Shannon is the owner of Shannon Coaching for Life and Shannon Healthcare Communications, Inc.
CHICAGO — Both imposter syndrome and gaslighting can lead to heavy self-doubt, but it can often be difficult to tell the difference, according to Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH, PCC.
In her talk at the Women in Medicine Summit, Shannon discussed how to recognize what creates the “lack of confidence that makes us hold ourselves back from what we could truly be and all that we could bring to the table,” and how to handle it.
Shannon, who started her career as a primary care physician, now coaches other physicians to help them navigate their careers.
Gaslighting, she told Healio, is a form of psychological manipulation in which someone in a more powerful position tells someone else that what they experienced or saw did not happen.
“It can be very easy to think ‘oh, I’m having these feelings of self-doubt, I feel like I shouldn’t be here … I don’t have the credentials for this next step’ … when, actually, it’s the environment, and that’s where gaslighting comes in,” Shannon said. “It’s not that it’s an either/or — sometimes it’s both — but I think it’s important to recognize that sometimes it’s our environment.”
On the other hand, imposter syndrome — which is not actually a syndrome, Shannon said — is a set of feelings and thoughts of not being good enough. Sometimes, someone who is experiencing imposter syndrome can feel like a fraud and worry about “being exposed.”
“Often, people feel they don’t deserve the positive feedback they’re getting,” she explained.
Shannon said that imposter syndrome does not ever entirely go away, but “it can be quieted.”
To tackle imposter syndrome, Shannon said that the most important thing to do is address your own thoughts.
“Really, the most important [thing] is addressing the negative automatic thoughts you’re having and really changing those to positive ones and then using those positive thoughts over and over again, saying them to yourself, until you get to the point where you believe them.”
Shannon D. Gaslighting vs imposter syndrome: How to know, what to do. Presented at: Women in Medicine Summit; Sept. 16-18, 2022. Chicago.