- Queer imposter syndrome is a state of mind created by someone’s worries about being rejected by other members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Some of the common signs of queer imposter syndrome include sensing a lack of belonging, a depleted self-image, uncertainty about one’s identity, as well as gender dysphoria, and more.
- Queer imposter syndrome can be better managed with self-affirming mantras, as well as self-care activities that help support and create a strong individual identity.
- Self-affirming tips for staving off queer imposter syndrome include self-exploration with the assistance of a therapist, connecting with other LGBTQIA+ community members in public settings, using self-affirming mantras, and acknowledging your personal journey and achievements, despite the setbacks you may have experienced.
Imposter syndrome is a lingering feeling of uncertainty related to some part of our identity—the sense that we don’t belong. It can occur at work if we’re promoted, when relocating to a new community, or when meeting new people in our personal lives. But it can also happen to members of the LGBTQIA+ community when they feel ostracized or disconnected from other members. When this happens, it’s referred to as queer imposter syndrome.
For LGBTQIA+ individuals coping with queer imposter syndrome, it’s helpful to recognize that the depth and diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community can also be found within oneself—there’s no right way to be queer. Cultivating a sense of pride and developing resiliency and a strong identity are essential to addressing and managing queer imposter syndrome successfully. Let’s take a deeper look at queer imposter syndrome and how to cope with its effects.
What Are Signs That Someone Is Experiencing Queer Imposter Syndrome?
Queer imposter syndrome typically revolves around a queer individual’s worries about how other queer people will perceive them. It’s primarily about whether they’ll be viewed as “queer enough” to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community—which creates anxiety and fear around being rejected. Even though the LGBTQIA+ community is incredibly diverse and often welcoming to all, someone with queer imposter syndrome can still feel concerned about being accepted or falling out of touch.
Some of the signs of queer imposter syndrome include:
- A sense of not belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, despite identifying with it
- Low self-esteem and a tendency toward a negative self-image
- Gender dysphoria
- Feelings of shame about one’s appearance, habits, or sexual preferences
- Constantly comparing oneself to other LGBTQIA+ individuals on social media or in public
These symptoms aren’t easy to cope with, especially considering the very real forms of rejection that LGBTQIA+ people already face in the form of stigmatism, over-sexualization, discrimination, and gender-based violence. But finding the means and methods to cope with queer imposter syndrome starts with self-affirmation and self-care.
Queer Imposter Syndrome Can Be a Double-Edged Sword
Coping with queer imposter syndrome can be tough, especially when one feels separated from the larger LGBTQIA+ community. Taking emotional refuge in the support of heterosexual friends and family may not always be entirely helpful.
Tiffany Jones, LPC, NCC, Ph.D. Candidate, and Regional Clinic Director at Thriveworks, explains that non-LGBTQIA+ folks may “question every thought and decision you make about your body and mind through their own unconditioned cis-gendered-heterosexual or (CISHET) viewpoint, rather than seeing into the queer community from which your body, heart, and general inner self are undeniably linked.”
This could potentially increase one’s feelings of queer imposter syndrome: On top of feeling separated from the larger LGBTQIA+ community, non-community members aren’t likely to understand the struggle, even if they’ve aligned themselves as allies. Considering that only around 7% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBTQIA+, feeling ostracized by both the LGBTQIA+ community and society, in general, can make finding support incredibly difficult.
To make things harder, pop culture often sensationalizes queer culture, which may cause “internal pressure to prove oneself to be queer enough, to eventually override the societal expectation of being straight when born,” says Jones.
Self-Affirming Tips for Those Suffering from Queer Imposter Syndrome
LGBTQIA+ individuals are more than 2.5x more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, or substance abuse issues—which means that mental health care could play a key role in reducing feelings of imposter syndrome, which could easily develop into a more serious mental health concern. There’s no mold you need to fit—being yourself is the key. This sounds simple, but in reality, accepting ourselves and embracing our identity isn’t always so easy.
As with other forms of self-doubt, queer imposter syndrome feeds off of self-doubt and misgivings about how others perceive us. With that in mind, some of the most helpful, self-affirming tips to keep in mind include:
- Remaining open to self-exploration via therapy: You may identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, but your individual personality won’t dissolve just because you are a part of something larger. If you feel like you aren’t queer enough, or are worried about how other queer individuals might view you, it can be cathartic to explore those feelings with an LGBTQIA+-aligned therapist, particularly one who identifies as queer.
- Connecting with other LGBTQIA+ community members: If you’re feeling the symptoms of queer imposter syndrome, it may be causing you to distance yourself to avoid getting rejected. Starting small, perhaps attending a pride event, joining a social media group, or visiting an LGBTQIA+ bar, venue, or business could help you slowly diminish the anxiety and hesitancy that’s holding you back. You may discover that your feelings of alienation weren’t justified if you start building a social network with other LGBTQIA+ folks. Jones also points out you may be able to begin “releasing your [queer imposter syndrome] by moving over on the bench of compassion and understanding, for a fellow community member.”
- Using self-affirming mantras during difficult moments when you feel alienated or emotionally vulnerable: According to Jones, “Identifying secure and safety phrases can sometimes be a part of the reconnecting core belief process.” This may include phrases that help you feel powerful, grounded, and secure. Jones highlights some of her favorites: “I am loved.” “I am safe.” “I am worthy.”
- Acknowledging your own unique journey and the achievements you’ve earned: More than 1 in 3 LGBTQIA+ individuals reported experiencing some form of discrimination in 2020, and for transgender individuals, the numbers were higher (3 in 5). But in social settings, professional realms, and more, the LGBTQIA+ community is gaining acceptance and support from those around them. Your journey, and what you’ve achieved along the way, may have been hard-earned. And while it’s difficult to let go of past trauma and wounds of old experiences, as an LGBTQIA+ individual, you’ve succeeded despite unjust setbacks—you deserve equal pay, opportunities, and acceptance, just like anyone else.
Being queer isn’t something you practice—it’s not a show, it’s not an act. It’s something that you already are, that you’ve always been. Your unique qualities, personality, and forms of self-expression enrich and enhance the LGBTQIA+ community and its culture.