Internalized -isms: a new way of understanding imposter syndrome

Andrea Brunetti, LMHC June 23, 2023

Those negative voices in your head might not actually be yours.

We have all heard of, and maybe even struggled with the well-known “Imposter Syndrome.” It refers define to the difficulty of internalizing our achievements, leading us to view ourselves as intellectual and professional impostors.

What are internalized -isms?

Imposter syndrome can arise at various stages of our lives for different reasons. An intriguing perspective on this phenomenon is to examine how internalized -isms, such as sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, and others, play a role. These -isms contribute to the sense of “not belonging/not deserving/not having a chance.” Consequently, this can manifest as feelings of inadequacy or being inferior compared to the majority.

Being the first, one of the few, or the only person representing a particular group adds an extra layer of pressure. This pressure can lead to heightened mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, among others. Personally, I believe it can also trigger a cascade of existential concerns, fostering feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and an unfulfilled void that persists regardless of our achievements or efforts. The constant need to belong and prove our worth in our current position can be draining and profoundly debilitating.

3 tips for overcoming internalized -isms 

While this issue is multifaceted, there are avenues for individual progress in redefining and even dismantling our internalized -isms and imposter syndrome.

  1. Label it as such

Recognizing our struggle is the initial step towards working through it. Labeling it as imposter syndrome helps detach from it and disassociate our identity from it. It's not that we don't deserve or haven't earned our accomplishments, but rather that we struggle to believe in them. Understanding the source of this belief and exploring ways to modify it is essential.

  1. Look for support

Engaging in conversations with individuals who truly understand us at a profound level can greatly aid the process. Through these interactions, we can learn to embrace and acknowledge that we actually deserve the beautiful and incredible things, people, titles, and experiences that are unfolding in our lives.

  1. Challenge your inner voice

We often hear whispers of self-doubt, such as "I am not as good as" or "Getting this job was probably a mistake." It is crucial to challenge these thoughts with objective evidence. Reframing them with affirmations like "I am good enough" or "I was hired based on my abilities and competencies" can help counteract the negative self-talk.

Know that even though this experience can feel very isolating, you are not alone. Take a moment to acknowledge your accomplishments as the fruits of your dedication and labor. Allow yourself to feel a sense of pride in your successes and become your strongest advocate and biggest fan.

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