Do you have imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome.
Photo courtesy of

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Could you have imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a term probably everyone has heard recently. The term, and probably its prevalence, is a lot more common now than in the past. One way to understand this is to imagine someone who looks like they have a skill, they know they’re wearing the uniform of the job, but they don’t actually know how to do what they’re supposed to do. Many people with professional credentials or who have been hired to do a particular job may feel like imposters because they lack confidence in their ability to do the job adequately.

Imposter syndrome is a common reason people seek counseling.

Officially imposter syndrome is not a recognized diagnosis. But imposter syndrome and some related conditions result in high levels of anxiety and often depression. What we used to think was that it was primarily a problem of women working in male-dominated professions. We now see this phenomenon almost universally. We find similar insecurities among children and adolescents who feel they don’t measure up and have the abilities of their classmates.

In the past studies of several professions, we found that almost 100% of people in a given vocation rated themselves as above average. However, because of higher job stress and the increasing rate of burnout, we find more people today who believe they are in over their heads and don’t measure up to the abilities of their colleagues and coworkers.

Imposter syndrome is common.

One survey concluded that roughly 75% of people in certain occupations feel like they are imposters pretending to be competent at their jobs but not really having the skills they require. Of course, many professional licenses or certifications call for only a minimum level of competency. So, when the people in a profession compare themselves to famous practitioners, they are likely to feel that they don’t measure up.

Even at elite universities and colleges, students feel like imposters. They can see other students getting all A’s apparently with these. While they may have gotten admitted, the students frantically study, trying to keep their grades up to the level of their peers. The saying at some colleges is there only two grades. You either get an A, or you get the other grade. In this way of thinking, if you’re not a straight-A student, you’re a failure.

Imposter syndrome is more than a fear of failure.

Many people experience a fear of failure. Even the most talented people sometimes fail. People with imposter syndrome not only feel like a failure, they believed they don’t measure up. The belief that you don’t have the skills or talent needed to perform the job you’re doing satisfactorily is a significant part of imposter syndrome. People with imposter syndrome believe they are essentially defective.

People with imposter syndrome feel like frauds.

They often suffer from a high level of anxiety about their job performance and life in general. Since they don’t feel capable of doing the jobs they are performing, they live in constant fear of being found out.

Imposter syndrome has increased with more online work.

Constantly being on camera, whether working from home or being a student taking online classes, has created an incredible pressure to always be perfect. Many clients I’ve worked with have reported that the stress of working online has been overwhelming. I’m hearing increasingly common reports that students become so self-conscious that they will turn their cameras off and would rather take a failing grade than have to be constantly in the view of all their classmates. Getting teased and bullied about your appearance also contributes to an increase in anxiety.

Online work isn’t the only reason for an increase in imposter syndrome.

As more and more people become accustomed to working online were developing new skills and competencies for doing work this way. I’ve seen some outstanding teaching and counseling being done in the online virtual format. I was hearing of cases of imposter syndrome well before the Covid pandemic. With 24-7 media coverage and the ability to live stream, everything anyone does can be quickly recorded and rapidly disseminated. This feeling that you can never make a mistake or misspeak has resulted in many people feeling inadequate for today’s world.

Comparing up is one reason you may experience imposter syndrome.

Social media has been especially damaging to self-esteem. Someone with ten friends on social media compares themselves to someone with 500 or 1000. That upward comparison makes you feel inadequate. Very few people ever compare themselves down to someone who only has one friend.

You can overcome imposter syndrome.

Even in high-stress jobs, people do overcome their feelings of vulnerability and beliefs that they are inadequate for the job they’re doing. Counseling can help. Working on improving your skills also contributes to overcoming the feeling. And most importantly, accepting that you’re a fallible human and sometimes will make mistakes can take you a long way towards overcoming imposter syndrome.

In an upcoming post, I want to talk to you in more detail about specific techniques you can apply to overcome insecurities, feelings you don’t measure up, and overcome imposter syndrome.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel.

Silencing your inner critic.

Inner critic. Photo courtesy of

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Is your inner critic so loud, you can’t concentrate?

The term inner critic refers to an inner voice that continually criticizes everything you do and puts you down. Most people know this is not a voice but their thoughts. Still, the negative thoughts are so persistent it feels like you aren’t in control of that inner critic.

Many people, maybe all of us, have an inner critic who tells us we’re not good enough. Your inner critic may tell you that you’re not smart enough. They may even tell you that you are stupid or an idiot. Some people’s inner critic tells them they’re too fat, too short, or too ugly.

People in artistic or competitive fields are particularly prone to attack by their inner critic. Writers and authors are often plagued by doubts about the value of their work. Athletes also know the challenges of having an overactive inner critic.

But anyone, regardless of their life circumstances, can expect a visit from the inner critic who seems to delight in destroying people’s self-esteem. Listening to your inner critic will undermine your confidence. When the inner critic talks about mistakes you’ve made, you may experience shame or guilt. Listening to the inner critic’s voice can lead to “imposter syndrome,” where people expect to be revealed as not worthy of their accomplishments.

Even highly accomplished people are plagued by visits from the inner critic who tells them that their accomplishment was an accident, they’re not that smart, or they’ll never be able to match that past achievement.

Because your inner critic lives in your own mind, you may start believing that what they tell you must be true. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true.

Your inner critic will oppose you.

Your inner critic will tell you that you shouldn’t try. Listening to them in the short run can keep you stuck in inaction. Over the long term listening to the inner critic can cause mental illnesses. Your inner critic would love it if you were too depressed to do anything, too anxious to ever venture out of the house, and too fearful to ever argue with them. Not taking action protects you from both failure and success.

Your thinking style may be magnifying your inner critic.

The voice of the inner critic is magnified by highly negative self-talk. Disparaging yourself, or berating yourself, activates the brain’s threat system or keeps it activated. This can keep you stuck in depression or anxiety.

Your inner critic tries to fool you with a hostile tone of voice.

That tone can be extremely cruel, harsh, and attacking. This can lead to a negative self-opinion. And may even convince you that you don’t deserve any better.

The inner critic uses cognitive distortions to fool you.

Inner critics flood your mind with unhelpful thoughts. They like to use labeling, shoulding, overgeneralizing, and other cognitive distortions to keep you stuck.

How do you fight the inner critic?

Struggling with your inner critic can be a long process. Learn thought-stopping techniques. Try to ignore what they’re saying. When your inner critic gets loud and insistent, tell them to shut up. Sometimes it’s helpful to analyze what your inner critic is saying. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.

What does the inner critic criticize you about?

Pay attention to the things the inner critic says to you. Are these areas where you need to improve your skills? Are these remnants from childhood when you never seem to be good enough? Make up a list of the common complaints of your inner critic and evaluate them for accuracy. You may want to go over this list with a trusted friend or a counselor.

What do you say to yourself?

A significant source of fodder for what your inner critic tells you are your negative self-statements. Stop saying things to yourself that are damaging. There’s no evidence that constantly criticizing yourself will spur you on to do better, and it may cause you to give up on something you could have accomplished.

Who does your inner critic sound like?

Some people’s inner critic is an internalized voice from childhood. Does your inner critic sound like a caregiver or family member? Is your inner critic impersonating a current or former romantic partner, or does it sound like someone who has abused you?

How does your inner critic make you feel?

Pay attention to how you feel when you hear the inner critic’s voice. Do those thoughts make you depressed or anxious? Do they lower your self-esteem? Is there any way in which these thoughts are helpful?

What are the long-term consequences of listening to your inner critic?

An occasional fleeting negative thought about yourself probably doesn’t matter. When the inner critic starts to talk, you can ignore them. But if listening to your inner critic is wearing you out, creating self-doubt, you need to act.

Your inner critic may be the result of mental health problems or may cause them.

Having a vocal inner critic may be a symptom of a severe mental health condition. People with various psychoses may hear voices telling them they are no good or should hurt themselves. If you have a history of trauma, the inner critic may be continuing to perpetuate that trauma. Even if you don’t have a severe mental health challenge, realize that unchallenged that inner critic will wear you out, which may lead to severe depression or anxiety.

Is your inner critic out of control?

Take active steps to silence those negative critical voices in your head. If you struggle with an inner critic and haven’t succeeded in silencing them, talk with your support system, and consider getting professional help from a counselor or therapist.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel