Holiday Cheer Without Fraud Fears

Model train on tracks with Christmas scene

Managing Impostor Syndrome During the Holidays

Tall Christmas Tree in living room

Photo by  Cameron Stewart on Unsplash

The Christmas holiday season, with its emphasis on social gatherings, gift-giving, and reflective year-end reviews, can affect people with impostor syndrome in some negative ways. Being aware of these potential stressors and having strategies in place can really help in managing them more effectively.

Social Soiree Self-check

You know how the holiday season is packed with parties and get-togethers? For someone grappling with impostor syndrome, this can be a bit tricky. It’s pretty common to find ourselves comparing our lives to others during these events, thinking they might be doing better or seem happier.
Solution: Remind yourself that everyone’s path is unique and wonderful, including yours. Reflect on your unique skills, abilities and life lessons. Be curious about others instead of competitive with them. Remember, most people around you feel the same way, ie…”not good enough.” Focus on making them feel significant.

Gifts of the Heart, Not the Wallet

Christmas brings along the whole gift-giving tradition. This can be a bit of a stressor, especially if finances are tight. For folks with impostor syndrome, there’s often this added pressure of wondering if their gifts are ‘impressive’ enough, tying it back to their own success or worth, or trying to earn someone’s admiration.
Solution: Remember, it truly is the thought that counts. Opt for budget friendly gifts, like handmade or home-cooked items. They often hold more meaning and take the focus off the price tag. Set a budget. Consider paring down your recipient list.

The Pressure of Goal-setting

This is a huge topic, but to summarize what happens to many people with Impostor Syndrome, I’ll be transparent. (Yes, I still have impostor syndrome moments!) I resist setting goals because I fear I won’t meet them, I didn’t meet goals I set last year, I don’t want to be disciplined in the areas I set goals, and I get stressed when my activity doesn’t match my peers. I also have never been a long-term planner. I’m more of a “What’s on today’s agenda?” girl, and trying to change that is more damaging than productive for me. But, in the middle of it, I realize I also either undervalue or fail to acknowledge what I did accomplish in the past year. That alone sucks all the joy out of my work, leaving me feeling defeated before the new year even starts.
Solution: First, make a list of all your achievements, big and small, from the past year. Celebrate each and every one. This tangible reminder can help you see your real value and progress. 2. Instead of setting goals for next year, create new habits and determine your new intention (maybe with a “word of the year” which I do every year.) Habits are the daily duties that can change your trajectory. Intention defines how you want to show up in life, not just what you accomplish in life. Game-changing. Guaranteed.

Navigating Family Dynamics

We’ve all been there – family gatherings during the holidays. These can sometimes bring up old insecurities or pressures, particularly for those who feel like they have to live up to certain family expectations, or must navigate changing family circumstances. Conflicts, illness, divorce, death, moves, births…these all change family interactions. When I was in my late 20’s, I visited an older relative who I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years. Though I was an adult, with an amazing job as a rocket scientist at NASA, she still talked to me like I was a ten year old. I felt small.
Solution: Prepare ahead of time by setting expectations in your mind. Assume they are doing the best they can in life, even if you don’t agree with how. Accept them where they are. Set boundaries and have an exit strategy for overwhelming situations. Also, having a trusted family member or friend to confide in during these events can be a game-changer.

Handling the Holiday Blues

The festive season can amplify feelings of loneliness or anxiety, which can worsen impostor feelings of not fitting in. There’s so much focus on the perfect fa-la-la experience with sparkles, snowflakes, family and joy, that it’s easy to feel sub-par or left out. It’s especially true for singles or people who live far from family, or are going through a life challenge.
Solution: Prioritize self-care. Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise. Go for a walk. Try a new (or old) hobby. Reach out for support. Call a friend, or invite someone over for dinner or meet them for coffee. Often, just talking about these feelings with someone you trust can lighten the load.


Each person’s experience with impostor syndrome is different, especially during the holidays. But being aware of these potential triggers and having a game plan – like setting realistic expectations, being kind to oneself, and reaching out for support – can make a big difference in navigating the season more smoothly.

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