a while it might bring up feelings of guilt - try and hold on to the fact that these feelings are not a logical response and that you need to be able to have balance and rest in your life.

I would also want to check out with you how much time you were investing in down time, in hobbies, in socialising and connecting with people because sometimes our overworking can be a defence mechanism against other things.

All Best Wishes


Clinical psychotherapist and neurofeedback practitioner