Personal Development
What Is Imposter Syndrome? Learn What it is and 10 Ways ...

What Is Imposter Syndrome? Learn What it is and 10 Ways ...

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What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that can cause people to feel inadequate and anxious, even when they are recognized as high-performing and successful in their fields. It was first defined by Clance and Imes to refer to a state of anxiety experienced by professional women, but research has revealed that both men and women are equally susceptible to this phenomenon. When someone is affected, they may feel like they are "frauds" or "phonies" who lack the abilities to succeed even though they have accomplished so much.

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is a cognitive distortion that can be caused by a number of different underlying factors. These can include a family dynamic that places too much emphasis on success or is too critical, social pressures to be validated through achievements, or a feeling of being removed or excluded due to language, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, religion, or a physical or learning difference. These experiences can lead to feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and low self-confidence which might lead someone to avoid challenges or opportunities that they could actually benefit from. Common characteristics of imposter syndrome include:

  • Self-doubt
  • Undervaluing contributions
  • Attributing success to external factors
  • Sabotaging self-success
  • Setting unrealistic expectations
  • Continuous fear of not living up to expectations
  • Burnout

Additionally, imposter syndrome can create a fear of success. People affected by this phenomenon often feel as though no matter how hard or often they try to achieve success, it is unattainable.

How to Manage Imposter Syndrome?

There are strategies that people can use to help them cope with the effects of imposter syndrome in order to reduce feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. These strategies include gaining an understanding of the underlying causes of the phenomenon, stepping back to evaluate one's abilities in a realistic manner, and embracing humility and caution when attempting to tackle a complex problem. Crucially, it is important to understand that humility and caution are distinct from the imposter syndrome, as the former involves an accurate assessment of confidence while the latter is rooted in insecurity.It is also beneficial to create an environment in which self-evaluation is encouraged through supportive measures such as mentorship, counseling, and therapeutic relationships.

In addition, it is important to recognize that many people feel the effects of imposter syndrome, and that it can be a sign of strength to seek help and talk to someone. The impact of imposter syndrome can be managed if the right resources and support are available: with understanding and coping strategies, it can be overcome.

In the end, imposter syndrome can cause people to feel weighted down by expectations, hindering them from achieving success in their work with enthusiasm. Recognising its different forms can help to identify and overcome it, ultimately leading to more rewarding accomplishments.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a common issue in our society, and people may find themselves fitting into multiple types over time. It is important to be aware of the different kinds of imposter syndrome in order to identify when it may be affecting you. Through understanding the different types of imposter syndrome, one can begin to tackle the feelings of inadequacy and aim for greater success.

5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

  • The Perfectionist. Perfectionists feel the need to make everything perfect. They never feel that a task is complete and tend to continuously strive for more.
  • The Superwoman/man/person. This type of imposter syndrome is driven by the need for validation and leads the individual to put in more hours and take on too much work to get approval.
  • The Natural Genius. These people believe that they can do any task correctly the first time around and show little effort. Despite this, they often still manage to succeed.
  • The Soloist. The soloist is uninterested in assistance from others and struggles with feeling vulnerable when asking for help.
  • The Expert. This type of imposter is scared of being exposed and works hard to prove their expertise, often leading to extreme stress and anxiety.

Other Types of Imposter Syndrome

Aside from these five common types, there are other types of imposter syndrome that can have a major effect on people.

The HR Director

The HR Director is someone who is driven to do everything in a short amount of time. This pressure can cause them to ignore important details and rush their team, leading to chaos. Asking for help can be difficult for them, as they feel a sense of shame.

The Scientist

The Scientist tends to believe they must have all the knowledge and experience before attempting a task, even if it is unreasonable. Feeling threatened by feedback or critique, they may feel like a failure if they don't get it right. The Scientist also suffers from the fear of being exposed as a fraud.

The Noticer

The Noticer can never feel proud of themselves, even when completing a tough project. They may be easily satisfied with others, but will never praise themselves. They are always aware of the competition, real or imagined, and feel that they will never be able to match it.


Overcoming feelings of inadequacy caused by imposter syndrome can be difficult, but understanding the various types of imposter syndrome can help you identify when it is affecting you. Working to overcome these feelings can lead to greater success and a happier future.

Recognizing Imposter Syndrome

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed and inadequate when you try to give something your best effort, afraid it won't be good enough? Are you squirming when others observe your work? Are you angered by offers of help or status requests? Do you feel unsteady when someone calls you an expert? Do you tend to stick to what you know best so you can be sure you know it all? Are you constantly striving to obtain new certificates or degrees? Do you find it hard to accept compliments or praise yourself for your accomplishments? Are you frequently working on yourself, but reluctant to tell anyone? Do you respond to compliments with “Thanks, but…”? Do you believe others are “just being nice”? Are you uncertain how long you can keep up the charade?

These are signs that you might be experiencing imposter syndrome, a sense of inadequacy that can be draining instead of energizing. It is important to recognize the signs and take a logical approach to evaluating the evidence. Make a two-column list - one side should list the “Evidence that I am inadequate” and the other should have the “Evidence that I am competent”.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Refocus on the values that you value the most and try to negate your need for outward signs of success or achievement. Reevaluate the mindset of growth as life and a career is a journey of growth. It means that you will have to stretch yourself. When the feelings become too painful to bear, talk to someone or write down what's bothering you, it will put your worries into perspective.

Practice self-compassion and don't criticize yourself for feeling like a fake. Realize that mistakes are part of being human. Make sure to keep failure in context. Instead of defining it in an abstract manner, take the time to consider what would happen if something fails - it's usually not as bad as it seems.

Learn from your mistakes and practice mindfulness. Make use of the SBNRR technique to pause, re-evaluate and identify your strengths that were necessary to get you to where you are now. Don't forget to seek feedback from reliable sources to make sure you are on the right track.

Bias and Imposter Syndrome

It is also important to take into account the systemic impacts on imposter syndrome, which exist beyond the mind. Biases worsen imposter syndrome and lead to discriminatory views, policies and procedures in the workplace. When team members treat others differently based on race, class, religion, gender, and sexuality, they create a company culture of fear, self-doubt and anxiety. We need to be aware of these biases and imposter syndrome in the workplace and look for ways to combat them.

Strategies to Combat Imposter Syndrome

  • Make a List: Make a simple two-column list, one side providing ‚ÄúEvidence that I am inadequate‚Äù and the other providing ‚ÄúEvidence that I am competent‚Äù.
  • Focus on Values: Take your focus away from external signs of success or achievement and remind yourself of what truly matters to you.
  • Growth Mindset: Reframe the situation as a growth journey. You won't be able to learn or progress without pushing yourself.
  • Release Rumination: Rumination, or ruminating thoughts, goes hand-in-hand with imposter syndrome. Find someone to talk to or put your worries in writing as it can reduce their power.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Don't be too harsh on yourself for feeling like a fraud. Understand that mistakes happen and it's part of being human.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome and Its Impact on Mental Health

  • Keep Failure in Perspective: Instead of panicking when you fail, take the time to understand what might happen if parts of your efforts fail. Remember that failure is rarely the end of the world.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you situate yourself in the present and recognize the capacities you have to reach your goals. The SBNRR technique is an effective way to pause and re-evaluate.
  • Seek Trusted Feedback: Get feedback from people you trust and respect regularly to help you let go of worrying about other people's opinions.

Bias and Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome can be caused by external influences, namely various biases that can lead to discriminatory views, policies and procedures and, consequently, a workplace characterized by fear, self-doubt and stress. It's essential to recognize and counteract bias and Imposter Syndrome within the workplace and practice strategies to combat it.

The Prevalence of Imposter Syndrome and Its Effects on Mental Health

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon resulting in feelings of insecurity, doubt and isolation, which can disrupt an individual's ability to connect to others and feel a sense of belonging. It is particularly common among those who strive for success and can be exacerbated by a 'cut-throat' work environment or one where diversity efforts are superficial or 'tokenistic'.

Thankfully, Imposter Syndrome can be identified and addressed. It requires the prioritization of mental well-being and a commitment to invest in resources that go beyond therapeutic intervention or psychotherapy. This includes virtual, digital coaching and group support, as well as inclusive leadership that allows vulnerability and fosters personal growth. It is also vital that organizations foster a culture of inclusion, belonging and advancement for all.

When addressing individuals who experience Imposter Syndrome, it is important to provide supportive strategies. This includes being aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the opposite of Imposter Syndrome in where people overestimate their abilities, and understanding how to overcome adversity.

To overcome Imposter Syndrome, individuals must assess themselves, practice humility and recognize when caution has been taken to an extreme. Additionally, potential biases causing feelings of inadequacy must be identified and it must be remembered that Imposter Syndrome is a very common experience. Taking these steps can lead to greater confidence, allowing individuals to better navigate difficult situations and complex problems.

It is important for both individuals and organizations to understand the prevalence of Imposter Syndrome and take active steps to invest in mental health and personal growth to cultivate a supportive, inclusive work environment.

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