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How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

What Kind of Therapy Is Best for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome?
Man looks in a mirror

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome describes feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. Living with imposter syndrome – no matter how objectively high our achievements are – we will feel that we don’t deserve them and fear exposure of an ‘inadequate’ self. We can experience imposter syndrome in many areas of our life, though evidence suggests it is more commonly associated with our place of work.

The prevalence of imposter syndrome is hard to assess: a gathering of research suggests anywhere between 9% to 82% of study participants can experientially relate to the term. Studies also show imposter syndrome often co-existing with depression, anxiety and low self esteem. It can be experienced in all genders though some studies show it to be more common in women; imposter syndrome has been found to be more common in African, Asian and Latino (Latine) American college students too.

How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is often so deeply entwined with our sense of self that we need some help overcoming it. But what kind of therapies are best suited to that purpose? How we ultimately overcome imposter syndrome will depend upon its root causes. Childhood trauma, systemic racism, cultures that set narrow parameters upon our sexuality and gender expression: there are many and sometimes intertwining root causes for imposter syndrome.

The following text outlines therapies that can help, all of which are offered by Rose C Jiggens: a Somatic Therapist working onine and in London UK. If you have arrived here because you think you may be experiencing imposter syndrome, take time as you read each section to notice your responses. Perhaps you can identify better the root causes of your own experience, which ultimately will point the way towards how best to heal!

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Transforming Touch®:

Transforming Touch® supports the healing of childhood or developmental trauma. When we experience early trauma, our bodies may never have known the experience of feeling safe. Imposter syndrome maybe what is known as a “defensive accommodation”: a creative adaptation, way of being, thought, belief or physiological response, that emerges to keep us safe in adverse conditions.

Whilst the experience of imposter syndrome presents a hinderance in our adult lives, as a child hyper-vigilance, perfectionism or always second guessing ourselves may have been an essential way of coping through adverse childhood experiences. These adaptations can emerge so early in life that they come to feel like an intrinsic part of who we are. We can become inwardly split as we struggle against the survival adaptation wishing it would evaporate from our life. Understanding and moving towards a felt sense of care for how we learned to survive, is often a first step in healing the defence structures that are (mostly) no longer needed.

The causes will be important to talk through in order to fully grasp the root causes of imposter syndrome. In addition to talking – what’s happening in the body and nervous system of someone with imposter syndrome – will be important to address as well. This is where Transforming Touch® comes in; it’s hard to talk our way out of survival defences learned before we could even talk. Survival defences are ingrained deep into the functioning of our kidney adrenals, brainstem, HPA axis and other ares of our bodies. Developing a felt sense of safety in our bodies deeply rooted in and emergent from our physiology, can come about through the attuned presence of an empathic and co-regulating other.

Using talking AND the Transforming Touch® 7 point protocol: greater narrative understanding can take root in a physiology that slowly learns to settle into a deep parasympathetic rest state. Transforming Touch® facilitates this by creating a safe container within which touch can take place within the therapeutic container of talking and listening. The addition of touch reaches those places which talking alone cannot. Containing protocols that progress slowly and with care, are negotiated and agreed upon supporting a felt sense of safety within which this can take place.

Click here for more information on Transforming Touch sessions.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome With Family Constellations:

Sometimes the root causes of imposter syndrome may not be apparent, this is when we might turn to a constellation to help. It is my experience from working with many clients with imposter syndrome, that the trauma of past generations might lead to anxiety and imposter syndrome in the present day. This can happen even when we are not directly aware of (or don’t feel impacted by) the trauma because it happened several generations ago.

For example: through a constellation a client eventually relates the presenting imposter syndrome to the experience of a great grand parent. This ancestor had emigrated and found themselves subject to racial discrimination in a new land. The client identified as white and had never considered that their ancestors experience could be so deeply entwined with their own sense of self. This piece of work led to a reclamation of deep ancestral roots expressed through story telling, objects and rituals. Another client presenting with imposter syndrome in their successful creative practice, was the sole living child of parents who had a number of miscarriages. This single session unfolded an unconscious burdensome sense of never being enough, whilst unconsciously trying to live and make up for the lives of the children lost.*

Unconsciously trying to make up for or the difficult experiences and losses of other family members, is a common recurring theme in family constellation sessions. The causes of suffering and failure to thrive may lie further back in our ancestry; they therefore may not have been addressed by therapies that only focus on what has happened to us since we were born. Identifying these root causes can often help imposter syndrome heal, supported by other therapies from my practice.

Click here for more information on Family Constellations sessions.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Trauma Sensitive Breathwork:

Imposter Syndrome can sneak up just when we need to be our best: whether thats to give a presentation or attend an important interview or meeting. In trauma sensitive breathwork – supported by my co-regulating presence – I will teach you tools that develop greater agency in regards to the trauma responses of your body.

The part of us that feels afraid often is very young – thats why I also call this work inner child healing. Often we can unconsciously be in an abusive relationship with our inner child parts, wishing they would just get out of the way so that we can get on with the project of out adult life.

These inner child or trauma parts can respond well when we turn towards them and find out what they need. We do this by using our breath as a gateway into our bodies, helping to develop our skills of interoception. Developing our interoceptive skills has been shown in studies to have positive benefits for our mental and emotional health.

In Trauma Sensitive Breathwork: you will be guided in practices such as orienting, pendulation and HRV Breathing, to bring about healing for your inner child and greater agency to self soothe and to calm, just when you need it most!

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome using the Wheel of Consent:

A core facet of imposter syndrome is that we feel others will judge and view us negatively, if only they knew who we truly are. From this core belief, a great deal of our conscious and unconscious effort, is engaged in actions (or defensive accommodations) designed to prevent the shame and humiliation of exposure.

This results in many of our daily actions, words, behaviours – all being shaped by our perception (real or otherwise) of what other people want or demand of us. From this perspective, imposter syndrome can also been seen as a form of masking that evolved as an essential survival mechanism at one time or another to keep us safe.

The wheel of consent alone won’t heal these wounds: its an embodied psycho-educational relationship agreement model, rather than a healing therapy. However in my therapist toolkit I have found it to be an essential teaching that aids recovery from imposter syndrome. It does this using a simple solo and relational touch practice, framed by a relationship agreement model.

The combination of WoC model and embodied practice, helps us learn to notice, trust, value and communicate both desires and limits and boundaries too. We do this in the practice zone of a workshops, sessions or with a friend or partner. What we learn in these practice sessions filters out into all aspects of life helping us be more authentic in all of our relationships.

If you want to know more about this relationship agreement model and practice, you might want to read The Art of Receiving and Giving written by Dr. Betty Martin, a pioneering sexologist and creator of the wheel of consent.

* All stories shared with permission, or are anonymised gatherings of multiple stories into one narrative.

I hope you find this article useful. If you are interested in sessions, workshops – or would just like to respond with your own experiences of overcoming imposter syndrome – you are welcome to contact me using the methods described on this website.

1. Ancestors: how does the past shape you?

Shed light and gain perspective on everyday issues with constellations

Ancestral Healing Using Family Constellations

2. Healing your inner child: who are you?

Embodied therapy and learning for healing your inner child

Trauma Sensitive Breathwork & Transforming Touch

3. Embodied delight: what's your pleasure?

Heal your relationship with pleasure using the Wheel of Consent®

Receiving and Giving: The Wheel of Consent®

4. Soul work: what's your purpose?

Unite what you do best with the people who you can best serve

Soul Energy Optimisation: for practitioners