What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter on blocks on white background

Imposter Syndrome seems to be everywhere, How many famous actors or celebrities, people in the public eye have come forward to say that they suffer from Imposter Syndrome. So what is it??

What is Imposter Syndrome?

The dictionary says anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one’s accomplishments to luck or other external forces”.

Whilst it sounds a fairly recent issue it actually dates back to 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. It is also known as “imposter phenomenon”, and it is estimated that 70% of people will feel it at some point in their lives, and that high achievers are more likely to suffer from it.

Described as a feeling of severe inadequacy and self-doubt. It usually affects people in their work-life and they feel like a total fraud and that they don’t deserve to be in the position they are in.

How does Imposter Syndrome make you feel?

Whilst suffering from Imposter Syndrome, it will make you feel like you don’t deserve any success you have had. It may convince you that you are not as smart, intelligent and talented as you think and any achievements you have had have just been down to luck, perfect timing or just being in the right place at the right time, and that maybe one day you will be outed as a fraud. It will make you feel like you are not worthy. The thought of not being worthy enough can lead you to not pursue your dreams, or completely change your path. Or it can push you to the extreme or your limits and still feel like you haven’t achieved enough.

Imposter Syndrome can usually strike when you are starting a new job, or starting a new business, taking on new responsibilities, even becoming a parent.

Symptoms of impostor syndrome

  • Extreme lack of self-confidence.

  • Feelings of inadequacy.

  • Constant comparison to other people.

  • Anxiety.

  • Self-doubt.

  • Distrust in one’s own intuition and capabilities.

  • Negative self-talk.

  • Dwelling on the past.

You may find yourself over-preparing for meetings, presentations or work assignments, more than necessary. You have a huge fear of not succeeding, so you work three times as hard as everyone else. It can give you the motivation to achieve everything, but the cost comes in being in a state of constant anxiety and will find yourself over-preparing for everything. You will find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle. Even when you are doing well at something it doesn’t change how you feel.

Types of Imposters

The Expert

Never feeling satisfied when you finish a task, and you have to know everything about it, inside and out. Time spent researching makes it harder to complete tasks. You feel the need to know every piece of information before you start a task. They are always looking for ways to improve their skills, look for new training and certificates to improve their skills.

The Perfectionist

Have high levels of anxiety, doubt and worry. You may set extreme goals that are impossible to achieve, and focus on where you could have done better. Setting extremely high expectations for themselves, any small mistakes will make them question their own competence.

The Soloist

Prefers working alone, won’t ask for help as it may reveal incompetence. They will turn down help or assistance, won’t think to ask for any, as this will make them feel like a failure or fraud.

Natural genius

May learn and master new skills easily, but feel ashamed when they don’t. Will struggle and will work hard to accomplish their goals and will think they aren’t good enough if they don’t succeed. They are used to skills coming to them easily and will feel like a failure when they don’t and have to work harder.


Can be workaholics, which can lead to burnout, and affect physical and mental relationships. They push themselves to work harder, they have to succeed in all aspects of their life, from work, parenting and partners. Will suffer from stress when they are not accomplishing the goals they set themselves.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrom

  • Acknowledge the thoughts – acknowledge thoughts and feelings and put them into perspective.
  • Talk about it – We all know how good it is to talk, so open up to people, you may be surprised that people feel the same.
  • Seek support – We all need help sometimes, and it helps to know your not alone.
  • Don’t strive for perfection – How many people are perfect? I don’t think anyone is. So be realistic when you set any goals. See mistakes as learning experiences.
  • Own your success – You may find it hard to accept compliments. When things are going well you put it down to help from others, when things are going bad, you blame yourself.
  • Don’t compare yourself – You will find fault if you compare yourself to others and this will help to fuel your feelings of not being good enough.
  • Don’t hold back – No matter how and what you feel, don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dreams. Keep going.

No one knows why some people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and some experts believe it stems from anxiety, while some believe it can stem from family or behavioural causes. Childhood memories, for example, you were never good enough, your siblings were better at certain subjects. These feelings can leave a lasting impact.

Try to remember that the only difference between someone suffering from Imposter syndrome and someone who doesn’t is how they respond to challenges. Most people will experience moments of doubt, but its important to not let that doubt control your actions.

Posted By  : The Hormona Team

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