Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome, identified in 1978 by psychologists Clance and Imes, denotes a psychological condition where individuals doubt their genuine achievements, fearing exposure as “frauds.” Despite clear evidence of competence, individuals attribute success to luck and often discount their accomplishments, leading to professional hesitancy and psychological stress.


A psychological pattern where an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite evidence of their competence.


Term first coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes in a study focused on high-achieving women, though the phenomenon isn’t exclusive to any gender.

Common Manifestations

  • Feeling like a fake: Believing one doesn’t deserve success or professional accolades and fearing exposure as a “fraud”.
  • Attributing success to luck: Believing success is due to luck, timing, or deceiving others into thinking they’re more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
  • Discounting success: Minimizing success or attributing it to other factors than one’s own capability.


  • The Perfectionist: One who feels their work must always be 100% perfect.
  • The Superwoman/man: Pushing oneself to work harder than others to ensure they’re not discovered as a “fraud”.
  • The Natural Genius: Believing that if one has to work hard or struggle, they must be an imposter.
  • The Soloist: Feeling that asking for help reveals their phoniness.
  • The Expert: Feeling they need to know every piece of information before they start a project and constantly seeking out new certifications or trainings.


  • Professional: Hesitation to seek promotions, share ideas, or tackle new projects.
  • Psychological: Chronic self-doubt, mental stress, feelings of inadequacy.
  • Physical: Stress, anxiety, or even burnout resulting from overwork or fear of exposure.


A review of research data indicates that up to 70% of people have felt imposter syndrome at some point in their lives, irrespective of gender or profession.

Potential Causes

  • Family dynamics: Growing up with siblings who were designated as the “intelligent one” or “the achiever” can cause one to feel they’re not measuring up.
  • Cultural factors: Societal pressures regarding success and achievement.
  • Personality traits: Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism or neuroticism, can be more prone to imposter feelings.

Coping Mechanisms

  • Recognition: Being aware of the feelings and acknowledging them.
  • Mentorship: Finding mentors who can share their own experiences and feelings.
  • Documentation: Keeping an achievement journal or a repository of positive feedback.
  • Talk about it: Sharing feelings can help in realizing many people feel the same way.