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Imposter Syndrome in Sports: What You Need to Know

Imposter Syndrome in Sports: What You Need to Know

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that makes you doubt your abilities and fear being exposed as a fraud, despite evidence of your competence. While the idea of imposter syndrome has been around since 1978, it’s recently gained attention in popular media — and it can significantly impact your life.

In fact, it’s a particularly common experience among athletes at all levels, from amateur to professional. Imposter syndrome can manifest in a variety of ways, and it has the power to hinder your health and your game.

Our team specializes in sports and performance psychology at Psychology Beverly Hills, and we’re here to help. Read on to find out why impostor syndrome is common in sports, how it manifests, and what you can do if it’s affecting you.

Common causes of imposter syndrome in sports

Imposter syndrome is common among high-achievers in all fields, including athletes. Athletes are highly competitive, and coaches, teammates, and the public constantly scrutinize their performance.

The nature of competitive athletics makes anxiety and fear of failure common. You might hold yourself to a high performance standard and strive for perfection. If you fall short of your expectations, you may experience self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy. 

You’re often surrounded by and judged against other skilled athletes, leading to feelings of inferiority and self-doubt. Sometimes, these feelings and experiences can make you believe your success is due to luck rather than your skills and hard work.

How imposter syndrome can impact you

When you question yourself and your achievements, your overall wellbeing takes a hit.

Imposter syndrome can negatively impact both your mental and physical health. Common consequences of imposter syndrome in sports are:

Anxiety and depression are common mental health conditions with psychological and physical symptoms. They can make it harder to function in everyday life, and you might feel overwhelmed and burned out.

Negative self-talk reinforces feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. You might also start to underperform in athletics due to fear of failure or the belief that you don’t actually deserve success.

How to overcome imposter syndrome in sports

Left untreated, imposter syndrome can create a downward spiral that negatively impacts your performance and your overall health. Fortunately, imposter syndrome is treatable.

Our team offers cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mentalization-based therapy (MBT) with a focus on sports psychology to help you overcome imposter syndrome and build confidence in your abilities.

You’ll take time to recognize your achievements and the hard work that went into them, and you’ll learn how to focus on the process of achieving your goals rather than outcomes alone. We help you learn how to challenge negative self-talk and find support in your coaches and teammates.

You’ll also learn how to embrace failure. Failure is a natural part of athletics but can also be an opportunity to learn and grow. Embracing failure can help you build resilience and confidence in your abilities rather than undermine your performance.

If you doubt your abilities and your success, you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is a common experience among athletes, but it doesn't have to hold you back.

Reach out to our team at Psychology Beverly Hills to learn more about therapy for imposter syndrome in sports. Call our Beverly Hills, California, office at 424-331-1568 or request an appointment online now.

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