Coping With Impostor Syndrome


Even accomplished physicians can experience self-doubt. These tips can help you move past it.

Fam Pract Manag. 2021 May-June;28(3):40.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

Although not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), impostor syndrome is “an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.”1 It can affect any person — including physicians — regardless of gender, social status, or success level.13 Despite being accomplished and successful, people with impostor syndrome doubt themselves, fear they won't live up to expectations, and are often overachieving.13

Recognizing impostor syndrome and its impact on our professional and personal lives can be difficult. Coping with it can be even more difficult.2,3 The following tips can help.

1. Acknowledge your feelings. The first step to overcoming impostor syndrome is to acknowledge what you are feeling, and when, so that you can figure out why. Journaling any feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy can help bring clarity to the etiology of these feelings, which are often unfounded.

2. Set reasonable expectations and goals. This will help build momentum for success, whereas unreasonable goals and expectations can sabotage success. Remember that failure is part of the journey and should not cause shame. Treat it as a learning experience and building block for future success.

3. Find a mentor. Once you have defined your professional and personal goals, find a person who exemplifies them and is willing to mentor you. You may find someone in your residency program, an advocacy group, local specialty chapter, or your health system. A good mentor will provide supportive guidance to help you achieve your goals.

4. Teach others. Being a mentor yourself is another way to combat impostor syndrome. Do not be afraid to share what you have learned, especially what you have learned from your failures. No one is expected to know every nuance of medicine, because the knowledge needed to practice medicine is vast. To promote lifelong learning, each time


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Drs. Jaqua and Hanna are assistant professors and core faculty at Loma Linda University Health Family Medicine Residency in Loma Linda, Calif....

Dr. Nguyen is an associate professor and core faculty at Loma Linda University Health Family Medicine Residency in Loma Linda, Calif.

Dr. Park is a third-year resident at Loma Linda University Health Family Medicine Residency.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


1. Cuncic A. What is imposter syndrome? Verywell Mind. May 1, 2020. Updated Feb. 26, 2021. Accessed April 5, 2021.

2. Bravata DM, Watts SA, Keefer AL, et al. Prevalence, predictors, and treatment of impostor syndrome: a systematic review. J Gen Intern Med. 2019;35(4):1252–1275.

3. Chandra S, Huebert CA, Crowley E, Das AM. Impostor syndrome: could it be holding you or your mentees back? Chest. 2019;156(1):26–32.


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