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Nurse Imposter Syndrome: 5 Ways to Overcome It

Imposter syndrome is very common among nurses. New graduate nurses and nurses in any stage of career transition particularly deal with this phenomenon. 

To a degree, imposter syndrome is a relatively normal feeling and is a very real experience.

Let’s dig into what nurse imposter syndrome is, the signs implying you might be struggling with it, why nurses in particular tend to be affected, and five ways to overcome it.

As a nurse with imposter syndrome, you CAN defeat the feelings of inadequacy and doubt. You’re not alone, and once you grow confident in yourself, you’ll begin to enjoy nursing again without being held back! 

What Is Nurse Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is having intense feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, and experiencing self-doubt in one’s capabilities. It’s described as holding the fear of being a fraud, as if you’re hiding a secret, and eventually will be “found out” or exposed.

You worry that it’ll be revealed you were “faking it” as a nurse and were trying to fool everyone into believing your competency.

Nurse imposter syndrome can reveal itself amidst different times in life, but usually in periods of transition. It may come and go throughout your career, whether you’re starting a new role, taking on new responsibilities, or even just having a challenging day with patients or coworkers.

Signs You’re Dealing with Nurse Imposter Syndrome

Nurse imposter syndrome can be troubling. Psychological well-being as well as personal and professional development may be negatively affected from the serious toll it can take. 

The signs of nurse imposter syndrome can be unique to each individual, but may include:

  • Feeling inadequate 
  • Experiencing self-doubt and uncertainty
  • Viewing success or career advancement as due to luck or having deceived those in authority
  • Decreased satisfaction in your nursing career
  • Change in job performance
  • Being afraid to speak about your feelings with others or asking for help because you feel ashamed of falling short in your career
  • Inability to acknowledge your accomplishments
  • High stress levels
  • Burnout
  • Anxiety and fear of both success and failure, which may result in not seeking promotion or growth, or leaving the profession altogether

Some nurses strive for perfectionism as a solution to cover up the self-doubt from imposter syndrome. They overwork themselves and place unrealistically high expectations to achieve. Other nurses might swing the other direction in procrastination or laziness due to being paralyzed by anxiety and fear. 

Why Do Nurses Struggle with Imposter Syndrome?

A lot of nurses are already high-achieving individuals, which is a common trait among those who experience imposter syndrome.

Nursing school unfortunately paves the way for imposter syndrome to be a reality for many nurses. The pressure and high goals, paired with a steep learning curve, leads to fear of failure. 

Imposter syndrome can happen to nurses at any stage in their career. Nurses learn on the job, and each specialty requires tons of new information and training which can lead you to feel like you’ll never be good enough.

Life and death situations that nurses face bring immense responsibility in a high-stress environment, which can feel like an intimidating and heavy load to carry day in and day out.

This field is ever changing, with constant learning, continuing education, and adjustment. Change brings discomfort and with that, self-doubt can creep in.

The exhaustion of working in a career that also sadly characterizes a culture of burnout doesn’t help. The nursing shortage has only pushed nurses to work past their abilities, which feeds imposter syndrome and continues the cycle. Nurses often wonder if something is wrong with them when they can’t keep up with their career. Many times, the challenges of the health system are largely responsible for this.

How Do You Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Nurse?

If not dealt with, nurse imposter syndrome only grows and the feelings get more intense if you continue to suffer alone. Below are five ways to help you get started in overcoming nurse imposter syndrome.

Become Aware

Recognizing imposter syndrome is affecting you as a nurse allows you to begin the process of identifying the root of your feelings. Then you can discover what’s contributing to you feeling this way. Simply the act of naming your experience and identifying your struggle can start to bring relief and move you toward a game plan to overcome it.

Talk with Others

Sharing the way you feel with others can be the hardest part. Imposter syndrome makes you feel as if something is wrong with you. Yet, understanding that you’re not alone will ease your worries and even empower you to normalize your experience and make strides toward change.

Seek support from a compassionate and trusted therapist, mentor, manager, leader, coworker, or friend. They can listen and validate you while helping discuss and identify any distorted views. They can also offer you new perspectives and feedback.

Eliminate Negative Self-Talk

Viewing yourself in a positive light is so important for growing in confidence as a nurse. Addressing low self-esteem is critical. Keeping lists of accomplishments, positive feedback, and reminders of skills you’ve gained can help banish negative self-talk. 

Find a realistic self-view and address that your imposter syndrome wants you to believe you’re incompetent at your role, when in reality that’s only a feeling and not the truth. It’s all about improving your mindset.

Teach Others

A great way to feel more assured as a nurse is to teach. Many don’t realize how much knowledge and skills they have until they’re the ones tutoring, mentoring, or demonstrating skills.

Formally Reflect

Remember the journey you’ve been on to acquire the necessary and hard earned qualifications, experience, and skills to become a nurse! You didn’t achieve the letters behind your name by accident. You have proven you have what it takes to become a nurse and you deserve to be in your position!

As you take these steps to overcome nurse imposter syndrome, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable in your role and confident in yourself! Keep moving forward and know that you’re not alone in this feeling. The more nurses who come to realize that imposter syndrome runs rampant in the profession, the faster they can beat it!

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