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  • Writer's pictureGillian Brunton

"Imposter Syndrome and Mediation: An Unexpected Connection"


Imposter Syndrome as we know, is a psychological phenomenon where individuals doubt their accomplishments, experiencing an internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud." This can affect anyone, regardless of their position or status - from students to professionals, and even those attending mediation.

In this blog post, we will explore the link between imposter syndrome and mediation, and discuss tools for reducing or overcoming it from the perspective of:

· Someone attending mediation,

· the commissioning agent and,

· the mediator

Imposter Syndrome and Mediation

Imposter syndrome can manifest in various ways during mediation. Individuals may experience self-doubt about their perspectives, their rights, or their ability to negotiate effectively. They may feel like they don't "belong" in the mediation room, or that their concerns aren't valid or important enough. This can lead to passive participation and hinder the overall mediation process.

The Impact of Imposter Syndrome on Mediation

When someone is experiencing imposter syndrome, they may struggle to express their needs, wants, or boundaries effectively. They may also undervalue their position, making it easier for others to take advantage of them. On the other hand, some may overcompensate for their perceived inadequacies, leading to intense confrontation and impeding the goal of reaching a resolution.

Addressing Imposter Syndrome in Mediation

Recognising the presence of imposter syndrome is the first step to addressing it. It's important to remember that everyone involved in the mediation process is there for a reason, and every perspective is valid and valuable.

The Attendees Perspective

Attending mediation can be a challenging experience, and dealing with imposter syndrome can add an additional layer of stress and self-doubt. However, it's important to remember that imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon that many people experience, even in professional settings. Here are some suggestions to help an attendee cope with imposter syndrome during mediation:

1. Recognise your achievements: Remind yourself of your accomplishments, skills, and qualifications that have led you to be part of the mediation process. Take stock of your strengths and acknowledge that you have valuable contributions to make.

2. Reframe your thoughts: Challenge negative and self-deprecating thoughts by reframing them in a more positive and realistic light. Instead of focusing on perceived shortcomings, focus on the unique perspective and expertise you bring to the mediation process. Use the time between individual sessions to practice this technique.

3. Talk to others: Before attending mediation, share your feelings of imposter syndrome with trusted friends, family members, or colleagues who can provide support and reassurance. Often, you'll find that others have experienced similar feelings and can offer valuable perspective.

4. Seek professional help: If imposter syndrome significantly impacts your well-being or ability to participate in mediation, consider reaching out to a qualified coach or mental health professional. They can provide guidance, support, and strategies to manage imposter syndrome effectively.

5. Embrace learning and growth: Understand that mediation is an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than a test of your worth. Embrace the process, focus on acquiring new skills, and view any setbacks as valuable experiences for personal and professional development.

6. Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Remember that nobody is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. Treat yourself with the same understanding and forgiveness you would extend to others.

7. Visualise success: Spend some time visualising positive outcomes and envisioning yourself confidently contributing to the mediation process. This can help boost your self-confidence and reduce feelings of imposter syndrome.

Remember, imposter syndrome is a common experience, and many successful individuals have faced it at some point in their lives. By implementing these strategies and focusing on your unique strengths and qualifications, you can overcome imposter syndrome and confidently participate in the mediation process.

The Commissioning Agents Perspective

When dealing with someone experiencing imposter syndrome during mediation as a commissioning agent, it's important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Here are some steps you can take to help attendees navigate through this challenge:

1. Recognize and validate their feelings: Imposter syndrome is a common experience, and it's important to acknowledge and validate the person's feelings. Let them know that it's normal to have doubts and insecurities, and many people go through similar experiences.

2. Create a safe and supportive environment: Foster an environment where the person feels safe and comfortable expressing their concerns and fears. Assure them that their thoughts and feelings will be respected and that you are there to support them throughout the process.

3. Encourage self-reflection: Encourage them to reflect on their accomplishments, strengths, and the evidence that supports their competence and qualifications. This can help them gain perspective and challenge their negative self-perception.

4. Provide positive feedback and affirmation: Offer specific and genuine praise for their contributions and achievements. Highlight their unique skills and strengths and remind them of past successes to boost their confidence and self-esteem.

5. Offer mentorship or coaching: If appropriate, consider connecting the individual with a mentor or coach who can provide guidance and support. A mentor can share their own experiences with imposter syndrome and provide strategies for overcoming it.

6. Facilitate open dialogue: During mediation sessions, create an environment that encourages open dialogue and active participation from all parties involved. Emphasise that everyone's opinions and contributions are valuable. Imposter syndrome is a common experience that can be managed.

7. Encourage self-care: Imposter syndrome can take an emotional toll on individuals. Encourage the person to practice self-care activities such as exercise, mindfulness, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Remind them to celebrate their successes and take breaks when needed.

8. Reframe failure as a learning opportunity: Help the individual reframe failures or setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning. Encourage them to see challenges as steppingstones rather than evidence of their incompetence.

9. Suggest professional development opportunities: Encourage the person to engage in professional development activities such as workshops, conferences, or training programmes. Continuous learning and acquiring new skills can help boost confidence and combat imposter syndrome.

10. Normalise seeking support: Let the person know that seeking support from colleagues, friends, or professionals is a sign of strength, not weakness. They may benefit from speaking with an occupational health professional who can provide additional guidance and support.

Remember that overcoming imposter syndrome is a journey, and progress may take time. Be patient, supportive, and provide ongoing encouragement as they work through their feelings of self-doubt.

The Mediators Perspective

It's not uncommon for someone to experience imposter syndrome in any context where they may feel judged or evaluated, including mediation. Here are some ways you, the mediator might help someone dealing with imposter syndrome:

1. Validate their feelings: Let them know that it's completely normal to have doubts, especially in stressful situations. Assure them that everyone, at some point or the other, feels out of their depth.

2. Promote a safe and open environment: This should be somewhere the participants feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns. They should know it's okay to ask questions or seek clarification if needed, and that there's no such thing as a "stupid" question.

3. Highlight their strengths and past accomplishments: Make it clear that they have been invited to participate in the mediation process because of their valuable input, perspective, or role in the situation.

4. Make it clear that mistakes are a part of the process,and everyone makes them: It's more important to learn from mistakes than to avoid them completely. No one is expected to be perfect in the mediation process.

5. Emphasise the process, not just the outcomes: Highlight that the goal of mediation is not necessarily to 'win' or 'lose', but to engage in a process of understanding, negotiation, and compromise. Remind them that their worth is not tied to the outcome of the mediation.

6. Help them reframe negative thoughts: If they say, "I don't know what I'm doing," encourage them to rephrase that as, "I'm still learning and improving."

Imposter syndrome can be tough to overcome, especially in a high-stakes situation like mediation. The key is to create an environment where everyone feels valued, heard, and respected – as mediators we all know this and by doing so, you can help alleviate feelings of imposter syndrome and off course, facilitate a more productive mediation process.


Understanding the link between Imposter Syndrome and mediation can lead to more effective communication, better negotiation, and a more successful resolution. It's crucial for all participants to acknowledge their worth and the validity of their perspective. By doing so, they can navigate the mediation process confidently and constructively.

As Mediators, it’s important to remember and keep stressing that everyone has a right to be in the mediation room, and everyone's voice is worth hearing. Don't let Imposter Syndrome cloud this truth.

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