Coping Mechanisms for Imposter Syndrome


By, Michael Mellinger O2X Mental Performance Specialist


“I don’t deserve to be here.”

“I am not good enough.”

“Who am I to be in the position that I am in right now.”

Powerful, albeit familiar thoughts we have likely said to ourselves at some point in our lives or careers.

Imposter Syndrome, or Imposter ‘Phenomenon’, while not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [Fifth Edition] (DSM-5), is an often paralyzing form of anxiety. Shockingly, a recent article from the American Psychological Association (APA), summarizing research from the Journal of General Internal Medicine, highlights that upwards of 82% of individuals may face imposter syndrome at some part in their lives.

At O2X we take these types of things seriously, because we have been there too. Each and every one of us comes from a background laced in competition to be the best. One might argue that everyone at O2X has experienced imposter syndrome at some point in time: on the pitch, during training, on the job, or on the battlefield. It is with these types of backgrounds that make all of us open to discuss the ‘hard stuff’ and create lasting solutions to help tactical athletes in their careers.

To that end, let’s look at some mental performance techniques to help us navigate through the ‘hard stuff’ and keep us on track when things get difficult.

Look at Perspective

Oftentimes, imposter syndrome can arise when we lose perspective on what expertise we were hired to provide. As we grow in our careers, we take on more responsibility and are encouraged to come up with creative solutions to unique problem sets. It is not uncommon to lose focus during this growth process and begin to question our foundational expertise.

A great way to help keep perspective is to write down why you were hired/selected in the first place. If you don’t know? Ask! Researchers from the University of New South Wales (2012) concluded that those who engaged in expressive writing reported significantly reduced feelings of stress – a driver of imposter syndrome. 


The American Psychological Association (2021) mentions that simply expressing your feelings about imposter syndrome can help bring more perspective of who you are and what you have accomplished.

Not comfortable talking to others? Use some mental performance techniques such as an Eisenhower matrix or Fixed/Growth Mindset table.


Arguably one of the most effective mental performance skills in anyone’s arsenal is mindfulness. In other words, recognizing how you respond to stimuli (e.g., an explosion, an argument, or an accomplishment). It is important to note that mindfulness is not confined by negative emotions. Positive emotions can be just as debilitating as negative ones if you do not expect them.

Taking time to write down when you experience feelings of self-doubt, stress, anxiety, excitement, productivity, etc…is a powerful way to look back on how you respond – emotionally – to stimuli and how those emotions play a role in your performance.

Let’s Review!

Imposter syndrome can be daunting. However, it is not uncommon! It is likely that someone you know has experienced the same thoughts you have, if not something similar. We can leverage mental performance techniques to enhance our perspective on what’s important now and help us navigate through the ‘hard stuff’.



PS: Wondering where we get our awesome O2X stickers from? Sticker Mule makes our custom stickers (they make excellent car decals since they’re durable, waterproof and weatherproof!


Baikie, K., Geerlings, L., & Wilhelm, K. (2012). Expressive writing and positive writing for participants with mood disorders: An online randomized controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 136(3), 310-319.

About O2X Mental Performance Specialist Michael Mellinger:

Michael is an O2X Human Performance Mental Performance Specialist. Throughout the last 7 years, Michael has worked in various roles ranging from a humble research assistant, to the Director of Performance Psychology Operations within the US Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He has helped build independent human performance focused departments at both the United States Naval Academy and the US Army’s 7SFG(A), served as the USNA’s liaison for one of the world’s largest research projects, and has earned recognition as one of the world’s premier human performance subject-matter-experts (SME) within US Army Special Operations – developing and managing over 10 state-of-the-art human performance programs. Currently, he serves as an SME working alongside special operations forces, first responders, and business leaders around the world and focusing on developing new and innovative methods of coaching to enhance human performance during person-to-person and kinetic engagements.


About O2X Human Performance:

O2X Human Performance provides comprehensive, science-backed programs to hundreds of public safety departments, federal agencies, and the military. O2X works with clients to elevate culture, improve mental and physical wellbeing, support healthy lifestyles, and reduce healthcare costs associated with injuries and illnesses. Driven by results and cutting edge research, O2X programs are designed and delivered by a team of Special Operations veterans, high level athletes, and hundreds of leading experts in their respective fields of human performance.