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How CBT and DBT Can Be Used to Overcome Imposter Syndrome


Have you ever started a new job and felt like you were underqualified and you weren’t really meant to be there? This is likely due to imposter syndrome. Feeling like a phony is a common phenomenon in many individuals in different stages of their lives. It doesn’t only affect just one age group, many can fall victim to imposter syndrome.

While it may be difficult to overcome these feelings on your own, there are tried-and-true ways to help you kick your imposter syndrome to the curb. Reframe your state of mind using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

What is imposter syndrome, exactly? 

Imposter syndrome is the idea that you are not as competent and qualified as others perceive you to be. This can come from a variety of situations, from the workplace to the classroom. Overall, it’s the sensation of feeling like a fraud, and that you only got to your current situation through dumb luck.

Imposter syndrome can arise from extreme perfectionism. The most common symptoms of imposter syndrome are:

  • Overachieving or setting unrealistic goals for yourself
  • Extreme and recurring self-doubt
  • Self-sabotage of your own successes
  • Attributing your achievements to outside factors

Steps to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Using different forms of therapy, like DBT and CBT, can help you leave your feelings of imposter syndrome behind. Some common themes from both CBT and DBT that can help you ditch your imposter syndrome include:


CBT diagram


Step 1: Recognize Your Thoughts

Acknowledging the self-doubt your brain kicks up is the first step in overcoming imposter syndrome. Both CBT and DBT work with rewiring your thoughts to make a more positive impact on your life.

The next time you think to yourself “I just got lucky with getting this job” or “I didn’t deserve the ‘A’ on this test,” recognize the negative self-talk. This will be the target of CBT and DBT.

Step 2: Consider the Accuracy of Your Thoughts

Once you’re able to recognize the thoughts associated with imposter syndrome, next comes combating these emotions. If you’re practicing CBT or DBT, then this is the time to evaluate the claims you make about yourself. Looking for evidence to support your negative ideas of yourself will usually point out that there is no accuracy in the ideas.

For example, if you believe you got your current job because of luck, think about all the previous professional experience you have that helped you get to this point. If you received an ‘A’ on a test, consider the time you spent studying for this exam. If you successfully acquired a new client at work, consider the planning and expertise you put into it.

Step 3: Reframe Your Ideas

After identifying your negative thoughts and evaluating the accuracy, it’s time to reframe your thoughts. By recognizing the worst possible outcome of a situation, you’re able to confront how you would feel in this situation, putting you back into a position of control over your thoughts. This technique is known as “decastrophizing” in both CBT and DBT.

Once you’ve been able to do that, you can then work on rewiring your thoughts. For example, if you did only get your current job because of dumb luck, then at least you will have professional experience for your next position. By recognizing the good in any situation you may be in, your mood will become way more positive overall.

Facing imposter syndrome can be very intimidating. Confronting the idea that you are not good enough is very scary, but you cannot live in fear. Take control over your thoughts and change your life for the better. Learn more about CBT and DBT on our website today and reach out for an appointment.