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Mental Health Matters: From Self-Doubt To Feeling Like A Fraud, Expert Explains Imposter Syndrome

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Do you second-guess your every achievement and attribute it to just luck? Do you doubt your skills despite every accomplishment, fearing your incompetence might get exposed? If the answer is yes, you may be dealing with a condition known as imposter syndrome. It is a pervasive psychological challenge that infiltrates the minds of people, making them question their abilities despite their accomplishments. This phenomenon is marked by self-doubt and a perpetual fear of being exposed as a fraud. This week in our ‘Mental Health Matters’ series, we reached out to Archana Singhal, Counselor and Family Therapist, Delhi, who explained imposter syndrome, its signs, causes, and ways to overcome it.

What is Imposter Syndrome:?


“Imposter Syndrome is characterised by persistent feelings of inadequacy and a fear of being unmasked as undeserving of one’s achievements. It involves a profound sense of fraudulence, even in the face of evidence demonstrating competence”, informed Singhal.

According to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, impostor syndrome is linked to decreased job performance, job satisfaction, and burnout in a variety of employee types, including doctors. Also, it frequently coexists with depression and anxiety.

Common Signs Of Imposter Syndrome


Singhal listed the signs of imposter syndrome as follows:

  • Constant self-doubt: Individuals question their abilities irrespective of accomplishments
  • Attributing success to luck: Dismissing personal merit and accrediting success solely to external factors
  • Fear of exposure: Persistent worry about being revealed as incompetent despite evidence to the contrary

Causes And Contributing Factors


  • Perfectionism: Striving for unattainable perfection breeds self-doubt
  • Early Criticism: Past negative feedback can foster a fear of failure
  • Societal Expectations: External pressures to conform to certain standards contribute to impostor feelings

According to a systematic evaluation of 62 studies by the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics in 2020, the prevalence rates of impostor syndrome were as high as 56- 82% among college students, graduate students, nursing students, medical students, and students in other professions.

According to StatPearls, Higher Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale (CIPS) scores were associated with more hours worked per week and previous mental health treatment in a study of pharmacy students. This lends weight to the theory that imposter syndrome in susceptible individuals is exacerbated or revealed by the high-stakes, high-pressure conditions of undergraduate and graduate medical education.

Also Read: Mental Health Matters: Expert Explains Gaslighting And The Manipulative Strain On Mental Health

How Does It Impact Your Mental Health?


“Imposter syndrome takes a toll on mental well-being, leading to heightened stress, anxiety, and, in severe cases, depression. The constant battle with self-worth and the avoidance of challenges hinder personal and professional growth”, highlighted Singhal.

According to Psychology Today, the belief that one must always give one’s best performance and that failure to do so makes one feel inept and nervous, is closely linked to imposter syndrome.

How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome


  • Recognise negative thought patterns: Identify and challenge self-deprecating thoughts
  • Set realistic goals: Building your confidence begins with setting realistic goals
  • Seek support: Reach out to mentors or peers for guidance and reassurance
  • Embrace failure: Develop a growth mindset, viewing failures as opportunities for learning


Singhal concluded, “In the complex maze of imposter syndrome, the most important step towards freedom is to acknowledge and confront one’s self-doubt. By recognising its signs, understanding the contributing factors, and actively pursuing strategies to overcome them, you can successfully navigate through the shadows of fraudulence. This will unlock your true potential and help you achieve genuine success.”

[Disclaimer: This article contains information provided by a registered healthcare professional and is for informational purposes only. We advise you to not substitute the information with medical treatment and consult your therapist if you are dealing with any such issues.]

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