Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of job, income, or social status, however, those with more success and high achievements are more susceptible to experiencing it. Those who experience it can experience it for a short period of time, and others may experience it for their entire lives.


The Definition:

It can be defined as a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, abilities, or achievements and has a constant fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’ or ‘phony’.  ‘Imposters’ suffer from persistent self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence regardless of success or external proof of their competence. Despite all of the success in their life, people who suffer from it tend to internalize their accomplishments and continue to convince themselves that they are ‘frauds’.

This particular syndrome can manifest itself in many different ways. The five types can be identified as:

  • The perfectionist
  • The superhero
  • The natural genius
  • The soloist
  • The expert

The symptoms may include:

  • Sense of being a fraud
  • Fear of being discovered
  • Difficulty internalizing their success
  • Attributing one’s success to external factors
  • Sense of self-doubt
  • Attributes success to outside factors
  • Lack of self confidence

The Test:

There are many different tests that can be taken to determine whether or not one suffers from imposter syndrome. Most valid are based on the work of Dr. Pauline Rose Clance, who created the Clance Imposter Phenomena Scale. The Impostor Syndrome IP was developed to help individuals determine whether or not they have Imposter Syndrome characteristics and, if so, to what extent they are suffering. There are 20 questions on the Imposter Syndrome IP:

  • If the cumulative score is less then 20, you have few imposter characteristics
  • If the total is 21-20, you have moderate Imposter Syndrome experiences
  • If the total is 31-40, you frequently have Imposter Syndrome experiences
  • If the total is more than 40, you often have intense imposter syndrome experiences.

The higher the score, the more frequent and serious the syndrome may be in a person’s life.

The Defeat:

One of the first steps to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge that these thoughts exist and to put them into perspective. It does not go away over night, but in fact, it may take several steps in order to achieve this.

Below is a list of several small steps that you can take to identify and overcome it:

  • Speak with a therapist
  • Talk to a colleague or friend
  • Separate feelings from fact
  • Accentuate the positive
  • Work on your confidence
  • Develop a healthy response to failure
  • Visualize success

Conquering Imposter Syndrome begins within yourself. You have to acknowledge that these patterns exist and work on changing the narrative.

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