Imposter Syndrome: Four Strategies to Combat It


Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon which causes a person to doubt their abilities, and chalk all their successes up to luck or coincidence.  It often causes people to frequently worry that if they fail, the people they’re trying to impress will realize that they’re actually a fraud, or not as smart/capable/skilled as they thought.  

Sound familiar? According to a 2011 review article published in the Journal of Behavior Science, almost 70% of people experience these feelings at some point in their life.  They can also prove difficult to unlearn, for people who have them often. In this article, I will talk about potential strategies for tackling these feelings and hopefully reducing their impact.  

1. Shift your inner dialogue 

When you hear yourself saying ‘I just got lucky with that competition I won’, ‘If I do badly on this test, everyone will realize I’ve been lying about how smart I am,’ or anything else like that, stop for a second and ask yourself: “Is this really true?” 

Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m thinking these thoughts about someone else, like a friend who I really care about.  Would I ever say that people would realize that my friend is lying about her intelligence if she didn’t do well on the next test? No, and I hope you wouldn’t think things like that about your friends either! 

The key takeaway here is that if you wouldn’t say an unhelpful and critical thing to your friend, you shouldn’t say it to yourself either.  

2. Stop comparing yourself to others 

Firstly, comparing yourself to someone else, especially if it’s to put yourself down, is never helpful.  Speaking from personal experience, it’s not going to help you do better; if anything, it will make you more anxious and may actually worsen your performance.  Secondly, looking at that statistic from the introduction, more likely than not the person you’re comparing yourself to also feels like an imposter sometimes, just like you do!  Remembering this can make that person seem less like an impossible standard you’re holding yourself up to, and more like another human being who struggles the way you do.   

3. Cut yourself some slack 

Imposter syndrome often comes with high levels of perfectionism.  If you find that you feel bad every time something isn’t perfect, remember that it’s okay if every single piece of work you do isn’t your best, and remember that it’s okay to take a break sometimes.  You can definitely have standards for your work, but it’s best if you can make those standards reasonable. 

4. Talk about your feelings 

Since these feelings of being an imposter are very common, chances are many of the people who care about you have also experienced it and could help you to work through it.  A parent, friend, teacher, or school counselor may be a good place to start. However, if these feelings are very strong and interfere with your quality of life, they could be a symptom of an underlying mental health problem, and talking to a professional might be a good idea. 


Abrams, Abigail. “Yes, Impostor Syndrome Is Real: Here’s How to Deal With It.” Time, Time, 20 June 2018,

Hendriksen , Ellen. “Nine Ways to Fight Impostor Syndrome.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 8 Aug. 2017,

Sakulku, J. “The Impostor Phenomenon”. The Journal of Behavioral Science, Vol. 6, no. 1, 1, pp. 75-97, doi:10.14456/ijbs.2011.6.

Editor’s note: Click here for more guidance on seeking help.