Impostor Syndrome, also known as Impostor Phenomenon, refers to an internal experience of believing that you're not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism, the social context, and gender roles. Impostor Syndrome prompts fear and doubt about one's abilities, skills, and accomplishments, with a worry of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of competence. Often, achievements are dismissed as luck, timing, or the result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they perceive themselves to be1.
Common Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome Impostor Syndrome can manifest through various symptoms, including:
A feeling of being a fake: The fear of being "found out" or exposed as a fraud is often a constant worry.
Discounting success: Achievements are often downplayed or attributed to external factors such as luck or others' help, rather than to one's abilities.
Overworking: In an attempt to cover up perceived inadequacies, individuals with Impostor Syndrome might work harder and longer than others.
Undermining one's own achievements: This can be in the form of presenting work as a fluke, luck, or timing, rather than the result of hard work and ability.
Fear of failure: A characteristic symptom of Impostor Syndrome is a constant fear of failure and making mistakes2.
Prevalence of Impostor Syndrome Among Therapists Impostor Syndrome is a common experience in many fields, and psychotherapy is no exception. While the exact prevalence is not readily available due to the inherent private nature of this psychological phenomenon, anecdotal evidence and self-report surveys suggest a significant number of therapists, especially those early in their careers, struggle with these feelings.
Reasons for the Prevalence of Impostor Syndrome Among Therapists The field of psychotherapy can be particularly conducive to the development of Impostor Syndrome due to several factors:
Busyness: Therapists often juggle multiple roles in their practice, which can leave little time for personal growth and development. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and impostor feelings.
Burnout: The mental and emotional energy required to manage the daily tasks of therapy and running a private practice can be draining, leading to burnout. This may exacerbate feelings of being an impostor.
Information Overload: The wealth of theories and modalities in the field can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Isolation: Private practice can be isolating, with little structured time for collaboration and consultation with other therapists. This isolation can foster self-doubt and impostor feelings3.
The first step to overcoming Impostor Syndrome is to understand it. Recognizing the symptoms and acknowledging the feelings associated with it allows for the beginning of a journey towards building confidence in therapeutic practice.