Imposter No More: Empowering Yourself in Professional Settings

Apr 01, 2024

Recently in our Move Talk Thrive podcast Emily Mackie and I unpacked the phenomenon that is Impostor syndrome. I then went and did some digging AKA looked at some research articles and unpacked it even more with my monthly group mentoring members and want to share some key points from these sessions.


So let's delve into the complex phenomenon of imposter syndrome and strategies for navigating its challenges. Originating in 1978, the term "imposter syndrome" was introduced by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes to describe the feeling of intellectual phoniness experienced by high-achieving individuals. Over time, this concept has evolved to encompass broader feelings of inadequacy across various domains of life. Despite its widespread prevalence, imposter syndrome is not insurmountable; it can be addressed through a combination of self-awareness, resilience, and a toolkit of practical strategies.


Imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent in high-pressure goal oriented industries such as healthcare, technology, business, law, arts, academia, and research where the pursuit of excellence is paramount. Studies have shown that at least 70% of high-achievers report experiencing the collective symptoms of imposterism: self-doubt, intellectual fraudulence and feelings of fear and failure, at some point during their careers(1). Imposter syndrome may present in diverse forms, affecting not only one's physical and mental health but also career advancement. Numerous studies have linked imposter syndrome with conditions such as depression, anxiety, burnout, and perfectionism, which can result in emotional fatigue and conflicts between work and personal life. The potential implications of imposter syndrome within the healthcare sector are particularly alarming.


Stepping out of one's comfort zone for the intention of personal and professional growth and development can often trigger imposter syndrome. It can become especially pronounced within the paediatric field particularly for new graduates. In this domain, professionals frequently find themselves collaborating with various stakeholders, including other healthcare providers, parents, and educators with them often being in the session with the children at one time. This multidisciplinary environment, while enriching and vital for holistic care, also amplifies the pressures and expectations placed upon practitioners. As a result, the dynamic nature of paediatric care, coupled with the need for effective collaboration, can intensify feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, further exacerbating the challenges associated with imposter syndrome in this specialised area of healthcare.


Despite its significant impact and widespread acknowledgement there is limited research on managing and mitigating imposter syndrome with early studies suggesting that individual and group psychotherapy principles may help mitigate its effects. With the social acceptance and relevance, there is a benefit in the label presenting an opportunity to speak up, be vulnerable and label the feelings openly. Creating checkpoints and safe spaces for teams to be open and acknowledge that these feelings are common is vital to foster this open conversation and sharing. Recognising and addressing imposter syndrome requires a multifaceted approach that acknowledges both personal and environmental factors.


Lizzy & Emily's 7 key strategies to overcome the Imposter

  1. Sitting with Feelings, Being Curious: Explore the underlying emotions without fear.

  2. Self-Talk, Finding Trends: Challenge negative self-talk and identify patterns.

  3. Focus on Connection, remembering we are connecting with kids, parents and other allieds so make time and create space for all parties. 

  4. Play a Role of Educator, share in real time your therapy principles

  5. Creating Your Ideal Person: Visualise the person you aspire to be. Don't be discouraged and continue to make efforts to develop.

  6. The Mission and Why: Focus on the purpose behind your actions.

  7. Shifting Focus: Redirect attention from yourself to helping others.


Ultimately, awareness and recognition of internal dialogue are crucial first steps in addressing imposter syndrome. By fostering a supportive and understanding environment, individuals can empower themselves and others to navigate imposter syndrome's challenges with resilience and confidence.


References : 

Siddiqui, Z.K., Church, H., Jayasuriya, R. et al. Educational interventions for imposter phenomenon in healthcare: a scoping review. BMC Med Educ24, 43 (2024).