Taking a Deeper Look at the Imposter Syndrome and Self-Acceptance

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According to researcher, Megan Dalla-Camina, the imposter syndrome has been described as “a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” When we say imposter syndrome, what we really mean is concealing shame. When a person attempts to conceal or protect shame the fear can drive a person towards performance or what we now have termed, perfectionism. Author Brennan Manning further describes the method of protecting shame, “The imposter recoils at the prospect of telling the story because he fears rejection. He is tense and anxious because he must rely on himself; his power is limited by his paltry resources. He dreads failure.” Manning then gives warning not to hate “the imposter” as this is to hate ourselves and self-hatred always leads to self-destruction. So what do we do?

The Road Towards Self-Acceptance

1.) Stop Minimizing and Start Being Mindful

Many of us are actually quite empathetic of others. Some of us feel the weight of the world around us. We cannot escape the pain of others through news and social media. However, many of us were taught to internalize and shut down our own feelings. You can see this as we will often go above and beyond to help others, especially when we feel there is a social obligation to do so. In conversations we may minimize not only our accomplishments, but also our pain. In doing so we have restricted the help from others and began what often leads to a pattern of self-degradation. Pain and loss often require the necessity to grieve. A healthy alternative is not to think less of ourselves, but rather to think of ourselves less. We can choose to be mindful and share our fears with others.

2.) Compliment Others

A great way to think of ourselves less and be mindful is to give compliments to others. There is a lot of good in the world and we have the ability to highlight it in our communities. We can write a note, make a phone call or take the time to verbally encourage a person. I have found it works best to give compliments without expecting something in return. Take the time to give a word of encouragement to someone today.

3.) Receive the Gift and Accept That You Are Accepted

Shame is something that effects all of us. The truth is that everyone fails. Since nobody is perfect we have the great opportunity of learning from our mistakes. Self-acceptance begins with just that, accepting that you are accepted. Here is a challenge: The next time someone gives you a compliment or a gift, look them in the eyes and simply say, “Thank you.” Don’t minimize the gesture or the gift. Thank you is like “Aloha” in Hawaiian in that it can serve well in many situations. When I begin to feel self-conscious or unsure of myself or the intentions of others I can readily rely on simply responding with two words, “Thank you.”

Lastly, the key to self-acceptance is seeing yourself as you are and sharing yourself with others. Obviously this can only happen in community. Since most self-hatred and self-destruction happens in isolation it’s best to seek out a mentor, professional counselor, friend, or family member in the community that can help you on your journey. Ask them to help you become more aware of what you say about yourself and that you are on a journey towards accepting that you are accepted. The results can lead to an increased openness, simplicity, sensitivity to feelings, perseverance and hope. Oscar Wilde said it best, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”


Josh Neuer is a Licensed Professional Counselor who speaks worldwide about how individuals, families, and businesses can rewrite their story and ignite tangible and lasting results.  Josh is passionate about empowering change in communities. He is the founder of Joshua Neuer, LLC, a counseling and consulting business; a certified educator, husband, father, and is absolutely crazy about relationships. To learn more or see a list of services provided visit JoshNeuer.com.

Josh Neuer