Defeat your self-doubt: How to overcome Imposter Syndrome

We all have at times doubted our capabilities. Sometimes the self-doubt can be so enormous that you may think you don’t really deserve your success. Despite external validation, you strongly believe that your accomplishments are due to good luck or the result of people overestimating your capabilities. When your self-doubt reaches that level, you may experience what the experts call Imposter Syndrome.

Those experiencing Imposter Syndrome feel like they don’t really belong to their perceived league.

As the name suggests, they feel like an imposter, a fraud. The result is feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and frustration.

What causes Imposter Syndrome

The causes of Imposter Syndrome vary from person to person. The most common ones include

  • High-achieving families
  • Overprotective parents
  • Internalized gender stereotypes
  • Cultural norms
  • Anxiety
  • Particular personality traits like perfectionism

The cause could be any. The suffering is real and universal. 

It could exist in the nerd next desk to highly accomplished professionals in every field. 

You are certainly not alone.


7 Imposter Syndrome exercises to help you cope

1. Imposter Syndrome Test: Look out for these signs

Many who experience Imposter Syndrome do not seek help since they see their problems as unworthy of attention. Identifying and acknowledging the symptoms is the first step to overcoming the problem. Some signs of Imposter Syndrome include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Berating your accomplishments
  • Quick to discount praise
  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Guilt about own success
  • Extreme self-doubt & anxiety
  • Fear of failure, of being “caught” at any moment

2. Get a healthy perspective 

Recognize that your perception of yourself could be flawed. Maybe your expectation of yourself is unrealistic. Ask your mentor about what criteria you should be evaluating your own performance. Ask him for honest feedback on your work. An objective assessment from someone you trust will give you a healthy perspective on your capabilities.  


3. Use your breath against the negative self-talk

Imposter Syndrome brings a lot of anxiety and negative self-talk. This disturbance in the mind cannot be dealt with thoughts alone. Your breath is a powerful force to manage your mind. Nadi Shodhan or Alternate Nostril Breathing exercise can help you calm down. 


4. Use your breath to remove stress 

Imposter Syndrome is a result of internal stress that in many cases has accumulated due to years of conditioning. Practice Sudarshan Kriya to remove such deep-rooted stress from your mind-body complex. Studies show that even two weeks of regular practice decreases the release of the stress hormone cortisol by 56.6%. When your stress and anxiety levels drop significantly, you are more likely to develop a more positive perspective toward yourself and your work.


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5. See your doubts as passing clouds

In the words of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Moments of doubt are like clouds. The clouds do come, but they come and disappear. If you do not cooperate or engage with them, they will simply come and go. If you shake hands with them and flow with them, then it will take a longer time to overcome them.” 

Develop a practice of looking at your self-demeaning thoughts without participating in them.

Self-doubt and Prana

“Only prana (one’s life-force energy) can eliminate self-doubt. When a doubt arises in your mind, know that your prana has gone down. Pranayama (breathing exercises), Sudarshan Kriya, meditation, and prayer are some ways to increase your prana.” - Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

6. Allow room for imperfection


The desire for perfection often leads to Imposter Syndrome. Recognize that perfection is impossible. You may be doing all the right things and still not getting the expected result. Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. When you allow some room for imperfection, you change your response to it. Instead of anger, you will respond with spontaneity. Healthy self-esteem requires acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses. 


7. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself. If you make a mistake, treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend. Acknowledge that everyone is a life-long learner including you. When you recognize that you are always learning, you are motivated to learn from mistakes and failures instead of fearing them. 


Based on inputs by Dr. Prema Seshadri, Psychologist & Faculty, The Art of Living

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