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  • Caleb Birkhoff

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: How Therapy Can Help You Realize Your Worth

Do you ever feel like you’re just pretending to be good at your job? That any day now, your boss, your friends, your family is going to realize you’re a fraud and fire you, abandon, or disown you? That you're just lucky to have made it this far and you're waiting for everyone to find out that you're actually a fraud? Or maybe that you don’t deserve that promotion or recognition? If these concerns sound familiar, you may be experiencing what is commonly referred to as imposter syndrome. This phenomenon occurs when high-achieving individuals doubt their abilities and accomplishments, convincing themselves that they’ve tricked others into seeing them as competent. It can be a constant, exhausting drain on your sense of self; and can hold you back in your personal and professional life. However, the good news is that therapy can help you overcome imposter syndrome, find your authentic self, and achieve your goals with greater confidence and ease. Below are some ways that therapy can help you combat imposter syndrome and find your true worth.

1.Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Before we can discuss how therapy can help you combat imposter syndrome, it's important to understand what it is. Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy despite evidence of your success and competence. The evidence doesn’t reassure you, and can even be twisted into further evidence of your masquerade. You may feel like a fraud, that your achievements are just a result of luck (easily explained away), or that others see you as less capable than you actually are. Therapy can help you explore where these feelings come from and how they are affecting your life. It’s reductive in psychotherapy to blame everything on your parents, but it’s not unusual for the roots of these feelings and beliefs to come from your family of origin.

Imposter syndrome can manifest in a number of ways: excessive self-doubt, fear of failure, perfectionism, anxiety, and stress. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or profession. Whether you’re a new hire, an entrepreneur, a student, or a seasoned executive, imposter syndrome can creep up on you when you least expect it, leaving you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and unsure. Luckily, therapy can help you learn the skills and strategies to identify and manage these feelings, and help you connect with your true self. It’s important to remember as you begin to address these feelings it’s going to take practice to untangle this distorted thinking from reality.

2. Changing Negative Self-Talk

One of the main ways imposter syndrome manifests is through negative self-talk. You might tell yourself that you're not good enough, that you don't deserve success, or that you'll never measure up to others. Negative self-talk is often characterized by an internal monologue that we wouldn’t dare say out loud, and definitely not to anyone else. Therapy can help you identify these negative thoughts and challenge them. Your therapist can help you reframe your thoughts and find evidence to counteract them. Negative self-talk is one of the most common forms of cognitive distortions that people engage in. A wonderful first step to intervene with negative-self talk is with its opposite, positive self-talk. It may sound silly, but giving yourself a pep talk, reinforce your accomplishments, and review the evidence to the contrary. Research indicates it’s most effective to speak out loud and refer to yourself by your name. It’ll likely feel silly to talk in the third person to yourself, but it is positive step in the right direction.

Another important aspect of therapy for imposter syndrome is setting realistic expectations for yourself. Perfectionism is a common trait among those who experience imposter syndrome, and it can lead to burnout and extreme stress. You’ll learn to set achievable goals in therapy that align with your values and priorities, and celebrate your successes along the way. You’ll also learn to recognize and accept your limits, and ask for help when needed. By setting realistic expectations for yourself, you’ll build a strong foundation of confidence and resilience.

3. Developing Self-Compassion

Along with changing negative self-talk, therapy can also help you develop self-compassion. This means treating yourself with kindness and empathy, just as you would a friend who is struggling. You might need to learn to be gentler with yourself and accept that everyone makes mistakes, instead of falling victim to harsh self-criticism. Your therapist can help you develop strategies to practice self-compassion, such as mindfulness or self-care activities.

4. Learning to Accept Praise

People with imposter syndrome often struggle to accept compliments or praise. You might brush off compliments or downplay your achievements; it’s difficult to take them in when you’re struggling to believe in yourself. However, learning to accept praise is an important part of combating imposter syndrome. Your therapist can help you practice accepting compliments and recognizing your accomplishments. You might even make a list of your achievements and reflect on how you got there. These lists can be helpful reminders to revisit, when you’re struggling with confidence or self-esteem.

Treating your imposter syndrome can yield incredible results in your life as a whole. It is often difficult to truly connect with others if you’re waging an internal battle to feel like you belon. Imposter syndrome often stems from a fear of being exposed as unworthy, but true connection and growth requires vulnerability. In therapy, you’ll learn to recognize your feelings of vulnerability and understand that they are a natural part of the human experience. You’ll also learn techniques to communicate your needs, boundaries, and emotions in healthy and productive ways, both in your personal and professional relationships.

5. Building Confidence

Finally, therapy can help you build confidence in your abilities and recognize your worth. You might work with your therapist to explore your strengths and values, and find ways to incorporate them into your life. As you build confidence, you'll be better equipped to handle challenges and setbacks, rather than spiraling into imposter syndrome. Sometimes it feels like confidence is a thing that some people “just have,” a sort of “it” factor that they’re born with. Many people are surprised the things like confidence and self-esteem, essentials to combating imposter syndrome, are feelings you can enhance with your own behavior (coupled with intention and support).

Begin Believing in Yourself

Imposter syndrome can be a challenging and isolating experience, but it does not have to define your life and work. Therapy can provide a supportive and compassionate space to help you overcome imposter syndrome, find your authentic self, and achieve your goals with greater confidence and ease. It can provide you with tools and strategies to combat these negative thoughts and build your confidence. Through the process of therapy, you’ll learn to practice self-compassion, set realistic expectations, and embrace vulnerability, ultimately leading to a healthier and more fulfilling life. Remember, you are capable, deserving, and worthy of success, and therapy can help you believe it. Contact a therapist today to start your journey towards self-acceptance and confidence.

I hope that this list helps you feel more confident to understand yourself through therapy in San Francisco. If after reading all of that, you’re still swirling with questions feel free to call me at 415-990-1452 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and to get some questions answered. I would be happy to hear what is happening for you, what you’re looking for and provide some direction to finding the right therapist for you.

If you are seeking help with couples therapy, drugs and alcohol, life transitions, discovering yourself, or therapy for men’s issues, you can read more about how Caleb Birkhoff might be able to help by clicking here!

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