Do you feel like a fraud?

If so, you are not alone.

The impostor syndrome is an interesting psychological phenomenon where people feel like they don’t deserve their accomplishments. Internally they feel like a fraud or they worry that one day someone will find out that they are not good enough.

No matter how successful they are on the outside or how much external evidence there is of their skills or competence these people are convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have achieved.

Studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another. Even though it is very prevalent, no one talks about it! And we have to talk about it:

Otherwise people feel incredibly alone. Huge successes have come out and admitted to having bouts of Impostor Syndrome including Meryl Streep, Tina Fey and Denzel Washington.

I personally think this issue is important because if we don’t feel we deserve our success it contributes to greater feelings of depression, inadequacy, difficulty in relationships and low self-esteem.

Let’s talk about the Impostor Syndrome so you can recognize the signs and take steps to heal.

Fixing Your Impostor Syndrome

1. Recognize Impostor Syndrome Signs

Look at the following statements and answer yes or no:

____Do you ever feel you don’t deserve your achievements?

____Do you ever worry that people will find out you are secretly not worthy?

____After a success, have you dismissed it as luck or timing?

____Do you think you have tricked others into thinking you are more successful than you actually are?

____Do you think others over-value your success?

If you said yes to more than 2 of these you have likely experienced a form of the Impostor Syndrome.

2. This is NOT a Defect

Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term “Impostor Syndrome” after observing many high-achieving women who tended to believe they were not competent, and that they were over-evaluated by others. What’s important to note is that this is not a personality trait. Rather it is a reaction to certain situations. Because of that it can be controlled and addressed.

3. Name and Tame

The good news is that just recognizing you are feeling impostor syndrome thoughts can help you stop them. So you need to get in the habit of hearing your own self-doubts. If you hear yourself say, “Oh I don’t deserve this” or “It was just luck.” Pause and note that you are having these impostor syndrome thoughts. Then try…

4. Keep Success Reminders Handy

Sometimes we forget that we are worth it. If you know you have impostor syndrome tendencies I want you start to gather success reminders. These can be emails from colleagues or friends and family. They can be letters you have received. They can be pictures of times you were proud. It can even be calling a friend who is a great cheerleader.

5. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Nothing grounds you more than writing down what you are grateful for. Writing therapy has proven to be a great remedy for the impostor syndrome. When you are feeling those self-doubts you can pull out a journal and write about the 5 things you are grateful for. You can also write about your proudest moment. This gets those good juices flowing.

6. Boost Your Confidence

There are ways to boost your internal self-esteem and confidence. Check out our next post on How to Look and Feel Confident.

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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