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Understanding Imposter Syndrome Through a Feminist Lens: How EMDR Can Help

Have you ever felt like a fraud despite your achievements? Like you're just waiting for someone to expose you as not being as capable as everyone thinks? If so, you're not alone. This feeling, known as Imposter Syndrome, is incredibly common, especially among high-achieving women. It's that nagging doubt that you're not really as competent as you appear, and it's something that can hold you back both professionally and personally.

Why Women Experience Imposter Syndrome More

Let's dive into why women, in particular, seem to experience Imposter Syndrome so much. It’s not just an individual issue but something rooted in societal norms and expectations. Historically, women have been marginalized in many fields, and even today, gender bias still rears its ugly head. This bias can show up in many ways, such as:

  • Microaggressions: These are the small, often unintentional, comments or actions that can make you feel "lesser than".

  • Unequal Opportunities: Women often don't get the same mentorship or career advancement opportunities as men.

  • Stereotype Threat: This is the fear of confirming negative stereotypes about your gender, which can mess with your performance and confidence.

All these factors can make women feel like they don’t belong or that their successes aren’t really theirs, fueling that Imposter Syndrome fire. Important to note is that despite its nomenclature, Imposter Syndrome is not an actual diagnosed mental health disorder. While there remains many issues within the Diagnostic Statistical Manuel (DSM), this does support the the notion that Imposter Syndrome is more of a "them" problem (aka a patriarchal society) vs. a "you" problem. Be careful not to gaslight yourself into believing you are not capable when within a system that is largely designed to keep you small and quiet.

The Intersectionality Factor

It’s important to note that Imposter Syndrome doesn’t affect everyone equally. Women of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and women with disabilities can face even more layers of bias and discrimination, making their experiences with Imposter Syndrome even more complex and intense.

Enter EMDR: A Path to Healing

So, how can we tackle this? One promising method is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Originally developed to help with trauma, EMDR has shown great results for anxiety, depression, and even Imposter Syndrome.


What is EMDR?

EMDR is a therapy that helps reprocess distressing memories and negative beliefs. Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:

  1. History Taking and Treatment Planning: You and your therapist talk about your history and pinpoint specific memories and beliefs to work on.

  2. Preparation: The therapist explains the process and makes sure you have coping skills in place.

  3. Assessment: Together, you identify the memory and the negative belief it’s tied to, along with a positive belief you want to adopt.

  4. Desensitization: You focus on the memory while following a stimulus, like moving your eyes back and forth or listening to bilateral music (and sometimes both at the same time!) which helps to lessen the memory’s emotional impact.

  5. Installation: The positive belief gets reinforced through the same bilateral stimulation.

  6. Body Scan: You check for any leftover physical tension.

  7. Closure: The therapist makes sure you feel stable before ending the session.

  8. Reevaluation: In later sessions, the therapist checks on your progress.

How EMDR Can Help with Imposter Syndrome

EMDR can be especially useful for dealing with Imposter Syndrome because it helps:

  • Reprocess Negative Beliefs: It targets the root of your self-doubt, transforming "I’m a fraud" into "I’m competent and deserving."

  • Reduce Anxiety: It eases the anxiety of feeling like you’re going to be “found out,” boosting your confidence.

  • Reinforce Positive Beliefs: It helps you internalize your achievements and recognize your true abilities.


Combining EMDR with a Feminist Approach

A feminist approach to EMDR takes into account the societal context of Imposter Syndrome. Here’s how:

  • Validating Experiences: Your therapist acknowledges the real-world biases you’ve faced.

  • Empowering Clients: Encourages you to challenge societal norms and advocate for yourself.

  • Promoting Social Change: Helps you see your struggles as part of a larger systemic issue, which can reduce self-blame and inspire action for gender equality.

Wrapping Up

Imposter Syndrome is a complex issue with deep roots in societal and gender biases. By understanding it through a feminist lens, we can better address its causes and support those affected by it. EMDR offers a powerful tool to help reprocess negative beliefs and reduce anxiety, enabling women to embrace their achievements confidently. Combining EMDR with feminist principles can create a supportive and empowering path to overcoming Imposter Syndrome.


Erica Wilcox, LPC is a Certified EMDR Therapist and EMDRIA Approved Consultant in East Hampton, CT. She is the Founder and CEO of Wilcox Wellness Center for Personal Growth and speaks globally about mental health and wellness. She specializes in intensive EMDR therapy and works with clients across the nation who travel to Connecticut for a self-led therapy retreat focused on intensive EMDR and healing.

Contact Erica at to connect and take your next step towards freedom.


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