6 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome in a Relationship, According to a Therapist

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While the term imposter syndrome is generally associated with work and personal accomplishments, it can affect people in relationships too.

In the workplace, imposter syndrome involves doubting one's skills, talents, and achievements. Someone with imposter syndrome may feel like a fraud and doubt their qualifications, even though they are in fact competent and deserving.

In a relationship, imposter syndrome is when you feel like you’re not good enough for your partner and unworthy of love, says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships.

While it’s normal to feel some insecurity in a relationship, particularly in the early stages, experiencing imposter syndrome can cause you to doubt yourself and feel extremely anxious. However, there are steps you can take to overcome your insecurities.

In this article, we explore how imposter syndrome can affect relationships and ask the expert for some strategies to help you overcome it.

How Imposter Syndrome Can Show Up in Relationships

These are some of the ways imposter syndrome can show up in your relationship, according to Dr. Romanoff:

  • Feeling unworthy: You may feel like you’re insufficient and struggle to view yourself as a worthwhile person. You may place your partner on a pedestal and devalue yourself. You may believe they deserve someone better than you.
  • Focusing on shortcomings: You may fail to see your strengths and be hyper focused on perceived shortcomings. As a result, you may see yourself as a burden on the relationship, rather than an equal partner.
  • Fearing exposure: Living with imposter syndrome can feel like you’re playing a part and pretending to be someone else. You may constantly fear that your partner will discover your true self and find you inadequate.
  • Doubting your partner: Your feelings of inadequacy can cause you to doubt your partner’s feelings for you. You may find yourself feeling insecure or even jealous of others in their life, because you find it hard to believe they’re genuinely committed to you.
  • Expecting the worst: You might not feel worthy of having good things and somewhere deep down, you may be waiting for them to be taken away from you. Instead of allowing yourself to hope for the best, you may prepare yourself for the worst.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Imposter syndrome can cause you to experience severe anxiety. It can feel like you’re always waiting for a bomb to go off.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Who Might Experience Imposter Syndrome

According to Dr. Romanoff, some people are more likely than others to experience imposter syndrome:

  • People who tend to be insecure: People who are insecure about themselves may doubt their worth and feel undeserving of love. When they are in intimate relationships, they may have trouble opening up to their partner and trusting them. They may fear that the other person will discover parts of them that are unlovable.
  • People with perfectionist tendencies: People who tend to be perfectionistic are usually more prone to impostor syndrome because they never live up to their unrealistic expectations for themselves. They tend to compensate for their perceived flaws by behaving in ways that they think will make them more lovable to their partner, which might not be authentic to who they really are.
  • People of color: People of color, particularly women of color, are at highest risk of imposter syndrome. People of color experience continuous systemic oppression and are directly or indirectly told their entire life that they are less-than, not valued, undeserving or incapable of success. People of color often unconsciously internalize this negative and limiting messaging and when they start to achieve things in their personal or professional lives that goes against a long-standing narrative to the contrary, imposter syndrome may occur.

How Imposter Syndrome Can Impact Relationships

These are some of the ways that imposter syndrome can affect your relationship:

  • Inability to connect: Constantly feeling like you’re playing a role and not trusting your partner with your real self can make it hard for you to form a deep and meaningful connection with them. To build a strong bond, you need to be able to be vulnerable with your partner and share yourself with them.
  • Poor communication: Imposter syndrome can make it hard for you to communicate honestly and openly with your partner. You may struggle to share your true feelings with them and suppress your thoughts instead. You may also take things they say out of context and feel offended.
  • Relationship strain: If you often feel insecure and inadequate, your partner may have to provide a lot of reassurance and validation, which can be exhausting and strain the relationship.
  • Conflict: Unfounded insecurity and jealousy can also lead to resentment and conflicts, which can take a toll on the relationship.
  • Sabotage: If you don’t believe you’re worthy of being in a relationship, you might find ways to push your partner away and sabotage the relationship. If you’re constantly worried that they might break up with you, it can feel easier to break up with them instead.

Imposter syndrome can also cause you to experience low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, which can harm your mental health and your relationship.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome in Your Relationship

Dr. Romanoff suggests some strategies that can help you cope with imposter syndrome in relationships:

  • Identify your triggers: Work on your self-awareness and learn to identify situations that trigger your thoughts of imposter syndrome. Being more aware of your triggers can help you cope with them.
  • Replace unhelpful thoughts: Reject thoughts of imposter syndrome and refuse to accept them as truths. Instead, come up with alternative thoughts to replace them. For instance, instead of thinking “My partner deserves to be with someone better,” tell yourself “I am kind, strong, and funny. I deserve my partner’s love.”
  • Focus on your strengths: Remind yourself of your strengths often. You can choose to do daily affirmations, or make a list of your strengths and read it every day. Regularly doing things that you’re good at can also help boost your confidence.
  • Confide your fears to your partner: Be vulnerable and open with your partner about what you are dealing with. This could involve sharing your fears and explaining how that manifests in some of your behaviors, so they have a better understanding of where you’re coming from.
  • Work on self-improvement: None of us are perfect and we all have our weaknesses. Instead of focusing on your flaws or mistakes, focus on areas where you can improve. This will help you grow as a person and it will benefit your relationships as well.
  • Consider therapy: Consider going to therapy to work on some of these thoughts, explore their origins, and learn how to prevent them from impacting your behavior. You and your partner may also benefit from going to couples therapy together.
3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Feenstra S, Begeny CT, Ryan MK, Rink FA, Stoker JI, Jordan J. Contextualizing the impostor syndrome. Front Psychol. 2020;11:575024. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.575024

  3. Naser MJ, Hasan NE, Zainaldeen MH, Zaidi A, Mohamed YMAMH, Fredericks S. Impostor phenomenon and its relationship to self-esteem among students at an international medical college in the Middle East: A cross sectional study. Front Med (Lausanne). 2022;9:850434. doi:10.3389/fmed.2022.850434

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.