Imposter Syndrome: How to Fight Back

Life + Faith

I am an imposter. Or at least I feel like one quite frequently. Recently, I’ve had to analyze why I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I feel like I don’t have a handle on the things I do in life – both the responsibilities given to me and the endeavors (dancing, leading, writing, etc.) I’ve taken on myself. For so long I’ve felt a bit powerless in each of them – like they were things that were happening to me, not things I had the ability to move forward. The culprate?

Imposter syndrome.

What is that, you ask?

From your friendly Wiki page, “ Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts his or her accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon 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.”

Maybe you’re struggling with this in certain areas, too. I realized in the past few weeks how much it’s been holding me back. I have not given myself fully to anything because I feel I’m not worthy of it. Because I don’t believe I can do it. Some part of me believes that if I do everything to the hilt of my ability I will find out, along with everyone else, that I actually am an untalented, uncreative, incapable person who has somehow gotten by on charm & luck all these years.

That’s messed up, but perhaps you can relate. The question becomes, then, what are some practical steps to overcome this unnecessary affliction? I’ve got one:


Perhaps the biggest way we give our power and position away is through our words. We speak in a way that shrinks us, just in case we don’t belong in the space or the conversation. It’s like we are trying to prevent our ideas and opinions from exposing the fact that we don’t know what we do know even though we know we know it (I said what I said). When you feel like an imposter, you tend to apologize for your presence through certain common phrases. I hear women use them more often than not and it really saddens me. These ladies who have such astute and interesting opinions, observations and gifts routinely speak like their voice is a t-mobile ringtone piercing through the silence at a particularly emotional moment of a heavy Ted talk. How? Here are the 4 things I’m working on kicking out of my speech:


I’m sooooo guilty of this! I use it all of the time. “I just wanted to make sure,” Or , “I just wanted to know,” – something along those lines. Putting “just” in front of the request implies that you are being an inconvenience. If you need information, there is no harm or reason to apologize for asking for it. Make an explicit request because you have the authority to do so. You know, by virtue of being a human person.


“Maybe it’s not a good idea, but…” or “I’m not an expert or anything, but”

I hear this a lot from my college student ladies. I’ve said it myself a time or two or 400. Sometimes if I do not feel totally confident in my idea or I assume that someone is going to refute my opinion I throw a qualifier on the front to try and mitigate judgement. This is unnecessary. Whatever you say is yours. You own it. People are allowed to feel however they are going to feel about it. You are an expert in your own thoughts. Share your idea and then let it live – don’t tell people not to like it before it even comes out.


Ending a sentence with “sorry” or “I don’t know”

Again, by virtue of being a human person with a mind brain, you are allowed to take up conversational space. Don’t apologize for it. You are also allowed not to know things, that’s perfectly fine. Before you share define:  if you are forming a thought in your head and are unsure if it is correct, perhaps try saying “I had this thought (insert thought here) I have to do some more research on it. Do you know about/have thoughts on (thing you’re unsure about)? If you are having a thought that you simply feel unsure because you feel insecure in the space, share anyway and keep it moving. You got this.


“Does that make sense?”

So many of us do this! Asking this question assumes that you are acknowledging that you have been unclear in your communication. It gives the allusion that you are unsure about your own delivery and comprehension of the topic and you probably say this after statements containing information you are more than capable of delivering coherently.  A more helpful question to ask is, “Do you understand?” Or “Do you have any questions?” This implies that communication has taken place and now it is the other parties responsibility to decide if they comprehend correctly. It gives them ownership of the information you have just, likely effectively, delivered and opens up space for them to share their interpretation of it.


God made you equipped with everything you ever needed to get where He has called you to be. It’s legit already in there – it may need some cultivation, but it’s there. When you are walking in your gifts & talents, you are walking in something God-given. You never have to apologize for that – it’s His power that you’re putting confidence in, not your own. The only way to be an imposter is to believe that it’s your own strength and power that has given you what you have.

Own your space – even in conversation. You do not have to make yourself small through words or deeds. You are enough and everything you have accomplished has contributed to your enoughness. It is real. You are real, not an imposter. Don’t use your words to subtract how enough you are. Use them to reinforce to yourself that you are capable and you belong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

What phrases would you add to the list?

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