top of page
Search

Authenticity - Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Jan 14

Finding peace in authenticity despite feeling like a fraud.


-Teresa Jacobson, DBH, LPCC-S, NCC

July 12, 2023


Imposter syndrome is a term that permeates mainstream media in today's society. Coined in 1978 at Georgia State University by Pauline Clancy and Suzanne Imes, imposter syndrome was recognized in high achieving individuals who did not believe they could live up to others' expectations.


"Instead of seeing their failures and mistakes as performance feedback, they deeply personalize them" (Sherman, 2013). "They may think their success is based on luck or timing, not their own experience, skills, or other qualities." Often imposter syndrome is identified in those who are perfectionists who compare themselves to others.


Other traits include feeling "not good enough", or "not worthy", or feeling like a "fake". When the fear or an unhealthy level of self-doubt holds us back, there is an incongruence that causes us to feel like we are "a fraud" and at any moment, others will learn of this secret.


"But people with imposter syndrome feel a level of self-doubt that can lead to overwork and a paralyzing fear of failure" (Sherman, 2013). "The fear of being unmasked causes incredible stress." Imposter syndrome is extremely common and often aligns with several co-morbidities though it is not an "official" diagnosis in the field of psychology.


Impostor syndrome impacts up to 82 percent of individuals at one time or another in the world. In a systemic review of 66 studies, Bravata and colleagues (2020) found the syndrome to describe "high-achieving individuals who, despite their objective successes, fail to internalize their accomplishments and have persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud or imposter." This phenomenon is prevalent among any gender and does not discriminate regarding ethnic groups, however is "significantly associated with worsened experiences in professional settings" But remember, just because we feel like an imposter doesn't make it true.


It is important to fight imposter syndrome


Imposter syndrome can literally "stifle potential for growth and meaning, by preventing people from pursuing new opportunities for growth at work, in relationships, or around their hobbies" (Psychology Today, 2023). Confronting these paralyzing feelings can help people continue to learn, grow, and thrive.


"A ‘fake it until you make it’ approach might convey confidence to the outside world, but it didn’t help me gain confidence in myself" (Abdelaal, 2020). "It wasn’t until I changed my thinking patterns and started to look at things in a more positive light that the power imposter syndrome had over me began to fade." Fear of failure can be paralyzing. Another self-doubt ally is when we compare ourselves to other. "Comparison is the thief of joy" (Abdelaal). "There will always be someone out there who is smarter, more hardworking and with more experience than you." But there is only one individual who is uniquely you.


Keeping it Real


Since the days of antiquity, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and others have encouraged people to live congruently with who they are and what they believe in. "As reflected in adages such as 'to thine own self be true,' 'dare to be yourself,' and 'march to the beat of your own drummer' "(Jongman-Sereno & Leary, 2020). Authenticity is valued in society and in many relationships. In the context of self-discovery, authenticity became a vital part of humanistic psychological movement.


Rather than seeing ourselves as "fake" or an "imposter", if we view ourselves as an evolving "work in progress," we will feel more authentic. This takes pushing out of one's own comfort zone to pursue change, growth, and progress, however you, yourself defines progress. Authenticity, therefore provides a recipe for success.


By sharing with yourself and others who you truly are at your core, authenticity exists. "In brief, authenticity as consistency is the congruous relationship between an entity’s external characteristics and its internal values" (Dammann, Frederich's, Lebedinski & Liesenfeld, 2021). Authenticity is an evolving process. We are not static as humans; we continue to adapt, grow, and change - that is if we chose to do so.


Becoming authentically you


Learning to be more authentic may take some work. First, it's important to be aware and look for inconsistencies or incongruence between words, actions, and core beliefs or values in yourself. Other steps to consider on your authenticity journey include:


  • Jotting notes or keeping a journal to help you become even more honest and transparent with yourself.

  • Listening to your intuition - but not negative self talk. Yes, there is a difference.

  • Accepting ones' self as a work in progress.

  • Making authentic choices.

  • Seeking less external validation and more internal validation.

  • Nurturing your own confidence while growing your competence in whatever it is that is important to you.

  • Practicing self-acceptance and disregarding external criticism. If there are constructive messages provided that help you grow, use the information to aid growth, instead of allowing it to destroy confidence and self-worth.

  • Focusing on being the best version of yourself everyday; seeing each morning as a new opportunity.

  • Embracing your truth and realness and being proud of what you stand for as well as and your growth mindset.


When we become more comfortable in being in-tune with ourselves, our values, and our passions, we can feel more fulfilled by leading more intentional and meaningful lives. This invites a life of purpose and of peace, and allows us to grasp each day with more tenacity.


You have worked hard all of your life in surviving the best you could with the information you had each step of the way. Now it is time to truly not only see, but become who you are, and to live a life that you value in ways that leave you feeling self-respect and pride.


You can overcome imposter syndrome by practicing the authenticity journey; doing so will find yourself on the path to inner peace.



 

Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio and Kentucky adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth/Video visits.


A strength-based, person-centered multi-cultural counselor, with an existential philosophy, Teresa can be reached by emailing teresa@steppingtowardserenity.org, calling (513) 206-3026, or visiting


 

References


Abdelaal, G. (2020). Coping with imposter syndrome in academia and research. The Authors.


Bravata, D.M., Madhusudhan, D.K., Boros, M., Cokley, K.O. (2020) Commentary: Prevalence, predictors,

and treatment of impostor syndrome: a systemic review. Journal of Mental Health and Clinical


Dammann, O., Friedrichs, K.M., Lebedinski, S., and Liesenfeld, K.M. (2021). The essence of authenticity.

Frontiers in Psychology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.629654


Jongman-Sereno, K.P., Leary, M.R., (2019). The enigma of being yourself: A critical examination of the

concept of authenticity. Review of General Psychology, 23(1) 133-142. DOI:101.07/gpr000157


Psychology Today (2023). Imposter syndrome. Retrieved from


Sherman, R. O. (2013). Imposter syndrome: When you feel like you're faking it. American Nurse Today,

8(5) 57-58.



bottom of page