You’re a Fake: Impostor Syndrome and What You Can Do About It

You’re a Fake: Impostor Syndrome and What You Can Do About It

If you struggle with feeling like you’re a fake,  feeling less worthy than other people or criticizing yourself for mistakes, you may be feeling what is called impostor syndrome.

Maybe you’re familiar with the anxiety that shows up when you start to wonder how long it will take before someone “catches on to you”. You can’t help but feel like you “have them all fooled”, but are convinced that before long someone will realize that you are not as competent as they had believed.

If this has been your experience, you are not alone. An estimated 70% of people struggle with this at some point in their lives according to this article in the International Journal of Behavioural Science.


Impostor syndrome, is not really a syndrome or a medical diagnosis, but you’ve likely heard of this phenomena.  These painful thoughts and emotions often lead people strive for perfection, set unrealistic goals and feel paralyzed by negative judgements and self-doubt. 

It was initially defined by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s.  Through this work, Clance noticed that struggling with profound feelings of self-doubt  can lead to anxiety and low self-confidence. 

In a more recent book, Unlocking Your Authentic Self, the author Jennifer Hunt, notes that “people with impostor syndrome under value and under appreciate their own skills and talents”  

Women (and men!) who struggle with impostor syndrome may feel like they are always wearing a mask and hiding their more authentic selves. 

Valerie Young, author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women” notes that people who struggle with impostor syndrome can have trouble putting their thoughts and feelings into perspective.  They magnifying their view of  themselves and their mistakes and fail to recognizing that others make them, too. 

To make things worse, people who struggle this kind on negative self-judgement will also attribute often their successes to luck or other factors beyond their control.

Talk about a no win situation!

In her work with people struggling with impostor syndrome, Young created a ‘rule book’,  helping people to identify the unconscious rules in their mind that they hold themselves to in order to feel competent. These rules tend to begin with “should,” “always,” or “never.”

Which of these ‘rules’ do you identify with?


Doing it all Perfectionism Impostor Syndrome Bedford Halifax Counselling
perfectionist impostor syndrome Counselling  Bedford Halifax Nova Scotia
struggle with self doubt and criticism  counselling Bedford Halifax
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These rigid rules and fixed ways of responding can keep us stuck in unworkable, draining behaviours.  These behaviours persist, because in the short term they serve a function; perhaps they decrease our anxiety or silence our inner critic.  However, in the long term they lead us to increased emotional pain and exhaustion.

Wonder if you are experiencing Impostor Syndrome?  ,

Take the quiz here .


Feelings of never being good enough and not measuring up not only impact the workplace, but can spill over in to your relationships and home life.  A 2019 study published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology found that employees who experience persistent thoughts of feeling like a fake were emotionally drained and struggled to maintain family and work demands, even though they were highly accomplished individuals.  

This is because it is emotionally exhausting and discouraging to feel stuck struggling to measure up.  rapped in this way of thinking and judging yourself,ese unworkable ways of responding, you can easily become exhausted, discouraged and stuck.  There is evidence pointing to a connection between impostor syndrome and burnout, and in my work with women at my counselling practice, I see this happening for many women; from stay-at-home moms to all kinds of professions .  

1)Notice how you feel  

According to Dr. Jennifer Hunt, people that struggle with impostor syndrome may have a harder time with emotion regulation.  She states that people internalize their emotions and believe them to be 100% true rather than recognizing them as temporary and changeable.  They may be prone to holding onto thoughts and feelings from the past, overthinking, forecasting into the future.  

This reminds me of ‘The Sushi Train’ metaphor by Russ Harris. 

The better we get a noticing our emotions, naming them and allowing them to come and go in their own good time, the less emotional energy we expend on trying to fix or get rid and the less impact they have on us. 

Try: Keeping a journal to help you connect your thoughts, emotions, body sensations and how you have been coping with them.  Here is a journalling page to get you started.

2)Notice your Inner Critic

When was the last time you heard from your inner critic? You know, that voice in your head that constantly judges you, puts you down and compares you to others. The one that tells you you’re not good enough or smart enough and says things you would never dream of saying to another person.

Now you may think this inner critic, while annoying, is relatively harmless. But this is simply not the case. This inner critical voice limits you and stops you from living the life you truly desire. It hinders your emotional well-being and, if left unchecked, can even lead to depression or anxiety.

Here are some ways you can silence that inner critic and stop beating yourself up.

Give it Attention

That’s right, in order to gain control over your inner critic you have to know that it exists. Most of our thinking is automatic. In other words, we don’t give our thoughts much thought. We barely notice a critical thought has passed. Give attention to your thoughts, all of them. This will help you recognize the critical voice.

Here are some emotional clues the critic has reared its ugly head: whenever you feel doubt, guilt, shame, and worthlessness. These are almost always signs of the critic at work.

Separate Yourself from Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic is like a parasite, feeding off you. You were not born with this parasite but acquired it along the way. Your inner critic hopes it can hide and blend in, and that you’ll think ITS thoughts are your own.

You have to separate yourself from this parasite. One way to do that is to give your critic a name. Have fun with this naming. You could call your inner critic anything from “Todd” to “Miss. Annoying Loudmouth.” It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you learn to separate it from your authentic self.

4) Face the REAL Reality

Are you someone that generalizes your self-criticisms? By that I mean, do you make generalities about yourself such as, “I’m an idiot,” when you make a mistake? The truth is, we all make mistakes from time-to-time, and this mistake does not make you an idiot.  The sum of who you are is greater than this mistake. 

If you’re going to work on stepping out from the grip of impostor syndrome, you need to first recognize that you might be keeping yourself stuck with these generalities.

To see this more clearly, make a list of 10 of your strengths and 10 weaknesses.

When you’re done making this list, ask yourself if any of these things are true about you 100% of the time.  I bet not.  Remind yourself that these are behaviours you can choose to engage in (or not) but they don’t define you.  That way, you can choose to respond more flexibly rather than out of these generalities. 

4) Practice self-compassion

If you want to defeat an enemy, you need to have a powerful ally on your side. It’s important at this juncture to create an even more powerful inner voice. One that is on your side and acts as your BFF.

To create this new voice,  respond to yourself the way you would to a good friend or someone you love very much.  Acknowledge that this is a difficult moment and that it is painful.  Offer yourself some kind, encouraging words.

Life is short. To have the most fulfilling one possible, we have to stop wasting time on beating ourselves up.

To learn more about self compassion, check out some of my other blogs on the topic.

How To Practice Self Compassion

Why Being Kinder To Yourself Matters


If you are struggling with impostor syndrome, anxiety or self doubt and need support and guidance, don ‘t hesitate to reach out.  I offer free 15 minute consultation appointments so we can make sure we’ll be a good fit.  All of my appointments are being done online through a secure video platform or by phone for people who live anywhere in Nova Scotia.

Should You Date If You Have Depression?

Should You Date If You Have Depression?

Dating is challenging for everyone. But when you suffer with depression, dating can feel scary and overwhelming. Not only do you feel particularly raw and vulnerable to possible rejection, but should a connection be made, you have the added burden of figuring out how and when to tell the person about your depression.

Should people with depression date? If the person feels emotionally strong enough, then yes of course they should date. The real question is HOW should they date? If you are suffering with depression and are interested in dating, here are some things to consider when meeting new potential partners:

Take Things Slow

There is no need to open up to someone on a first date and let them know that you suffer with depression. You’ll want to invest a little bit of time to see if this person is someone you think you could get serious with.

If after a few dates you think he or she could be someone you’d like to go deeper with, then feel free to test the waters on the topic of depression. Don’t feel you have to get into nitty-gritty details; simply tell them that you live with depression and see how they react.

Be Honest

Your potential partner may have follow-up questions immediately or they may think about things for a while and then bring up some questions later. Whenever they do, be honest with your answers.

It will be tempting to want to downplay things in order to put your best self forward. But not being honest about your symptoms and reality will backfire eventually. Let them know you have good days and bad and if you are currently taking medications and/or seeing a therapist. Answer as many questions as you feel comfortable with, but when you do, just be sure to be honest and not pretend you are someone you’re not.

Learn from Your Past

Everyone has dating pitfalls and patterns, and people with depression are no different. It’s important that you respect past dating failures so you can prevent them from happening again. For instance, did you tend to date people who made you feel bad about yourself? If you find you’re doing it again, call things off and take some time to regroup.

Get Help

Seeking the help from a licensed therapist can help you work out any issues you have that are hindering your relationships. If you notice you keep repeating past mistakes, try and talk with someone who can help you navigate your own behavior.

If you or a loved one suffers from depression and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Grief Series Part 3: Grief and Relationships

Grief Series Part 3: Grief and Relationships

4 Ways Relationships Might Change When Facing Grief

Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the biggest challenge a person faces. Grieving can feel overwhelming and consume every facet of your life. It is during this time that you need the comfort of others the most, and yet social connections often feel strained or flipped upside-down as you navigate grief and relationships.

Here are four ways relationships can shift when you are trying to navigate the loss of a loved one:

1. Your Support System May Surprise You

You may be surprised who steps up in your greatest hour of need. Some of your closest loved ones, those who have been by your side through dating and childbirth and other life dilemmas, may not be able to be there for you during your bereavement. It is often people you’d least expect who show up to hold your hand while you grieve. An old friend you’ve lost touch with, a co-worker you’ve hardly spoken to but who understands the complexities of living with death… these are sometimes the people who help the hurt go away.

2. You Will Feel Angry – And That’s Okay

You will try and understand why your closest friends and relatives seem to have abandoned you during one of the most painful times in your life. But understanding won’t make the pain of it go away.

Yes, it’s important to realize that not everyone can cope with death and loss, including the people closest to you. It’s also important to recognize that feeling this additional pain, and even anger and resentment about feeling abandoned, is totally normal and okay.

3. People Will Avoid You

Losing loved ones is something all of us will go through, but some people cannot handle this reality. Just the thought of a loved one dying is more than many people can bear. Seeing your pain and sitting with you in your time of darkness will force others to look this stark reality in the face. Many people simply can’t do it. If you find that friends and relatives seem to be avoiding you, understand it is most likely because they cannot handle their own fears of loss.

4. You Will Have Something in Common with Others

For most people, it’s hard to understand certain things until they experience it themselves: Having children, running a marathon, getting divorced. Losing a loved one is certainly on this list as well. While your current group of loved ones will try to empathize with you, the reality is that you now belong to a special club and those who you feel close to and understood by may change.

This does not mean you will no longer feel close to those you did before the loss, but it means you have now changed and how you perceive the world and others has changed as well.

Relationships are hard, and they can be more difficult during periods of loss and grief. It’s important that you are gentle with yourself during this time and seek help. Consider joining a support group. Being around those who share your pain firsthand can be a comfort during this time.

You may also want the guidance of a therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to work through your grief.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Grief Series Part 2: The Impact of Grief on Relationships

Grief Series Part 2: The Impact of Grief on Relationships

Experiencing the death of a loved one is one of the most painful things a person faces

The shock of your beloved friend or family member having passed away, along with the finality of their death is difficult to deal with.

Everyone Mourns Differently

The process of mourning is a very personal experience. Because grief is so personal, each person reacts differently to the death of a loved one; your instinct may be to reach out and connect, and the instinct of your friend or relative may be to retreat, distract themselves with work or hobbies or shut down.

Your relationship with the deceased was a unique one, so the process in which you grieve the loss will also be unique and personal to you. The close friends and family that you would expect to be there for you in one of the most challenging times of your life may not be present in the way you’d hoped or anticipated. Even your spouse or partner may not provide the comfort you’d expect.

Relationships Impacted by Grief Will Change

Although it’s disappointing and hurtful to experience what feels like a breakdown in your relationships when you need them the most, you must realize that your friends, family and spouse are likely also affected by grief, and going through their own process of mourning.

It’s also important not to rely solely on your spouse for comfort. It’s healthier for both of you, and will ease the stress on your marriage, if you have other people to turn to for help.

The impact of grief is an incredible strain on your existing relationships, as who you are as a person is temporarily altered as you struggle to cope with the loss and find a way to move forward. Your close friends and loved ones may have difficulty coping with how you’re mourning, causing them to pull away temporarily. They could also be very used to seeing you as a source of strength, and a pillar, and seeing you in this vulnerable state (in addition to possibly dealing with their own grief) is more than they can bear.

Seek Out New Sources of Support

Maintaining relationships takes effort, and they’re vulnerable to the difficulties we face as we move through life. You may need to turn to distant family members, other friends or acquaintances, make new connections through bereavement groups or seek professional help from a mental health counselor to find solace and understanding.

Although we can expect bereavement to change our relationships, we can also expect some semblance of normalcy as everyone affected copes with the loss over the passage of time. By forgiving friends or loved ones who weren’t there for you as you dealt with your grief, you can re-establish lost connections.

If you’re having difficulty with your relationships as you grieve and need some understanding and guidance, please give me a call and we can set up an appointment to talk.

Grief Series Part 1: Coping With Grief Through Meditation

Grief Series Part 1: Coping With Grief Through Meditation

Losing someone we love can cause us to feel angry, anxious or depressed.

When coping with grief, it may feel like you can’t move forward, or you don’t know how you can continue living in a world without your loved one in it.

To help deal with these intense and overwhelming emotions, turning to meditation can help. Meditation is a practice of calm and silence, where the frenetic thoughts and worries in your mind are quieted for a moment of reflection or mindfulness. Through meditation, you can begin to calm your emotions, assess your feelings, and come to a place of acceptance and peace.

A Meditation to Cope with Grief:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable space to sit where you can be alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Play some soft ambient music if you like.
  • Close your eyes and begin by taking slow, mindful and natural deep breaths: in through the nose, then slowly exhale.
  • Try to push away any thoughts or worries and concentrate only on being in this moment.
  • Think of the face of the person you’re missing, and imagine them before you, now. You can imagine that their spirit is there with you, or you can simply envision their face.
  • Express anything you’d like to them. Focus on making the conversation loving and compassionate. If you’d like, you can reimagine a memory. Put yourself back in time with your loved one and imagine experiencing everything in that moment.
  • Thank your loved one for coming to visit you. Imagine a peaceful and gentle goodbye.
  • Slowly bring your awareness back to the room. Feel the energy of yourself from the top of your head to your toes as you take slow and natural deep breaths.

Try this meditation any time you feel the need to do so.

There are apps you can download for your smartphone or tablet to help guide you through different meditations; just search for “meditation” in the App Store. You can also search YouTube for “meditations for grief” and try the guided meditations available there for free.

There is no one way to grieve; everyone grieves differently. There’s also no time table or deadline. The journey of grief is a very personal one, and the only way to get through it is to deal with the emotions you’re experiencing as they come.

If you’re having trouble moving forward after losing someone you love and would like some help, please give me a call today so we can set up an appointment.

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