Update: This was my first ever AMA and I learned so much. I answered as many questions as I could and may try to answer a few more later. Thank you all for taking the time to ask me questions. If you are interested in connecting follow me on Social Media and if you would like to learn more about the Impostor Phenomenon consider inviting me to be a Speaker at your next event.

PROOF: https://i.redd.it/0xmekqhabws91.jpg

I am the eldest daughter of hard working-class immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador. I am the first in my family to complete high school and pursue and higher education. As the first, I encountered unique challenges. My lived experiences are what have fueled my passion to pursue a career in mental health.

In my work as a psychologist, I help individuals heal from intergenerational trauma and break intergenerational cycles. I run a virtual practice called Calathea Wellness where I provide therapy and coaching services to clients spanning first-gen and BIPOC communities.

In addition to those services, I contribute to publications like Hip Latina and Wondermind. I also run mental health workshops for Fortune 500 companies across the country—supporting their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging efforts and employee resource group programming.

In my own healing, I have learned to look back at my experiences and understand how special it was that I was my family’s voice in the world. Now, I am working to use my influence and expertise to be the voice for my fellow BIPOC & First Gen folks and to help them find their voice.

Ask me anything about: - Impostor Phenomenon aka impostor syndrome - Latinx & First Gen Mental Health - Intergenerational Trauma - Stress management

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for therapy or mental health services and is not a professional service. Engaging with this content does not constitute a therapeutic relationship, and this content is for educational purposes only.

Comments: 324 • Responses: 27  • Date: 

yakshamash516 karma

I manage a team of engineers and I try to do my best to help keep IS at bay throughout the team, what advice would you have for someone in management with a team of people in a field notorious for imposter syndrome?

DrLisette729 karma

Anyone who is in a management position can help greatly by helping normalize the experience for the newer individuals. This can look like:

  • checking in with them about how they are regarding their confidence at work
  • sharing that this is something that most people experience and if you experienced this sharing your own story can be very inspiring
  • creating spaces of support, does your company have employee resources groups where they can connect?
  • Encourage your employees to track their wins. When someone feels like an impostor they usually are focusing on their limitations.

Thanks again for your question!

JLH993280 karma

Working in the IT industry (for a decade at this point), I feel that imposter syndrome is something myself and others in the same industry face quite often. I have always assumed this is partly due to the constantly evolving field we work in; new tools, new technologies, new standards, new titles, etc. and feeling that it’s almost impossible to stay up-to-date with everything.

Have you noticed a correlation between this phenomenon and certain job types or areas of study?

DrLisette294 karma

One thing that I know about the Impostor Phenomenon (IP) is that people who hold any marginalized identity are more likely to experience this. Basically, if you are the only woman in a male-dominated workplace. You are more likely to experience this. I am not sure that there is a correlation specific to certain areas of study/work. I do agree with you, there are constant changes happening in the IT world. There are actually certain behaviors that people can engage in that can also amplify their experience of being an impostor. One of these is the belief that they must be "an expert" and know it all. Being in IT, you can't know it ALL as it is constantly changing. Acceptance is a big part of overcoming it.

MargaretaSlayer118 karma

Is there any field where impostor syndrome is more common? If yes, why do you think that is?

DrLisette186 karma

I am not sure about which field it is most common in but there are populations who are at a higher risk to experience this. It is usually people who hold any marginalized identities, aka a minority race, women, a first gen professional etc.

possiblyhysterical82 karma

Is it imposter syndrome or is it just people of marginalized identities being made to feel incompetent and unwelcome? As a woman in a male dominated field it bothers me that there’s this special syndrome to describe something that might actually be a result of peoples lives experiences. It feels like it turns it from something that needs to be dealt with by management to something that needs to be conquered internally.

DrLisette199 karma

This is why I prefer to refer to it as the Impostor Phenomenon. Syndrome is pathologizing and insinuates that there is something wrong with you, whereas phenomenon highlights that you are experiencing a reaction to an environment. Management should work on making it a more welcoming environment. Once an individual is no longer experiencing the oppressive environment, then they are better able to challenge the thoughts and beliefs that were reinforcing their experience of being an impostor.

secretstoneraccount78 karma

I am interested in your experience regarding intergenerational trauma. In my own life, I experienced a great deal of trauma, much of it the result of abuse and neglect by my parents and extended family when I was a child. I found therapy and healed a great deal of those wounds, for which I am grateful. I still, however, struggle with anger and resentment towards my family members for what they did back then. On one hand, I feel like I should somehow get over it because it's been so long ago and because I've come to understand, intellectually, that they were just operating within their own limitations at the time (and many of these limitations, I think, reflect their own trauma responses from their own past histories with abuse, war, deaths, and other destabilizing events). Emotionally, though, I just can't get there. I have (carefully, gently) brought talked about some of this with these family members, but it hasn't brought much peace because ... well, long story short, their own limitations didn't magically evaporate back then but still persist. Do you have any advice for re-orienting my perspective on this?

DrLisette78 karma

First off, I am glad that you found therapy to be so helpful and that you have started to work on breaking those generational cycles. It is hard not to harbor resentment towards people who have hurt you and are an important part of your life. I think it is great that you are trying to help them heal as well but at the end of the day, they would need to put in the same work that you did to better understand their own unhealthy behavior patterns. My biggest advice would be to consider what boundaries you can set to help you maintain your inner peace. Perhaps you reduce how much you communicate with some of these family members or have topics that you do not discuss. At times this means accepting that we may only be able to have a surface-level relationship and that ok. I hope these quick tips help!

thaibeach59 karma


paularkay56 karma

Formal certifications are nice and pretty, but real world experience is going to beat out education 95% of the time.

That said, if they find a way to do something better, great! Acknowledge, learn from it, and move on.

DrLisette72 karma

I really love this comment. Dr. Valerie Young researched behaviors that lead to individuals experiencing the Impostor Phenomenon and found that there were 5 subtypes. One of these subtypes is "the expert." This is the person who feels like an impostor if they do not "know it all." The person who views themselves as "the expert" needs to accept that it is impossible to know everything. Once they have that acceptance, it helps them be more open to feedback and can help them improve their skills. So I would say, to overcome the Impostor Phenomenon, you should start with identifying what causes you to feel that way.

thaibeach-19 karma


DrLisette20 karma

Thanks for looping back in. It is a process. That first step is identifying your triggers, "the expert subtype" is an example. You can learn a bit more about the other subtypes here. There are other experiences that you could label as triggering. For example, self-comparison is often a trigger for people. In this case, the first step is acknowledging it and then doing what you can to reduce that behavior. This may mean "muting" the person from your social media feed. Then you work on reframing your perspective. This is about focusing on the facts (the value you bring to your role), owning your successes, and eliciting social support.

enimy645 karma

Whenever I receive compliments by people, for example friends who thank and compliment my cooking for them ‘the meal was very nice!’ Or my girlfriend telling me I look hot. I recently started to notice how I always immediately assume they are just saying it to be nice or because it’s ‘what they’re supposed to say’. I never believe the compliment to be true to it’s core. I also recently discovered I feel extremely insecure due to some changes in my environment and this compliment thing was also a recent realization. I never thought I had imposter syndrome but reading some of the comments made me think about it. What do you think, does this have attributes of it or should I be barking up a different tree? (Yes I have also started therapy :))

DrLisette18 karma

Glad to hear you started therapy! So many Kudos to you. Fun fact, when we have a relationship with someone we often tend to question their motives when they say something. It is why going to therapy helps, because you hired someone to help you. When you aren't questioning their motives you are better able to receive the feedback. Here's an article of mine that may help you gain more clarity.

unscholarly_source41 karma

Thanks for doing this. Two questions:

1) Are there any signs of stress that most people don't recognize as stress or the onset/manifestation of stress until it's too late?

2)What can people do to manage stress in a healthy way?

DrLisette58 karma

  1. Somatic symptoms aka anything that is a physical manifestation of stress. Sometimes people do not notice, but it can be an increase in the frequency and intensity of headaches, stomach aches, chest tightness etc. Some people may attribute these to other factors and not stress. I would also say it's never too late but it is definitely easier to manage stress when you are not feeling completely burned out.
  2. Set boundaries and develop routines. Most people thrive when they have some kind of structure. In terms of boundaries, this means protect your time. Incorporate healthy coping strategies into your routine, this can be body movements such as walking, dancing, mindfulness exercises, such as meditations and breathing exercises. I would also consider learning more about grounding exercises and testing some of those out. Finally, if you need help with finding the best coping skill for you, I would recommend going to therapy .

Thisissocomplicated40 karma

Hello Dr. Lisette ,

Thanks for the AMA.

Is impostor syndrome or disorder a severe hinderance or does it apply to people like me who are artists and often question if we are worth the payment or if we have what it takes to do the job. If so do you have any suggestions on how to overcome this feeling?

DrLisette76 karma

I talk about it as a phenomenon because the term is pathologizing and it makes it seem like a disorder. However, it is a phenomenon because it is a reaction to an environment. Consider the general challenges with setting your rates and what you consider. You may experience challenges because you worry that people will not pay you that rate and that it is too high. This worry is probably exacerbated by folks who complain that artists charge too much. So that is what leads to that loop of the challenge of setting your rate. Ill give you a few quick tips: remind yourself of the facts (you are talented and worth this rate), own your successes (create a brag sheet where you list your wins), and seek social support. Impostor phenomenon thrives when we are isolated. I hope this helps!

clouddevourer22 karma

Hello, thank you for the AMA! Are there any methods a person could at least try to determine whether they have imposter syndrome, or if they are right and their feelings are actually realistic? I imagine psychotherapy would work best, but for those unable to attend it for whatever reason, is there some introspective method to determine that?

DrLisette25 karma

Let's start with defining the Impostor Phenomenon. This is an excerpt from an article I wrote.

commonly known as Impostor Syndrome, is a term that is often used to describe the experience of feeling out-of-place or worried that someone will discover you as a fraud. It is an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt that is usually experienced by high-achieving individuals, particularly when entering a new environment. The phenomenon may present as a feeling of being an impostor who is about to be found out, as the name suggests; but it can also present as the urge to discount an achievement or credit your success to luck.

Once you understand what it is, you can start reflecting on whether there are any ways that this comes up for you in your life. One great way to gain more insight is through journaling or talking it through with friends. This helps us challenge the negative perceptions we have.

8--Analbumcover--821 karma

Yes, I know this is a mental disorder. No, I don't know what it's called.

I went on a walk in the woods with my parents earlier today. I was in front. At one point, I heard a weird noise, so I looked back and my mum wasn't where I expected.

(Well, actually I thought she was behind me wen I walked two sides of a triangle, but she apparently took the other side, like a shortcut, and got in front).

For some reason, I panicked and thought that someone had kidnapped and replaced her in those few seconds.

A few minutes later, I heard an odd noise again, looked round, and dad was in a different place to where I expected. Again, I panicked and thought he'd been kidnapped and replaced by an imposter.

It's now a few hours later, and I'm in bed. I am still scared that the people in my house are imposters. I have seen no evidence that they are fakes, they are behaving and acting exactly like my parents, but I'm scared they aren't.

I don't know how my "real parents" would have been taken or how/why there are imposters, but I am scared that my parents are lying in the woods cold/dying/dead, or in some bad person's house somewhere being hurt, while my "imposter parents" tell me that everything is fine.

I don't know what to do. I'm scared going to sleep, which hasn't happened in a very long time. I can't go back and have a look tomorrow, because it's an hour's drive away (It was on an old RAF base), I can't call the police or anything because a) they aren't going to investigate some kid saying their parents were swapped and b) logically they won't find anything as they weren't swapped.

I suppose that in theory I could get a DNA test kit to see if they are related to me, but that would take a while and I don't know whether they'd agree to it. I suppose it would be the only sure way to get peace of mind though.

I know logically that the people in my house are my genuine parents, and that they weren't kidnapped in the forest. I also know that that trail is a popular dogwalking spot (Citation: I saw 5 dogs, but 4 were with the same owner), so that even if they were there then they would have been spotted and helped. But I can't stop this nagging feeling that my "real parents" are lying in a forest dying and my "fake parents" are waiting for me to go to sleep to murder me.

I can't do anything now, as it's almost 2am. I am going to try to get to sleep. I will try to accept that the people in my house are my parents. Accept that they are not going to kill me. And accept that if they don't kill me then great, and if they do then I won't be bothered for long. It's still hard for me though.

Also, sidenote, I feel this isn't the right sub to post this on. Any ideas where this would fit in better?

Also, I don't expect anyone to read this. If you're reading this note, then thanks for getting this far. Also, I expect a total of 0-1 comments by morning.

Thank you!

DrLisette30 karma

Hey there, I think you are referring to Capgras Syndrome, If you are experiencing this, you should speak with a physician about it

DangerousPen700518 karma

Hi! What can I do about worrying after a big meeting? I'm confident before and during presentations but after I'm full of doubts and not sure if I were good enough.

DrLisette18 karma

It's normal to worry about how you performed, especially for an important meeting. If you are feeling confident throughout then, remind yourself that you did your best and you worked hard. I would also recommend seeking social support. Do you have a trusted co-worker who you would be comfortable with debriefing after one of these presentations? Also, remember that we get better each time we do something. You do not become an expert overnight. In fact, even though I specialize in the impostor Phenomenon, I am always learning new things about it and am sometimes still battling it myself.

cdaythrowaway16 karma

Hi, and thanks for being here!

I work as a journalist managing younger, less experienced journalists. Imposter syndrome is a big difficulty for these fresh grads just starting out.

Is there anything I can do to help ease their worry or stress?

DrLisette23 karma

You can start by normalizing the experience for them. Normalize that everyone makes mistakes and grows from them and that it is a part of the process. If you ever experienced it yourself, I would encourage you to share that with them as well. I would also encourage the employees you manage to create a "brag sheet." This is for them to write down their small wins in their role. These can be private but people should refer to them when they start to experience self-doubt again.

Kardinal12 karma

How would you say that Imposter Phenomenon is different from a generalized discomfort from being "outside your comfort zone"? It seems to me that if I am stretching myself, learning new skills, designing or deploying new technologies, then I am operating in an area I'm not comfortable in. So I wonder if I "don't belong". But wouldn't that be a natural reaction?

That's why I figure Imposter Phenomenon is the result of someone trying to be better at something and not arrogant enough to assume or pretend it's not difficult.

I would be interested in your thoughts, Dr. Sanchez. If I am mistaken, please do correct me. Thank you for doing this AMA.

DrLisette10 karma

It is a natural reaction. However, some people feel so pressured in some environments that they are constantly questioning whether they were the right person for the role. People will start a new role and feel pressured to "prove" themselves. This need to "prove" themselves creates unnecessary pressure which can lead to stress and anxiety. These experiences can exacerbate the insecurities and self-doubt that someone may experience regarding being and impostor. I hope this helps clarify some things for you!

slothliketendencies12 karma

I seem to self sabotage. An example being recently I wanted to apply for a promotion at work but for reasons I can't explain I genuinely forgot to apply for it, by the time I remembered the vacancy had expired and I couldn't apply. I spent the night sobbing really hard because I keep doing this to myself.

Any advice for me?

DrLisette8 karma

I wrote this in a few answers but I recommend you start tracking your wins and create a "brag sheet." I often encourage my clients to actually bring these with them into their performance review so that they can better advocate for that promotion or raise.

SawyerCa10 karma

From a first generation American to another.

Can we do it?

¡Si Se Puede!

DrLisette9 karma

we are doing it!! Thank you!

SawyerCa4 karma

If you ever make the time to go to Ireland. Give me a shout here.

My wife and I will show you around. The country is small, like the size of California but there's a lot of interesting little things happening here.

DrLisette3 karma

aww thank you so much!! I appreciate the offer. I have never been but its definitely on my list!

prncssbbygrl10 karma

How does one know when it is the right time to seek help?

DrLisette30 karma

You can seek help whenever you want it. You do not need to wait for a crisis to ask for help. One of the most common reasons people go to therapy is to manage their stress during a life transition aka a new job, moving somewhere new, a new relationship etc. Transitions can be very challenging and it's always nice to have a little extra help.

JPxfit7 karma

Hi Doc,

Thanks for the AMA!! As a son of Cuban and Mexican immigrants, i find that a lot of my family looks down on the success I pursue, and in turn, I feel like it adds to my IS. Is something unique to Latinos? I often times try to talk to my family about how my life is going (currently an executive at a logistics company, halfway through an MBA and thriving all before 40!), but it’s usually met with eye rolls, etc.

Should I avoid having those conversations, or would it be better to frame them differently?

DrLisette13 karma

It is not unique to Latinos but it is more common amongst anyone holding any marginalized identities. I don't know all of the specifics of your situation but I will say there is often a cultural divide with children of immigrants and their parents. It seems like they are unable to celebrate your success because they are not able to relate to it. You can cope with this in a few ways. I will share two options.

  1. You could set a boundary and not have this be a topic you discuss with your family. You can choose to celebrate those win with friends or other loved ones
  2. Consider your intention when sharing with your family, if the goal is to connect, then think about how you can present your accomplishment in a way that they can also relate to you. Take time to learn more about what they are proud of and connect it that way.

I hope these quick tips help!

cjrmddpcp6 karma

Did you have massive imposter syndrome during residency training? What were your baby steps to overcome it?

DrLisette3 karma

Honestly, I still have my moments where I still work through feelings of being an impostor. I have learned to notice when I start to get triggered and begin to work things that way. Seeking social support was pivotal for me. I also was lucky enough to have supervisors who were open about their own experiences and normalized it for me. Basically, it is a work in progress. This is also why I tell everyone to celebrate their wins, this way you are also focusing on what you are doing well rather than just listening to your inner critic.

HousetheDead6 karma

Hi what are your thoughts on imposter syndrome and people becoming who they feel they're impostering? I.e. lying on a resume, landing the job, then suddenly realizing they're great at the job but still living an imposter life? Does the time in eventually equal out?

DrLisette10 karma

The impostor phenomenon often happens to individuals who are already qualified and sometimes it can happen to people who are respected as experts in their fields. If an individual started to feel like the person they were impostering but continued to doubt their performance or credit their successes to others, then they technically are still experiencing the impostor phenomenon. In order to overcome that, the individual would need to be able to start owning their successes and embracing that new identity..

retractthewink3 karma

Hello! I’m so stressed about my health (health anxiety sufferer) that I’m stressed that the stress is killing me. I try to practice mindfulness and meditation, but it being in the moment, especially when I’m feeling pain, seems to make it worse. Most advice doesn’t go beyond “reduce stress.” Any advice? Thank you!

DrLisette5 karma

Ok with health anxiety I talk to people about doing "reverse exposure" exercises. So typically when we have a fear of something, we work on getting over the fear by exposing ourselves to it in small steps. When you have a consuming fear i.e. health anxiety then you want to work on reducing behaviors that exacerbate it. For example, checking your symptoms, or checking your body. Start by reducing how often you engage in behavior that "make it worse." In those moments you will experience discomfort and engaging in a grounding exercise can help.

HeyDoc_3 karma

How can I get help with IS? Who do I turn to?

I have a similar background to you. I quit my path towards medical school. All of my friends & family are confused as to why I didn’t apply. I always tell them that I wouldn’t have accepted my application if I was them. I never applied. I gave up on my aspirations because of IS. I’m aware of it, but what do I do when self-awareness isn’t enough?

DrLisette7 karma

Hey! Underperformance is actually quite common for folks who experience the Impostor Phenomenon. People chose to not pursue their aspirations because they fear failure. It sounds like you are aware that you are experiencing it but you are not sure what is causing it. I would recommend reflecting creating a list of what you want in life and identifying the barriers. Next, I would sit with someone I trust and explore whether these are self-imposed barriers or not and develop a plan for how to accomplish your goals despite the barriers. Given what you've described, I think you would really benefit from working with a therapist to facilitate this process.

RoastedRhino3 karma

Can you comment on the relationship (if there is one) between IS and gender? I am in academia and as a lab we are trying to do something to fix the “leaky pipe” that cause the number of females to slowly but steadily drop from HS to bachelor to master to PhD to postdoc to professorship. One thing we notice is that the IS sometimes gets in the way (for everybody) but it is more prevalent among women, but I am curious to hear a more competent voice on this.

DrLisette4 karma

There is research on who is most at risk to experience the Impostor Phenomenon and women do have a higher risk of experiencing this. It seems like your research is confirming the existing research. Thank you for your work!

somjuan1 karma

I'm so grateful you're doing this here - the tech field isn't very well credentialed, and most folks are learning a lot on the job.

I'm in the middle of a job search, and applied for a job that I thought would be a perfect fit for me! I had such confidence writing to them, and in the beginning of my conversations. When they told me the salary was double what I was expecting, I was initially excited, but I've been totally in my head since then. I'm freaked out enough it might tank my chances. Do you have any tips to get back to that confident place?

DrLisette2 karma

Being on the Job search is such a stressful experience. It seems like hearing an amount that is twice of what you would expect felt intimidating. However, bring it back to your first point:

the tech field isn't very well credentialed, and most folks are learning a lot on the job.

Remind yourself of this fact. Most folks are learning on the job and that's ok if that is you as well. Focus on that and not so much of the salary. Focus on what you are bringing in and what helped you feel confident in the first place. I have also said this a few times, create a "brag sheet." List out all of the things that make you a great candidate for this position. If you are stuck then ask a trusted loved one for help. You got this!

blueevey-3 karma

Tacos o pupusas?

DrLisette4 karma

I love both but I will say I do lean more towards tacos. But that because I can get those more easily than pupusas