How to address gaslighting and imposter syndrome


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Disclosure: Shannon is the owner of Shannon Coaching for Life and Shannon Healthcare Communications, Inc.

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CHICAGO — Both imposter syndrome and gaslighting can cause severe self-doubt, but it can often be difficult to tell the difference Diana W Shannon, MD, MPH, PCC.

In her presentation at the Women in Medicine Summit, Shannon discussed how to recognize what creates the “lack of confidence that causes us to hold back from what we could really be and what we could bring to the table” and how to deal with it .

Shannon, who started her career as a family doctor, now coaches other doctors to help them navigate their careers.

Gaslighting, she told Healio, is a form of psychological manipulation where someone in a more powerful position tells another that what they experienced or saw didn’t happen.

“It can be very easy to think, ‘Oh, I have these feelings of self-doubt, I feel like I shouldn’t be here… I don’t have the credentials to take that next step’… when, actually, it is the environment, and that’s where gaslighting comes in,” said Shannon. “It’s not like 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 isn’t really a syndrome, Shannon said — is a set of feelings and thoughts about not being good enough. At times, someone suffering from impostor syndrome can feel like a fraud and worry about being “exposed”.

“Often people feel like they don’t deserve the positive feedback they’re getting,” she explained.

Shannon said that impostor syndrome never goes away entirely, but “it can be calmed down.”

To combat imposter syndrome, Shannon said the most important thing is to come to terms with your own thoughts.

“Actually the most important thing [thing] is to address the negative automatic thoughts you have and really turn them into positive ones and then keep using those positive thoughts and 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; September 16-18, 2022. Chicago.

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