What Is Impostor Syndrome?

You think that you do not deserve all the good things in life: you got your job by accident, career growth happened by some miracle, and in general all the achievements were trivial things that make no sense. Everything will be revealed soon, and the world will know the truth. Is it familiar? Welcome to the club, you have got the “impostor syndrome”!

What is impostor syndrome?

The term was coined by psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes. They found that many clients are not able to perceive their own achievements. That is, their competence does not affect their internal sensations: their resume and self-esteem never match.

Moreover, they are sure that the reason for their success is luck, charm, or the ability to find a common language with people – in general, anything except professionalism.

The impostor syndrome is a familiar condition to so many people rather than a disease or a psychological diagnosis.

This sensation is rarely realistic, quite the opposite: the impostor syndrome is typical of clever and competent people. Less intelligent people do not have enough experience and abilities to evaluate their own qualifications, so they are often convinced of their being a genius. But experienced and intelligent people often have problems with self-esteem because they are aware of mistakes and flaws.

Why does it develop?

The impostor syndrome can occur in men, but most often it affects women. That is why women are less likely to ask for a salary increase or changes in working conditions – they are not sure of their abilities and qualifications. The reasons can be different. One of them is sociocultural attitudes. In a patriarchal society, it is considered that only men can boast of their achievements, and women should be humble.

Some studies say that the representatives of minorities or certain professions, such as scientists, are more susceptible to this syndrome.

Most often, psychologists point to family and upbringing as the possible reasons. For example, if the child was constantly demanded to be successful, but was not given warmth, the child may get used to high expectations and will constantly be afraid of failing or surrendering.

Besides, if one of the children was declared the “smartest” or “the most talented” in the family, the second one will try to prove to the parents that he is also good, seeking confirmation of his abilities and constantly doubting them at the same time.

How to deal with it?


As we have already said, the impostor syndrome is not a diagnosis and can be perfectly handled. Here are some tips that will help you accept your achievements.

  • Admit the fact that the perception of your own achievements is subjective and try to look at yourself (and your resume) from aside. You can enlist both your achievements and failures in the resume, read them several times, and realize that you have the right to make mistakes and everything is not so bad.
  • If you cannot do it yourself, talk to colleagues or other specialists from your field. Ask them to evaluate your work and projects.
  • Tell the relatives and colleagues about your fears. Remove the mask of an impostor. Do not run around the office screaming “I’m a loser,” just talk to someone about your feelings. You’ll be surprised, but it will most likely turn out that your interlocutor has also experienced similar sensations. You are not alone.
  • Study: advanced training courses, new knowledge, languages – whatever. People with the impostor syndrome can work for days or attain new results – it will not help them feel better. However, studying suggests that you recognize the right to be imperfect and give yourself a chance to become better. So you are approaching the goal.
  • If the point is that you are afraid of responsibility and constantly refer to external circumstances as the cause of failures, there is only one way out: you will have to learn how to take the responsibility for your decisions, actions and even failures. If you are responsible for flaws, you are also responsible for success.
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