Motherhood imposter syndrome occurs when mothers struggle with the sense that no matter what they do, they will never be good enough. This idea can manifest within feelings of unworthiness, self-doubt, perfectionism, and inadequence. Not only can this mindset affect someone psychologically, but also negatively impact their daily lives and loved ones.
What Is Motherhood Imposter Syndrome?
For mothers, the belief that one is a fraud or a failure (also known as imposter syndrome) can be especially harmful, because of the burden society places on women to enter into motherhood seamlessly and without difficulty. The condition is characterized by one’s perceived deficiency in the face of societal expectations. Even when praised for their efforts, they will still secretly believe that they are fooling themselves and everyone around them.2
They will often struggle with parental guilt or worry that they are harming their children, sometimes resulting in instances of parental burnout.
Signs of motherhood imposter syndrome may include:
- Frequent comparing oneself to others
- Feeling like a failure
- Struggling to return to work after maternity leave
- Isolating from others
- Negative self-talk
- Difficulty asking for help
- Minimizing your accomplishments
- Anxiety about being judged by others
- Trying to do everything for everyone
- Putting others needs first
- Constant exhaustion
- Chronic stress
Effects of Motherhood Imposter Syndrome
Motherhood imposter syndrome can negatively affect a woman’s daily life, as well as her relationships with family members. Having a constant and overwhelming sense of inferiority can be debilitating if left unaddressed.
Motherhood imposter syndrome can have negative effects on a woman’s:
A mom struggling with imposter syndrome may miss out on the fun in life. For example, she may avoid get-togethers or outings, because she is worried about the judgment of others. She may begin to isolate herself, due to a belief that she is not worthy of support or understanding. Because she feels that other mothers are better able to perform the act of mothering, a sense of shame may contribute to a constant chase for perfection.
Oftentimes, motherhood imposter syndrome can have a negative effect on a couple’s relationship. A woman’s insecurity as a mother can sometimes be demonstrated as intense jealousy or an anxious/fearful attachment style. Mothers may constantly seek validation from their partners, resulting in frustration, instability, and an exacerbated feeling of worthlessness.3
The way in which a mother views and treats herself serves as a model for her children. When a mom constantly compares herself to others and openly expresses her personal frustrations, these displays of self-hatred can be harmful for her kids. Witnessing their mother, a woman whom they love and look up to, put herself down can influence them to view themselves in the same light.
19 Tips for Overcoming Motherhood Imposter Syndrome
Motherhood imposter syndrome can leave a woman feeling depressed, overwhelmed, and lonely. Fortunately, there are strategies to help moms cope with these emotions and work on the negative self-talk that goes along with them. Recognizing the warning signs of imposter syndrome is important in order to avoid any further progression with worsening consequences.
The following are 19 tips for overcoming motherhood imposter syndrome:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
The first step towards eliminating negative thoughts is to acknowledge their existence. This could be as simple as noticing when self-doubt arises and addressing it for what it is: merely a thought. Thoughts are not concrete, and are oftentime far from factual. Remind yourself that there is no power within this sense of inferiority.
2. Find Other Moms You Can Trust
One of the best ways to overcome imposter syndrome is to have open and honest conversations with other moms. By sharing your self-doubting beliefs aloud, you may notice that you are not alone in your struggles. Together, you and like-minded women can help one another let go of unrealistic comparisons that contribute to imposter syndrome.
3. Stop Playing the Comparison Game
It’s important for moms to understand that comparing how they feel on the inside with how others portray themselves externally is not realistic. How a woman acts outside of her home, in the presence of others, is not always a representation of how things are for them normally. A mother who looks composed in public with her children may be experiencing the same difficulties as you are when at home with her own family. Comparison leads to insecurity, and breaking this habit is critical to your future welling.
4. Recognize & Celebrate Your Accomplishments
When something goes well, celebrate! It’s important for moms to take the time to appreciate their own accomplishments, just as much as they would those of their children or spouse. Focusing only on the negative can lead to depression and burnout.
5. Build Confidence
Confidence is not the same as arrogance. Confidence comes from having a realistic view of one’s strengths and weaknesses. When moms build confidence, they are better equipped to let go of self-doubt and negative thoughts. Not only will this benefit you, but your children will also appreciate your newfound positivity and happiness.
6. Unfollow Triggering Social Media Accounts
Social media accounts are not always truthful. More often than not, people only post the positives; they don’t highlight the unexpected and hectic aspects of life with children. Unfollow anyone who leaves you feeling inadequate or less than. Instead, follow accounts that provide uplifting advice and realistic representations of motherhood. Use social media for inspiration and connection, not for comparison! If necessary, it’s also ok to unplug completely and take a break.
7. Ask For Help
Moms who struggle with motherhood imposter syndrome often have a hard time asking for help. Unfortunately, this can evolve into a vicious cycle of a woman not reaching out for help when needed, and thus becoming more overwhelmed. Asking for and accepting help is one of the best things mothers can do for themselves.
8. Adjust Your Expectations
It is not possible to do everything perfectly all of the time. Adjust your expectations to make them more reasonable and achievable, and allow room for relaxation and fun. Becoming hyper focused on perfection will only lead to further disappointment and steal valuable time away from your loved ones.
9. Set Healthy Boundaries
Imposter syndrome can make mothers feel like they need to prove their worth by always being available for others. Setting boundaries, saying “no”, and making sure to delegate your time and energy in healthy ways will help you feel more confident in your abilities as a mother.
10. Make Important Changes
If you notice there are certain triggers that cause you to fall into a state of self-loathing or doubt, get rid of them. For example, if going to a certain playground makes you feel uncomfortable around the other mothers, choose to visit the beach instead; or, maybe take the kids to a local cafe or restaurant. You shouldn’t feel the need to involve yourself in triggering settings or with negative people.
11. Invest in Your Personal Growth
Moms who don’t take time for pursuing personal growth are at risk of developing imposter syndrome. Over time, they may begin to lose confidence in their own intelligence and abilities, leaving them with a sense of defeat. Moms can build confidence by investing in and committing to the development of their own potential.
12. Practice Excellent Self-Care
Motherhood is draining. Because of the many roles a mother feels she needs to fill in order to be successful, she may overlook her own bare necessities and needs. Remind yourself that self-care is not selfish! Self-care helps you recharge your energy and be present for your loved ones. Sometimes, you need to take care of yourself first before you can help those around you.
You can’t always finish your to-do list in one go. Setting priorities that are realistic and aligned with your values can help you feel accomplished and successful. Sometimes, the laundry can wait until the weekend or dishes can stay in the sink overnight. However you choose to prioritize should bring you respite and solace.
14. Remember That Life Is Fluid
Mothers often feel as though they need to juggle multiple tasks all at once, all of the time. Instead, think of life as an “ebb and flow”. One day may be focused on family time and activities; the next may be dedicated to fulfilling responsibilities and work obligations. Schedules change and setting rigid expectations for yourself can set you up for emotional disaster.
15. Create a Motivating Mantra
Come up with a word or phrase to tell yourself when negative or intrusive thoughts arise. Replacing these with encouraging ones can rewire your brain into thinking more positively.4
Some examples include “I am enough”, “I am a good mom”, or “I am doing my best”. Speak to yourself as you would a loved one.
16. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness encourages you to live in the present moment by actively engaging in your surroundings. Practicing mindfulness can help mothers avoid overwhelm by focusing on the tasks at hand, not what lies in the future.
17. Get Moving
When the symptoms of motherhood imposter syndrome strike, simply introducing some exercise and physical activity into your routine can be extremely helpful. Hit the gym for a quick workout, go for a walk, stretch, or have a five minute dance party with the kids to get those endorphins flowing.
18. Make Fun a Priority
Motherhood comes with a long list of responsibilities, and the weight of those can be daunting. On days when you’re feeling especially stressed out or in need of a break, allow yourself to slow down and engage in something you love doing. Sit down with your family and finish a puzzle or play a board game; check out the museum you’ve been interested in visiting for months; or call up a friend for a late night chat.
19. Seek Professional Help
Imposter syndrome often coexists with other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.5
Talk to your medical provider or a licensed therapist if you notice your symptoms worsening. There is no shame in asking for help; in fact, you can find joy in knowing that prioritizing your mental health will prove beneficial for you and your family.
How Therapy Can Help
Therapy focuses on combating the negative thoughts and expectations that go along with motherhood imposter syndrome, as well as treating any underlying mental health conditions. Therapy can help you increase your confidence, find self-value, and start your healing journey. You can choose a therapist that works well for you and your schedule by using a therapist directory.
Imposter syndrome can make moms feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, and nothing they do is ever enough. Even though imposter syndrome may feel impossible to overcome, there are ways to move forward.