The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model presents an intriguing lens through which we can examine and address Imposter Syndrome. In essence, IFS asserts that our minds comprise multiple, unique facets, each with their own characteristics and purposes.

Imagine the “impostor” as one of these aspects. This part may have emerged as a defence mechanism to shield us from vulnerability, perhaps from criticism or failure. This component is not inherently malevolent but is instead a misguided guardian, attempting to protect us by nurturing self-doubt and fostering fear of exposure. It’s like an overprotective friend who cautions us about taking risks or stepping out of our comfort zones, mistaking this safety for true accomplishment.

Embracing the IFS perspective enables us to view this “imposter” not as a relentless enemy but as a part of ourselves that requires understanding and compassion. It’s about acknowledging this part, extending empathy towards it, and gradually guiding it towards a healthier way of safeguarding our emotional well-being. This shift in perception, from fear to empathy, can be instrumental in starting a constructive dialogue with our “impostor” part.


Imposter Syndrome and Internal Family


By doing so, we begin to recognize that our “impostor” part is not the embodiment of our inadequacy, but merely a protective layer. Beneath it, lies our true professional self, replete with knowledge, skills, and capabilities. It’s about realizing that this “impostor” part doesn’t define us, but is simply one facet of our complex psychological makeup. For instance, a therapist might often feel inadequate due to a lack of certain specialized skills or experience. By embracing the IFS model, they can start viewing these feelings as their “impostor” part’s way of cautioning against potential professional pitfalls rather than an accurate reflection of their professional worth.

Personally, I have been able to nurture my “impostor” part, allowing space for her to be in the room with me, to watch on (rather than take over), to see that I am capable, resourceful and knowledgeable. When I notice her, I acknowledge her and ask her to give me space while I complete the session, the lesson or the task. This allows her to witness my ability to remain safe, calm and in control. When she takes a step back, I feel her release, and I am free to continue on. She is validated, never shamed for being there and always loved by me.

In us understanding this Imposter Syndrome part allows us to navigate our feelings of self-doubt with greater insight and compassion, setting the stage for productive strategies to unmask the imposter within.