Improve syndrome

How to overcome imposter syndrome and start embracing your successes

By Sereena Pigeon, MSc., PhD candidate

Psychology intern at openspace clinic

Has this ever happened to you? After years of hard work, you finally made it to the end of a long-term goal, whether it be getting the degree, being admitted to the university program of your dreams, being chosen for the job you always wanted, or receiving the big promotion. After working late nights and long hours, showing up time and time again, and overcoming each challenge thrown your way, you finally got there! But something isn’t right – you feel like a fraud. 

Imposter syndrome is a common psychological phenomenon that leaves many successful people doubting their abilities and accomplishments and fearing that they will one day be exposed as frauds or imposters, even though there is evidence that they earned their success. Imposter syndrome can affect people from all walks of life, including students, professionals, artists, athletes, and celebrities. People as prominent as Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, Lady Gaga, and Emma Watson have reported experiencing it themselves. If you are feeling it too, you are in good company.

While imposter syndrome plagues many, it is known to have negative consequences on self-esteem, motivation, and well-being. It might be holding you back from taking on that exciting job opportunity or receiving well-deserved awards or recognitions; all because of the fear that others might finally realize you are undeserving.

Studies have shown that while imposter syndrome can be experienced by anyone, it tends to be more common for individuals in high-achieving environments where there is pressure to perform and conform to certain standards (like grad school or other training environments and fields such as medicine or engineering).  Women and individuals from minority groups tend to be much more likely to experience imposter syndrome. For these groups, feelings of being a fraud likely stem from the discrimination and systemic bias they have been exposed to that has sent them the message that they do not belong. 

Moreover, feelings of being an imposter tend to surface during life transitions or challenges that require new skills or roles, such as entering the workforce after finishing a degree or receiving an important promotion.

The good news is imposter feelings can be overcome. Here are some strategies that can help you start truly embracing your success:

  1. Name the imposter feelings: A first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge the negative thoughts and emotions that are leading you to feel like a fraud. By doing so, you can begin to challenge their validity and understand their origins.
  2. Talk about it: Sharing your imposter feelings with a trusted friend, mentor, or therapist can help you gain perspective. You may discover that you are not alone and that many other people, even people you consider to be experts, have experienced similar feelings. They may even share how they have learned to cope with these feelings.
  3. Reframe challenging situations: Instead of focusing on what you don't know or can't do, try to reframe challenging situations as an opportunity to learn. Embrace challenges and try to see your mistakes as a chance to gain feedback.
  4. Practice self-compassion: Try to treat yourself with more kindness and understanding. Stop setting unrealistic expectations for yourself, as this automatically sets you up for failure. Instead, set goals that are smaller but more manageable. Being more able to achieve your goals will give you a sense of mastery and counter imposter feelings.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others: It can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. This is not only a problem because everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and thus cannot be fairly compared, but also because we tend to compare ourselves to other people’s major accomplishments without considering the small steps they took to get there nor the mistakes they made along the way. We therefore put ourselves and our accomplishments at a disadvantage. It’s also important to remember that another person’s accomplishments do not take away the value of our own.
  6. Celebrate small wins: Don’t wait for major achievements to enjoy your success - celebrate the milestones along the way too! The journey to major accomplishments can be long and tiring. Celebrating smaller milestones will help you stay motivated and bring you more appreciation for your skills and progress.


Feeling like an imposter may be causing you unnecessary stress. While imposter syndrome can be challenging, with awareness, self-compassion, and support, it can be overcome. The above strategies can help you learn to recognize and manage your imposter feelings, regain your confidence, and fully embrace your hard-earned success.



Clance, P. R. (1985). The imposter phenomenon: Overcoming the fear that haunts your success. Peachtree Publishers.

Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247. 

Cokley, K., McClain, S., Enciso, A., & Martinez, M. (2013). An examination of the impact of minority status stress and impostor feelings on the mental health of diverse ethnic minority college students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 41(2), 82-95. 

Kumar, S., & Jagacinski, C. M. (2006). Imposters have goals too: The imposter phenomenon and its relationship to achievement goal theory. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(1), 147-157. 

Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1-12. 

Neureiter, M., & Traut-Mattausch, E. (2016). Predictors of the imposter phenomenon among high-achieving students. Journal of Educational and Psychology Consultation, 26(3), 291-306. 

Sakulku, J., & Alexander, J. (2011). The impostor phenomenon. International Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1), 73-92. 

Young, R. A., & Valach, L. (2003). The imposter phenomenon: A communication perspective. Interpersona, 1(1), 74-88.

Healing through movement and dance

Healing through movement and dance

Article by Aïka Mathelier, MSW. 2022.

“Dance therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the use of movement as the medium of change” (Chaiklin, 1975: 701). It contemplates the psycho-dynamic relationship to movement, to dance, and the transformation of the self. Dance Movement Therapy is not about performance, skill, or beauty. It is about a personal connection, and an understanding of the bidirectional mind-body and body-mind connection, it is about the appreciation of a different way of expressing emotions, thoughts, feelings, conflicts. Dance Movement Therapy can also be about exploring strength and regaining control of what was lost through a movement expression.

“Movement change and psychological change are integrally connected. Cognition and intellectual awareness are [...] necessary for change. In dance therapy, the body and its movement are the prime tools that work toward that awareness and the unity of self” (Chaiklin, 1975: 703).

As one goes through the dance movement therapy process, they begin by finding a way to ground themselves, be present in the here and now. The starting point to a dance movement therapy session being the warm-up, it allows one to [re]center oneself, be attune with what is happening in one’s body prior to taking in what would be happening in one’s surroundings. The relationship with oneself impacts the relationship with our environment, likewise the environment impacts our perception of self.

Through Dance Movement Therapy we recognize the importance of movement in our lives. We acknowledge that through breath we move and interact with our surroundings; movement is our first connection with ourselves and with our environment. Additionally, we welcome a central connection to our body prior to engaging with others. Dance and movement can lead to powerful experiences and significant growth within the relationship we have with ourselves, which will then transform one’s external relationships. Dance Movement Therapy is not limiting, on the contrary, it is a physical, but also a psychological, emotional, and/or verbal endeavor. It considers all that has to do with existing in order to foster change, transformation, and healing.



Aïka Mathelier, MSW. 2022.

Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Mental Health Impacts Us All


Article  By Stephanie Paquette, Clinical Social Worker at Openspaceclinic.

As a clinical social worker, my clients grant me intimate access to the stories that have shaped their mental health trajectories.  Although the circumstances impacting their mental health vary, the themes weaving their narratives together, are similar. For example, the search for perfection and the feeling of never being good enough, the desire for trust and safety in relationships, and the need for choice, validation and acknowledgement from parents and intimate partner, are common experiences. 

When difficult circumstances arise, or when genetics and/or trauma impacts us, our worldview may shift, and our mental health may be negatively impacted. As citizens in our communities, we tend to differentiate and dissociate from other humans. Yet mental health does not differentiate, mental health unites us. Regardless of class, gender, culture, religious or socio-economic status, you cannot run-away from your mental health. When you ignore, reject, or disconnect from your mental state, it will show up in patterns of relating and communicating, in moments of difficulty or stress, and it reminds you, sometimes frighteningly so, of your vulnerabilities. Acknowledging when you need help to navigate your difficulties is a sign of strength and resilience. In doing so, you are allowing a mental health professional to help guide you and offering yourself the gift of healing.

#WhatIEatInADay Trends on Social Media

Article by Dorsa Alavifard, Professional Dietitian at Openspaceclinic. 

Over the last decade social media has become a huge part of our lives. Typically, the first thing we do when we wake up and the last thing we do before we go to sleep consists of scrolling through our favorite social media platforms. While doing this, we are typically bombarded with the many food-related posts out there. More recently, #WhatIEatInADay posts and videos have become increasingly popular.

These posts and videos are appealing to viewers, in particular young adults who want to lose weight, as they display aesthetic and clean meals that promise weight loss and/or replication of the figure of the individual posting the content — an individual who is typically lean, fit, and glowing. In addition, #WhatIEatInADay posts may be seen by individuals who are unfamiliar with nutrition as an easy way to follow ‘meal plans’ in order to look a certain way.



However, something to be aware of is that such posts and videos are usually coming from people who have no degree in nutrition, and may do more harm than good along the way. For example, these posts show meals that are typically restrictive in both size and the type of food consumed.


While this may provide one with a rapid decrease in weight, it may also deprive that individual of important micro- and macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals) that are vital for life. Specifically, such nutrients fuel our body, help maintain our muscle mass, promote growth and development, regulate our metabolism, provide us with healthy looking skin and hair, etc. In addition, if weight loss is achieved through following #WhatIEatInADay posts, based on clinical experience, it can be said that this weight loss typically is temporary and cannot be maintained long-term; simply because these diets are not realistic!

If you are looking to lose weight safely and maintain your weight loss, it is best not to rely on #WhatIEatInADay trends on social media. Diets work best when they are individualized based on age, activity level, nutrient requirements, and medical history, to name a few.


If you want to achieve a weight goal and want to do that through a structured meal plan, this is where a dietitian can be helpful. Dietitians have been educated to work with clients to achieve a nutrition-related goal, such as weight loss, safely, effectively, and realistically. Your dietitian will work collaboratively with you to develop an individualized meal plan to help achieve and maintain your weight goals long-term.




Papadopoulou, Sousana K. "Rehabilitation Nutrition for Injury Recovery of Athletes: The Role of Macronutrient Intake." Nutrients 12.8 (2020): 2449.

How to Deal with Anxiety

Article by Joshua Laff, Clinical Social Worker at Openspaceclinic. 

"Have you ever had thoughts or feelings that you can’t shake off, or worries that never seem to go away?  Have you found yourself feeling afraid, but are having difficulties pinpointing exactly what it is you’re afraid of? If so, then you might very well be dealing with anxiety.

The good news is, you’re not the only one. In fact, we all deal with anxiety, but we all experience it differently and with various levels of intensity.  When left unchecked, it can have a significant impact on many aspects of your being, including your self-esteem, your relationships with others, your work life, and even your sex life.

You might also notice physical symptoms or behavioural changes in yourself, including irritability, a lack of motivation or sense of fatigue, difficulties focusing, sleeping, headaches and stomach aches, as well as a general soreness or tenseness. In more severe manifestations of anxiety, some might also experience panic attacks.

But why do we come to develop these thoughts and feelings? While every situation is unique, there are factors in our lives which can worsen anxiety, or contribute to its development.  These can include traumatic experiences, relationship problems, other health issues, financial problems, substance use, or work and study related stressors. Knowing all that, it can nonetheless remain challenging to figure out exactly where our anxiety stems from, and how to begin tackling it to begin making meaningful improvements in our lives.

That’s where seeking help from a professional counselor or psychotherapist help can make a difference. They can help you to explore your triggers and some of the underlying causes for your anxiety, and to ultimately accompany you in developing coping techniques or strategies so that you can manage your daily life effectively. In some circumstances, a professional can also provide appropriate testing to determine if your anxiety warrants more intensive levels of professional or medical assistance. If you’ve started to notice that your thoughts and worries aren’t shaking away like they used to, that they are influencing your behaviour,  are preventing you from going about your day, or are preventing you from feeling fulfilled, these are all signs that it may be worthwhile to reach out to a professional to explore it further. In the meantime, the key is to be patient and kind with yourself. With time, the right strategies, and professional help (if needed), it can become more manageable."

Body Image and The Psychological Effects from social media


Article by Melina Tomasiello, MA, PHD student and intern at Openspaceclinic.

Social media has evolved to become an essential part of most people’s days. Among an array of uses, social media facilitates communication, circulates essential information, allows us to stay connected with our family or friends, and serves as a platform for a variety of businesses. However, as social media continues to gain traction and new platforms emerge, we may find ourselves spending more and more time on our various social media pages, mindlessly scrolling. Although we may be trying to keep up with our friends or the latest trends, we are also simultaneously being increasingly flooded with images of celebrities and influencers in bikini photos or workout selfies. And, sometimes, without consciously knowing it, the stream of perfectly airbrushed images, flawless skin and toned bodies may wreak havoc on our sense of self and body image. 

It’s no secret that social media has increased our exposure to unrealistic and idealized beauty standards. From a psychological standpoint, this has the potential to be harmful. As humans, we engage in social comparisons because it allows us to identify our own progress and standing in various areas of life. However, if we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the perfectionistic messages we receive from social media, it’s a recipe for internalizing our own unrealistic expectations. These expectations or beliefs may trigger negative automatic thoughts about our bodies. We may think that we need to change, modify, or alter our bodies to conform to what we see on social media or to be deemed socially acceptable. As such, these thoughts may prompt maladaptive behaviours including restrictive dieting or overexercising and may further cause us to feel inadequate, sad, or even depressed.

This isn’t a new discovery - and the potential for media to uphold unrealistic beauty ideals was born way before the emergence of social media. However, what sets Instagram or Facebook apart from traditional media outlets is the continuous interaction we have with influencers and peers. In addition, emerging research suggests that when we compare ourselves to people we know or relate to, these comparisons tend to be more harmful. 

While social media has propelled an era of unrealistic beauty standards, it’s unlikely to change or fade any time soon. Given that social media is a tool for communication, connectedness, and entrepreneurship, it’s important that we learn how to interact with our platforms in healthier and more adaptive ways. 


  1. Set limits. It may seem simple but, by limiting your time on social media, you’ll naturally decrease your exposure to content that can become psychologically harmful. That’s not to say that all content is toxic – however, capping your time spent on social media will help prevent increased exposure.
  2. Intentionality. Be intentional in your social media use. Ask yourself why are you on social media? What’s your intention? What do you want to see? Representing the standard of use in your mind before you hop on social media will help decrease mindless scrolling.
  3. Be mindful of who you follow. Try being selective in the people you follow. Acknowledging that some people’s content may inadvertently make you feel self-conscious may reduce the potential for the harmful psychological effects of social media consumption. There is no shame in putting your mental health before following someone else’s account. Alternatively, follow people who inspire you or make you feel good!
  4. The “best-self” paradigm. Remind yourself that people’s social media content is based on what and how they choose to show it to you. All too often photos are altered, enhanced, or modified and may not be an accurate representation of the original format.

Monitor your emotions. Try to monitor your emotions after scrolling through your social media pages. Do you feel sad or inadequate? This may be a sign that you’re consuming or interacting with pages that may be making you feel this way. If this is the case, try using one of the tips above to help. 

Early childhood development


Babies are born with immature brains; they do not have the neurological or cognitive ability to reason and think as an adult mature brain can. 

Did you know that 90% of brain maturation happens by around 6 years old? This is why managing their emotions in early childhood is so hard! 

Young children are dependent on their parents, family members, teachers and caregivers to develop the necessary skills to become independent and live a healthy, successful life 

While they are learning, for no apparent reason, they will tantrum which is a form of communication. They may roll around kicking and screaming so loud – without any care of concern for the neighbors or shoppers and you know what? It is ok! 

During early childhood, they are learning so much. When we understand that it is part of expressing their needs and desires, we can then:

  • Teach them how to manage their emotions
  • Be there, offer comfort when they cry 
  • Allow them the opportunity to experience making better choices using positive discipline strategies that teach, punishments do not 
  • When young children are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our responsibility to model calm and not join in the chaos.
  • Remember they are growing and learning. Behind every behavior is a need that is expressed 

Dealing with a lack of control

Lack of control over certain social aspects and how to deal with that / how to manage what we can control


Article by Maria Nikolakakou, MSc.A.

March 2020 – the beginning of the pandemic. We recently completed one year from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been a tough ride, to say the least. 

I have been living in Canada since 2015. The reason was to pursue my master’s degree studies in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. I am originally from Greece, where most of my family resides. When I heard the news of this “new deadly virus” and started witnessing the reactions of the government and people in my area and around the world, I started panicking and feeling unsafe. In the beginning it wasn’t easy. Everyone was in survival mode, trying to make sure to stock up with the necessities -and toilet paper apparently! 

I was also worried for my family back home. I had heard that the measures in Greece were really strict and were creating a sense of restriction for the people there. In Canada, the covid measures were more reasonable, yet there was still a disturbance in our normalcy. It was also the same time when my brother had first arrived in Canada. What a time to move to a new country! He seemed to be less affected by the whole situation than I was. There is something stoic about some people’s personalities that I always admired – they are able to not get too caught up in their emotions and remain calm no matter what is going on around them.

Because of the prolonged nature of the pandemic, both my mental and physical health started declining during the winter of 2021. It was definitely a combination of the harsh Canadian winter, the measures, social distancing and the overall feeling of fear and uncertainty that was in the air. What was making it worse was the fact that I was a new entrepreneur and trying to make ends meet. As I was trying to bring myself “back to my center”, I thought “Wait, what if I am not meant to fight this situation? What if I am supposed to let go of control and surrender to this uncertainty and chaos?”

This was a simple thought, yet, it brought so much clarity!

We have been living through a period that its main characteristic has been the utter loss of control of our everyday life. It is definitely a hard concept to grasp, since we are so used to -try to- control most things in our lives. The pandemic was a blow to the structure that many of us had created for ourselves and our everyday life. The result? Feelings of uncertainty, stress and panic.
It made me think; what makes a person so uneasy about loss of control during the pandemic?

  • Firstly, we have lost our routine. Routine is powerful, as our brain is accustomed to habits. If a disruption occurs in a habit, the brain can become frazzled.
  • Secondly, the social aspect was restricted. We no longer have the freedom to meet our family or friends at any given moment or visit them at home. We can no longer go to bars or clubs and we cannot attend concerts.
  • Thirdly, there was a fear of the unknown. I believe this fear is ingrained in all of us. It is instinctual. In the face of uncertainty, we can feel powerless. Like we are not in control of our present and future.

This feeling of stress, panic and uncertainty has manifested in addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, overeating and others.

How can we overcome this?

I believe that we haven’t realized the illusion of control. We can only control the way we think, feel and react. We have no control over anything that exists outside of us. Only when we understand that we think we are in control, we will truly become free.

What can we control? The short answer is “our inner dialogue”. We have a choice between thinking positive or negative thoughts. We have a choice between catastrophizing and seeing the lessons in a hard situation. What we attract in our lives – people, situations, feelings- is related to the quality of our thoughts. 

Living in fear of what might happen decreases our well-being. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear places us in an energetic frequency that will only attract fear in our lives. Fear focuses around lack. Love, however, is an elevated emotion and will attract love in our lives. Raising our energy and vibration to feelings like love, gratitude, joy and peace will eventually start shifting our energy and mindset. The above are all related to the way that the universal law of attraction works. What you give out, you receive. You would have to make an action based on love, like volunteering to help the elderly, in order to start attracting into your life more love.

Something that has helped me has been keeping a gratitude journal, using affirmations on a frequent basis, meditating, moving my body in ways that make me feel good, talking with people that I know have the capacity to listen to me, eating nutritious foods and working on my thoughts and limiting beliefs. Belief work is the most crucial one, in my opinion. 

If you feel like you cannot do it alone, I highly recommend that you look for professional help. There is a lot of support out there, I encourage you to seek it!