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  • BY ALICIA RABINOWITZ

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Sole Proprietor. I have provided individual, family, and group counseling to adults, teens, and children with multiple issues including mental illness, learning disabilities, substance abuse, and trauma. I have assisted many individuals to overcome life’s challenges through solution-focused and strength-based methodologies.


Imposter Syndrome (IS), what is it and how do we overcome it? There has been so much buzz recently about IS, however Imposter Syndrome was first introduced back in the 1970’s by two female psychologists, Dr. Suzanna Imes and Dr. Pauline Rose Clance. They referred to what we now call Imposter Syndrome as Imposter Phenomenon (IP). On her website, https://www.paulineroseclance.com/impostor_phenomenon.html, Dr. Clance states, "Even though they are often very successful by external standards, they feel their success has been due to some mysterious fluke or luck or great effort; they are afraid their achievements are due to “breaks” and not the result of their own ability and competence.” Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes published “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” in 1978.


woman with mask
Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is thinking that people will find out that you do not know what you are talking about or that you do not know what you are doing. It is a sense that you are “posing” to be something you are not. It is mainly related to your work or career. This can create feelings of anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, and thoughts of not being good enough. IS does not discriminate, it does not matter what you look like or how intelligent you are. According to statistics, approximately 82% of the population in the United States has reported feeling like an imposter at work. According to forbes.com, many high performing females struggle with Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt. Why do we doubt ourselves? Even for myself in starting my own private therapy practice a little over a year ago, I had doubts about my own abilities. Would I fail? Would I succeed? Do I have what it takes? I think some of the nervousness and doubt is okay. It means we really care about what we are doing. As we push ourselves out of our comfort zone and strive to achieve more, these feelings may come up.


How can we overcome Imposter Syndrome? There are a few techniques which can help us overcome or at least cope with the feelings of IS. Awareness is key to change. We can explore our thoughts and emotions when feelings of self-doubt arise. Journaling and exploring our thoughts and emotions as they occur can help bring you more clarity and insight. We also use Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies. These are highly effective in helping to reduce feelings of IS. One such strategy is referred to as cognitive challenging. This is when we challenge the thoughts in our heads. Where is the evidence to prove my thinking? For example, if I am a straight A student and think I am stupid, where is the evidence to prove my point? There is a lack of evidence. You can then dispute your own thoughts. We can also utilize another CBT strategy which is known as cognitive reframing. This is changing our perception or view of an event or situation. We can switch a negative thought into a positive one. For example, if you are telling yourself “I do not know what I am doing,” you can change to “I have done this before and I do know what I am doing.” We can also use “I get to” in place of “I have to” which can be extremely helpful in reframing our view of a situation and can significantly affect how we cope with it.


This may sound simplistic; however, it takes awareness and exploration of our thoughts and emotions to create change and to reduce levels of anxiety. I see change as a four-step process; first there needs to be awareness, two is the motivation to change, three is the how and having a plan, four is consistency to maintain the change. A helpful tip, it takes twenty-one days in a row to make or break a habit. If you miss a day, you need to start at one again. This technique helps us to be successful in achieving our goals.

Negative self-talk and negative thinking can lend itself to Imposter Syndrome. Utilizing positive thinking tools can be highly effective in building up our self-esteem and our self-confidence. One tool you can use is Positive Affirmations. These are "I am" statements that end in a positive message. For example, I am brave, I am deserving of this promotion, I am more than good enough, I am resilient, I am confident. You can say these in your mind, out loud, or read off a post it or sign. I recommend saying positive affirmations a few times a day. You can also say these affirmations while looking at yourself in the mirror. This is known as Mirror Work which is an extremely effective technique. The research has shown that it can effectively reduce levels of anxiety and decrease depressive symptoms. A second tool is Building an Attitude of Gratitude which is saying or writing down statements starting with “I am grateful for” or “I am thankful for.” It can be anything abstract or concrete. 


I recommend saying positive affirmations a few times a day. You can also say these affirmations while looking at yourself in the mirror. This is known as Mirror Work which is an extremely effective technique.

For example, I am thankful for my family. I am grateful for the food on my table. I am thankful for the bird on the tree outside. I am grateful for this job so I can pay my rent. The third tool is bringing more Joy into your life. Do something you want to do, not something you have to do, for at least 15 minutes a day. For example, watch a TV show you enjoy, talk to a friend or family member, knit, walk outside, ride a bicycle. Fourth is Writing down, in the evening, a few positive things that went well or better than expected that day. Utilizing all four tools on a daily basis can promote happiness and a sense of wellbeing.

In conclusion, Imposter Syndrome affects many individuals around the globe. It can be crippling, can cause procrastination, and can affect your mental health. April 13, 2024 was International Imposter Syndrome Awareness Day. According to iisad.org"Imposter Syndrome is referring to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. It can be debilitating and affect the mental health of those who suffer from it greatly." Awareness is key to making change.

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Meet the expert:

Alicia Rabinowitz, LCSW, LISW-CP
Alicia Rabinowitz, LCSW, LISW-CP

Alicia Rabinowitz, LCSW, LISW-CP,


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