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What is Imposter Syndrome? Causes, Symptoms, and Smart Ways to tackle it effectively

“I am not worthy of success”, “I think I just got lucky”, ‘I don’t think I deserved it”,” What if they find out that I’m a fraud?”

Do you feel familiarized with these terms? Or do you use them more than often in your day-to-day life? If yes, then that might be a sign of you potentially having Imposter Syndrome. Now the real question comes, what exactly is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is an experience where you constantly doubt yourself. It is a condition that makes you feel less than everybody else even after achieving the greatest accomplishments of your life. This phenomenon (also known as imposter experience, or fraud syndrome) was first studied by Dr. Pauline Clancy and Dr. Suzanne Imes in 1978. It was observed that all the high achieving people who faced this condition found it difficult to acknowledge their abilities and gave vague reasons for their success. Even geniuses like Albert Einstein and Maya Angelou have undergone this phenomenon. Let us look at all the other aspects and causes of it in detail.

What is Imposter Syndrome?
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Relation to Gender

Clance and Imes’ study came out with this pattern commonly shown in accomplished women from particular ethnicity with similar backgrounds and challenges. Several studies were done to show the correlation between women and impostorism. However, is it not true that only women are subjected to it. Other studies confer no significant connection between gender and the probability of having impostorism. Almost 70 % of people, irrespective of gender or age, will go through this at some point in their life at least one time.


There are a few major factors that can cause this syndrome. All these factors will not apply to every individual. It depends on personal circumstances and the reason one undergoes this condition can vary largely. Following are the few main reasons for Imposter Syndrome.

● Age

It is commonly seen that teenagers who have passed high school and applied for universities are prone to experience something like this. They often feel pressured about their academic performance or getting into a reputed institution. In this case, they either cope with self-doubt or think that they are not worthy of getting good positions. Even adults, who step into corporate business, tend to slip under this condition.

● Background

People who come from a place where their competence has been challenged and they had to prove themselves worthy even after all the criticism. They might be from a particular ethnicity that is looked down upon or a conservative environment. The main African American first woman of America Michelle Obama says that she has experienced this disorder and still has it.

● Upbringing

Children who have grown in abusive households or highly elite ones, in contrast, both can face Impostorism because of their reasons. It depends on the way they have been treated all along and turns out to be the same thing but as outcomes of two different lifestyles.

5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

1. The Expert

A feeling of being less capable than your peers or colleagues even, when you are an expert in your field.

2. The Superman/Superwoman

The ones who exhaust themselves from working physically, mentally, and socially and still don’t feel that they have done enough.

3. The Perfectionist

Who try their best to achieve some unrealistic expectations which they can never achieve.

4. The Soloist

They are the ones against teamwork. They feel it extremely difficult to ask for helping hands or any kind of assistance in any sphere of their life.

The Natural Genius

The ones who are extremely hard on themselves for not being able to complete a task and drown in guilt and shame,

Most Common Symptoms

The fact to consider is, fraud Syndrome, which is often mistaken as a mental illness, is rather a phenomenon that has to be spotted in time. It is important to understand the difference and know the common symptoms to be helpful to yourself as well as the people around you. Beware of the following patterns:

● Constant fear of getting exposed

● Seeking validation all the time

● comparing yourself to others

● Not feeling good enough

● Facing Self-doubt every time

● Making excuses for your achievements

● Wanting to change the past

● Becoming control freak

● Dealing with Anxiety

● Afraid of asking for feedback

● Overdoing everything

● Extreme Procrastination

● Feeling Depressed

● Not acknowledging the Highs of life



The first step is to know the actual problem to be able to eliminate it. Be completely aware of it. Now that you know the symptoms, be actively aware of its consequences and be ready to take small but necessary actions. Introspect what triggers you and work on that.


If you carefully notice the patterns, you’ll observe that it is nothing but a series of self-sabotaging remarks you put yourself under. Now, you just have to change what you ask yourself. Reflect on the things you are saying to yourself. Say things like “I can work on it”, “I will do it”,” let’s stay positive”. Remind yourself of the good things and own your success. Small and consistent efforts can change the bigger picture.

Ask for Feedback

Don’t shy away from taking constructive criticism and try to surround yourself with positive peers. Focus on yourself and ignore comparisons. Understand that you don’t have to be perfect to be able to be successful. You are perfect the way you are and you deserve what you have.

Professional Help

Reach out for professional help to the people who know exactly what you are going through and assist it with effective listening. If we don’t take active actions to remove the stigma related to mental health today, it might get too late.

Private Sessions: You can contact clinical therapists for one on one meetings.

Gathering Therapy: It is one of the most incredible approaches to handle this case. As you’ll know that you are not the only one going through it and listen to others’ stories, you feel less alienated, and helps you get through it.


Among many mental experiences and disorders, it is one of them that is often overlooked and fades away under the tags like ‘just a bad phase’, or ‘it’s nothing, you’re just overthinking ‘. Well, mind that you are not just overthinking. It is something to be approached amazingly in a serious way before it can influence you harshly. It can keep you from arriving at your maximum capacity and knowing your value. People can often use this condition against you and manipulate you. Hence, take required actions before it’s too late and be there for yourself.


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