Danijela Jokic Vaislay

how to overcome the impostor syndrome

The term impostor syndrome was coined by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who published an article called “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” in the 1978 journal Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice. 

“The term “impostor phenomenon” is used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women…. Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample objective evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the impostor belief.” (as quoted in Merriam-Webster)

Cambridge dictionary defines the imposter syndrome as: the feeling that your achievements are not real or that you do not deserve praise or success”.

From the definition of the impostor syndrome, we can see that it stems from low self worth (“the feeling that your achievements are not real or that you do not deserve praise or success”) and persistent self doubt: “the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise”).  

Many women, who were applying for my life coaching program struggled with the imposter syndrome, due to low self worth. Among them were very successful women, holding CFO and CEO positions, and prestigious international MBA degrees, Phd degrees, masters degrees, and even Oxford degree. 

Regardless of all the certifications and degrees obtained, and all the success they’ve achieved, these women were feeling “like a fraud”, believing their success was underserved (‘just a pure luck’), and were constantly doubting themselves, and fearing that thy will commit a mistake, do something wrong, or their lack of knowledge and skills will somehow someday be ‘revealed’ and they will be seen for who their truly are (‘an impostor”). 

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Impostor syndrome is rooted in low self worth, accompanied by subconscious limiting beliefs of not being worthy of success, recognition, and high pay, and not ‘being enough’.

In my coaching practice it was common to see women who were struggling with the impostor syndrome unconsciously trying to compensate their low self worth by obtaining one prestigious degree and/or certification after another. 

As a degree or certification is not and cannot be the genuine source of our worth, it can only temporary give us the feeling of ‘deservingness’ and being ‘enough’ but sooner or later, these feelings start to fade away and person again starts feeling unworthy and ‘like a fraud’. Which then urges the person to obtain another, more prestigious and more expensive certification or degree, in order to (temporarily) feel more worthy, and the cycle of unworthiness continuous.

There is nothing wrong in obtaining certifications and prestigious degrees, of course, if we can afford it, and we have a desire to learn and obtain new degrees, new professional skills, or new professional certifications. But, if we are doing it in order to compensate our low self worth, we are doing it for the wrong reason, as no matter how prestigious or expensive new degree, diploma, or certificate we obtain, it will make us only temporarily feel more worthy.

The most important step in overcoming the impostor syndrome is increasing self worth and reprogramming limiting beliefs of not being (good) enough. Working with a good life coach or a therapist can be really helpful in this process! I also wholeheartedly suggest reading my book

Self Worth – Women’s Guide To Increasing Self Worth, Self Respect, and Self Confidence’  (you can order it in Kindle or paperback version on Amazon). 

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Self empowerment and reflecting back on how much work, effort, money and time you’ve invested in everything that you’ve achieved so far is also very important step in overcoming the impostor syndrome. I would highly suggest writing the list of your achievements, talents, and skills and reading it every single time that you feel unworthy or like a ‘fraud’.

Write down the list of your achievements. Include all of your achievements, such as certifications obtained, awards that you won, your creative work, promotions, degrees, publications, articles published, work projects you successfully completed, your business(es), lectures or speeches you gave, skills you have gained…

Once you’re done, take some time to reflect on everything you’ve accomplished, created, learned, and mastered.

Take a look at your achievements list and calculate (at least approximately) how much time and money it took to obtain all of your degrees and certifications.

Then, calculate (at least approximately) how much money did you spend to buy all the books you’ve read so far, to pay for all the seminars, retreats, masterminds, lectures, coaching, and workshops that you invested in so far. Then, calculate how much time it took to read, listen, practice, or attend all of these things.

Then, calculate how much money and time did you spend in order to be able to do the work that you’re doing today (total number of years and financial cost of your education and certifications, learning, training, practicing…)? Take some time to reflect on your answers: 

Was everything you have acomplished so far just the 'pure' luck? How hard did you work and how much you have sacrificed to get to the palce you are today? How worthy that makes one hour of your time at your workplace or while working with/for your clients?



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