Impostor Syndrome and what to do about it.

Impostor Syndrome

What is Impostor Syndrome?

“Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised  fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenonomen remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally” - Wikipedia

Wow, well that sucks.

All the evidence points to you being competent, but inside you feel like a fraud, incapable and undeserving, all the time fearing you may be exposed as a fake. Living your life in this way is a recipe for anxiety and seems to be something all of us have experienced in one form or another from time to time.

Impostor Syndrome  may have shown up in you life in more ways than you are aware. Perhaps you’ve just qualified for a role you’ve been training for for a long time but can’t bring yourself to start applying for positions that demand that qualification or maybe you’ve just landed your dream job but you can’t enjoy it because every day you feel like you have to act a part  because surely they have made a mistake and sent the congratulations letter to the wrong candidate! Maybe you’ve just been promoted, been given a whole lot more responsibility or a sizeable new project at work and you suddenly feel like you’re in the wrong position, surely the boss has got it wrong, you’re not ready, you’re not good enough or perhaps you have attended a meeting where you can’t answer a question and found yourself  immediately reaching for the negative self-talk? “I’m an idiot, I’m in the wrong job, wrong career, I’m not good enough, I’m going to get found out, I’m going to get the sack!”

Not only does impostor syndrome cause anxiety and make your present day work difficult but it can actually hinder you achieving what you are really capable of by leading you to apply for “safe” and unchallenging  jobs that are way too easy for you or by diminishing your courage to really stretch yourself or push for the next promotion.


Does this resonate with you? Do you want to  kick Impostor Syndrome into touch?:

  1. Challenge that automatic voice that kicks in when you are faced with situations that trigger you impostor feelings. Instead of allowing the voice in that says “Everyone is going to find out that I have no idea what I am doing” try thinking “Everyone feels out of their depth when they start something new”.

  2. Remember it’s OK not to have all of the answers, you are smart enough to find them out and it’s OK to ask for help.

  3. Don’t be worried about sharing your fraudulent feelings, I guarantee you will not be the only one struggling with this type of feeling and it can be reassuring to know that you are not alone.

  4. Try to start using the CBT method of “Fact or opinion” Is what I am feeling a fact or is it my opinion? Just because I feel stupid at this moment in time it doesn’t mean I actually am.

  5. Perfectionism is a curse in all walks of life and although you might feel it is necessary to drive you to where you want to be it can become a hindrance when you start obsessing over small mistakes, procrastinating for fear of not being perfect and taking too long over  tasks because you fear they are not perfect enough. Aim for excellence and work on being happy with that.

  6. Recognise and congratulate yourself on your achievement. Internal validation is so much more satisfying than external validation and is an available resource all of the time!

  7. When I started out I was a female working in a predominantly male environment, my impostor syndrome feelings weren’t a sign of me being incapable they were feelings of being a minority. Recognise that some of the feelings you are feeling may be a natural response to the situation you find yourself in.

  8. If you screw up, don’t pull out the metaphorical beating stick, see your failure as a learning opportunity. Remember you are human, we are all capable of making mistakes, pick yourself up and move on.

  9. Be kind to yourself. You have as much right as everyone else to have a break, ask questions and to screw up from time to time. People don’t know everything straightaway, it takes time to build knowledge and that’s OK Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou.”

  10. Take some time to visualise what success looks like to you. Picture yourself speaking calmly and articulately at that important meeting or at that next interview.

Michelle Brown dip.couns. MBACP is an experienced therapist based in Tunbridge Wells

Grounding yourself to help relieve overwhelm

Mindfulness #101 

Life can feel so overwhelming at times that it’s not uncommon to feel like you would just like to step off of the constant hamster wheel for a while. The more life is filled with busyness and complexity the more stressed we become and the more disconnected we become from present moment awareness leading ultimately to anxiety. 

When we feel stressed the world can quickly begin to feel like a threatening place, we can start over-reacting to the smallest of triggers and anxiety can whisk us away to the future, where we waste our time trying to magically solve situations that haven’t even arisen yet. 

Thankfully  there is a remedy for this feeling and it isn’t as unlikely as winning the lottery or as improbable as waking up in the morning without any problems it is a more tangible technique which can help right now and that you can start practising today. 

It’s called Grounding and is a way of bringing our awareness back into the present, back into the body and back into the senses. 

To be consciously present in the senses and the body is a powerful way to regulate overwhelm, create connection, passion, compassion and creativity. An anchor to the present moment can aid clarity and focus. 

Grounding  yourself is easy to do and can be of benefit immediately..

Here’s where to start: 

1.   Find somewhere you can sit comfortably for a moment with a straight back and a relaxed body. Make sure both feet are squarely on the floor. I find resting my hands openly, palms up, on my thighs helps me to remain open,

2.   Close your eyes and focus in on your breathing. Breathe slowly and each time you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out some of the tension you are feeling right now.

3.   Notice your connection to the ground through your feet and as you continue to exhale tensions, see if you can notice the sensations in the bottom of your soles.

4.   Now shift your focus to the weight of you body in the chair. Can you feel the connection of you body with the present?

5. Keep breathing deeply and slowly, inhaling peace and exhaling tension. Continue to focus your awareness on the sensations in your feet and the weight of your body in the chair.

6.  Now I invite you to extend your awareness to your entire body, how does it feel in your body, in the present moment, if you mind starts to wonder bring your focus gently and kindly back to your breath. Use your breath as an anchor to your present awareness.

Continue with this until you feel settled and centred, that might be a few minutes, it may take longer on difficult days.

Every time you become overwhelmed of find yourself engaging with anxious thoughts, make a mental effort to hit the STOP button, take a moment and ground yourself.

Michelle Brown dip.couns. MBACP is an experienced registered counsellor practising Integrative Counselling in Tunbridge Wells.


Could your self-esteem do with a boost?

1 Do you find it difficult to be assertive?

2 Are you withdrawing from social situations?

3 Are you often exhausted and overwhelmed because of the demands of others?

4 Do you find it difficult to accept criticism?

5 Do you avoid conflict?

6 Are you feeling a bit stuck and finding it difficult to move out of your comfort zone?

We all experience times where our confidence isn't as strong as we would like, but when low self-esteem  starts impacting the way we take care of or value ourselves it can become a long term problem and if left unchallenged for long enough it can start to have a seious impact our lives and may even result in anxiety or depression in the longer term.

My name is Michelle Brown and I am an Integrative Counsellor based in Tunbridge Wells. I see clients on a regular basis whose self-esteem has never been nurtured or has been squashed by events but without exception their self-esteem has grown by small adjustments in their daily lives.

Self-esteem is all wrapped up in the opinion we hold about ourselves, and is moulded over the years by our experiences and interactions with others such as peers, parents, fiends, teachers and even the media. 

If we are fortunate enough to have good self-esteem we tend to have a healthy opinion of ourselves respecting our own needs as much as others. We will generally feel just as important as them and won't  perceive our needs as being less valid. When we experience positive self-esteem we’re likely to have a positive outlook and will therefore be able to easily cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Low self-esteem can feel much less comfortable; it makes it  much easier to listen to those critical, self-loathing voices in our heads that make us feel like we are not good enough and less important than others. We might find it impossible to  ask for or accept help or simply to know how to get our needs met,  our low self-esteem makes us feel unworthy of help or consideration. Because it may feel like others are better than us and more deserving we might start having difficulty saying “no” and put our needs to the bottom of the pile. It’s not surprising that approaching the world with this mind-set can feel exhausting, lonely and at times intolerable Life’s little up's and down's are likely to feel overwhelming.

In short people with good self-esteem are kind and nurturing to themselves not critical and punishing they carry around their own inner cheerleader.

Low self-esteem doesn’t appear overnight itl develops slowly. If we are more prone to negative self-talk it makes sense that we are likely to hold on to any negative messages, if we found it difficult to live up to other people’s expectations of us we may  never feel good enough and if we grew up experiencing abuse or neglect within the home it is very likely that we won’t have internalised a nurturing compassionate voice.

But don’t be too disheartened if you have recognised these symptoms in yourself, your self-esteem isn’t cast in stone and you can take steps to improve it and here are some ideas of where to start.

  • Try to start to identify the negative thoughts you hold about yourself?

This may take some time and counselling can be very useful in helping you to recognise theses. What is your internal critic is telling yo?. Does it tell you you’re not good enough, that you haven’t worked hard enough, that you’re undeserving or unlovable? Perhaps it says you are selfish if you put your needs before others? Perhaps it tells you something else?

  • Start noting down the negative beliefs you have about yourself. If necessary carry a notebook and jot these thoughts down over the course of a few days.

  • Do you remember when you started to hold these beliefs? Where do they stem from?

  • Are you able to challenge those thoughts by finding evidence to the contrary?

  • Write down the good things that other people say about you and start recognising your strengths. Learn to accept compliments not discount them.. Armed with this positive list, keep it somewhere you can see it. Refer back to it often and keep adding to it..

  • Start spending less time with people that bring you down and seek out people that make you feel positive and appreciate you.

  • Show yourself  the same kindness you give to others.

  • Learn to say “no”. People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to others, even when they really want to say no. This can lead to you becoming exhausted, angry, resentful and depressed.

  • Be assertive. Respect other’s opinions and ideas and expect that same respect back.

  • Set yourself a challenge, make it Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timely.  Don’t let your low self-esteem stop you trying out new things or giving things a go. Surprise-it’s OK to be bad at things!

Many people around you will be suffering from low self-esteem either too ashamed to admit it or without recognising the symptoms. You may have developed low self -esteem for many different reasons in your childhood but you can take positive steps to develop a better view of yourself at any age. Keep on growing.

If you would like some help with low self-esteem please don’t hesitate to email or call.

Michelle Brown dip. couns. MBACP