Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Everybody gets moments of self-doubt

Yesterday, I found myself facing a familiar adversary—Imposter Syndrome. Four months into our posting in Tokyo, I unexpectedly found myself seated in a meeting room, ready to interview an official from one of Japan’s top luxury developers. With over a decade of experience in journalism, much of it as a freelancer accompanying my husband on diplomatic postings, one might assume I’d be immune to such doubts. This should have been routine, a task well within my expertise.

Yet, as I sat there, pen poised and recorder at the ready, doubts began to creep in. Was I truly qualified for this interview? Did I belong in this room? What even emboldened me to pursue this opportunity? Why did they say yes? In that moment, I couldn’t help but question myself: Who am I to be doing this?


War paint

But as with the other times I had to deal with Imposter Syndrome, I put on a brave face. That includes taking the time to put on makeup (which I like to call war paint) and choosing clothes that help me feel a little braver. Like a soldier going into battle, I gravitate towards the color red for “battle gear” whenever I need to lift both my mood and my confidence a few notches higher. I often say clothing plays a huge part in diplomacy as it’s part of one’s image and can be used to subtly share a message. And on some days, the message is actually “I am confident” even though I don’t fully agree with it.

As I grappled with these nagging doubts, I realized that Imposter Syndrome had become an unwelcome companion, particularly in moments of transition and unfamiliarity. Relocating every few years as an expatriate has its rewards both in my personal growth and my freelance career, certainly. Rewards that I am thankful for. Opportunities open up, getting to experience different places and cultures every few years. It also entails a constant cycle of adaptation and reinvention that—even on our fourth move—has not gotten easier.

“My wife also feels the same. She already filed her resignation from the government agency she works for to join me in my posting,” a diplomat soon due for posting replied to me when I wrote about this on social media. “Although she already has a target for work, it is not yet sure if opportunities will open for her once we get there.”

“Tell me about it. We are moving to Indonesia in June and I won’t have a work visa AGAIN,” said a diplomat’s wife currently posted in Africa. “Most people would just complain and accept it. I don’t! If there is a will there is a way and I will continue progressing with my career. It takes more than privileges to thrive in this diplomatic lifestyle, you need to be resilient, positive, and very proactive!”

Each move is always a fresh start. In my industry, cultivating relationships, understanding local dynamics, and unearthing compelling stories require time and effort, often leaving me feeling like a novice in my own field. Does it keep things interesting? Sure. The prospect of delving into uncharted territory, however, can still trigger a wave of insecurity, fueling Imposter Syndrome’s insidious grip.


It’s not just about the challenges of professional identity—the personal toll of constant upheaval cannot be overlooked. As what people love to call a “trailing spouse.” the narrative of idyllic leisure and privilege often overshadows the reality of uncertainty and identity crises. The question “What do you do all day while your spouse is at work?” is more than just a passing inquiry—it’s a reminder of the struggle to carve out one’s identity amidst transient surroundings.
Being an expat, with its perpetual cycle of farewells and fresh beginnings, mirrors the journey of finding oneself, losing oneself, and rediscovering one’s footing time and again. Each relocation, each adjustment, requires a recalibration of expectations and a reevaluation of self-worth.

Acknowledging Imposter Syndrome’s presence is the first step towards disempowering its hold. Embracing vulnerability and recognizing that doubts are a natural part of the journey can be empowering in itself. It’s about reframing the narrative, shifting from self-doubt to self-compassion, and acknowledging the courage it takes to navigate uncharted waters.

As I reflect on my recent encounter with Imposter Syndrome, I’m reminded that the path to self-assurance is not linear. It’s a journey marked by moments of doubt and moments of clarity, each contributing to the experiences that shape who we are. And perhaps, in embracing the ebb and flow of uncertainty, we uncover the resilience and strength that have been within us all along, and grow in the process.

“I wonder if it gets any easier,” a friend replied when I posted about the struggle on social media. “Me too,” I typed. I’ll let you all know if and when it does.