6 Signs You Might Be Suffering from Imposter Syndrome; 10 Tips on How to Handle it.

Do you suffer from a suspicion you might be a fraud and sooner or later everyone you know or work with will discover it? If so, you aren’t alone. More people than you may realize are suffering from Imposter Syndrome.

Psychology Today tells us “Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments creating a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.”

It’s natural for most to occasionally feel inadequate. That said on the other hand you could be suffering from a much more serious ailment known as imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the internal belief you’re not as competent as others think you are. It manifests itself when people give you praise or positive feedback causing you to feel undeserving – although all evidence suggests you’re highly skilled. Worst case – you may feel like a fraud.

This concept was first coined in the 1970s by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, to describe an experience often felt by athletes and business executives. Even the most recognized individuals often failed to understand their worth. Which could cause performance problems.

Imposter syndrome can cause a great deal of damage to your work, career, and personal life. That said it’s important to recognize its signs early and take action to stop it.

6 Ways to Deal With Imposter Syndrome

1. Minimizing Your Achievements:

People with imposter syndrome actually believe achievements are not a big deal. When someone praises them they instinctively rebut it and deep down truly don’t believe they are deserving of praise, their talents noticed. They may automatically point out the contributions of others minimizing their own accomplishments.

2. Chalking Your Achievements Up to Luck:

People with imposter syndrome attribute their accomplishments to luck. They overstate the role chance plays in their lives, missing completely the skill and hard work which actually made it all happen.

3. Those Who Believe Themselves Imposters Hold Themselves to an Impossible Standard of Success:

You may set an impossibly high standard of success for yourself  then feel you don’t deserve to achieve it. One way to tell if this is an issue is to determine whether you feel fear or anxiety when you think about the goals you want to reach. This is a symptom of the perfectionism which is often at the core of imposter syndrome.

4. Fear You Aren’t Measuring Up:

People with imposter syndrome often secretly fear they don’t measure up to other’s expectations. These could be those of a boss, that of your family – even friends and business partners or associates. Regardless how often they confirm you’re doing a great job, you feel as if it’s ever enough.

5. The imposter Cycle:

This is a pattern starting with anxiety which leads to intense over-preparation and planning. Since you are driven by fear of not performing an important task well, you go through a frantic process of preparation. This may be accompanied by procrastination and excuse-making. When the project is accomplished, you feel a momentary sense of satisfaction until the next task or undertaking arises.

6. You Don’t Ask For What You’re Worth

When you don’t understand your true worth, you don’t ask for what you deserve. This includes the pay you should be receiving. The feeling of inadequacy will impede your need to ask for a raise, quote your services, or make any other kind of ‘big ask’.

10 Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

1.  Know the Signs:
You’ve learned the signs, here, and put this to use right now. Pay attention to your words and actions and question the feelings arising. Where are they coming from and why?

2. Fight Imposter Syndrome with Facts:
The negative feelings you feel aren’t based on reality. Looking at the facts can help. Gather evidence that shows how much progress you’ve made, and how much you’ve achieved then surround yourself with it when you need a reminder.

3. Share Your Feelings:
You’re not alone in feeling the way you do. Did you know that such obvious high-achievers as Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou have expressed these same feelings? Reach out to others who think themselves inadequate and share your feelings. This can help you put things in perspective.

4. Learn Not to Compare Yourself to Others:
Imposter feelings often arise from erroneously comparing ourselves to others. Remember each of us is different; each with their own path to walk.

5. Celebrate Your Successes:
Imposter Syndrome causes you to focus only on your failures and shortcomings rather than your successes. Remind yourself of the exceptional things you’ve achieved.

6. Make a List of Your Strengths:
You will begin boosting your confidence once you list your skills, qualifications, experience, and natural strengths. Once you’ve listed them they become real and easier to accept.

7. Switch Negative to Positive:
We often play negative self-talk in our minds, driving our feelings of insecurity. Recognize the negative talk and replace it with something positive.

8. Reframe Failure:
This doesn’t mean making excuses for yourself and/or your work. What it does mean is failure isn’t the end of things – something so ‘bad’ you no longer can hold your head up. Psychologists suggest writing down and reviewing what took place in order to learn from the situation to help you positively move forward.

9. Visualize Success:
What would success look like to you? Imagine what it means and envision yourself creating it. This visualization will help you set more manageable goals and standards. It will also help you become more satisfied, and accepting, of your achievements.

10. Let Go of Perfectionism:
Focus on your progress and growth. Quit trying to be perfect. Adjust your standards and learn to do “good enough” while striving to do better.

Final Note:

When Clance and Imes first described the imposter phenomenon, they thought it was unique to women. Since then, a variety of research on the topic has revealed that men, too, can have the unenviable experience of feeling like frauds, according to a recent research review (International Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 2011).


Jean L. Serio
Jean L. Serio
JEAN is a certified Human Resources professional with more than twenty-five years of experience in recruitment, interviewing, job training and development, resume, and LinkedIn Profile writing and review. The last 5 as a Certified Interview Success Coach, CEIC. With a passion for training, she guides others in first understanding their skills and strengths and how to best present themselves during an interview to help them secure the job. Her skills and expertise are also utilized to optimally prepare clients for confidently engaging with HR, hiring pros and decision-makers, and guiding them in how to enthusiastically and professionally respond during an interview rather than fearing the process. Her solid experience, coupled with expertise in the unspoken workings of the interview and hiring process, helps individuals prepare to present their achievements, skills, and expertise not only in a professional but compelling, way using stories of achievements which help the interviewee engage the interviewer or hiring a pro to effectively respond to questions to help raise their get-hired opportunities. Jean has been featured in Forbes;; BLR-Daily HR Advisor; ERE’s Daily HR Advisor; Next Ave. division of PBS; Medium; Entrepreneur HQ Magazine; Self Growth; beBee International, CBS, and NBC online and more. Her past has also included workshop trainings for HR, hosting hiring forums, speaking at job conferences for both job seekers and hiring pros, and more.

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