Do You Suffer From Impostor Syndrome? |

Do You Suffer From Impostor Syndrome?

Favourites 21

Impostor syndrome; you may not have heard of it, but you’ll most likely recognise the symptoms. Affecting an astonishing 70% of us at one time or another, and most prevalent in successful women – celebrities including Emma Watson, Sherly Sandberg, Tina Fey and Meryl Streep have all spoken out about it – it’s an issue that seems to be turning into an epidemic.
Causing successful people to feel like frauds and failures for no apparent reason, it can have a significant effect on your life and confidence. Whether you see the signs in yourself or others around you, SL contributor Nina Bertok has come up with ten ways to combat the problem…


Despite external evidence of accomplishments and success, sufferers of impostor syndrome feel a persistent fear they’re going to be exposed as a fake at any moment, and are convinced their achievements are due to luck, timing or as a result of tricking others into thinking they’re better than they believe themselves to be. Symptoms include dismissing significant achievements, irrational feelings of failure, discounting praise from others, and a tendency towards extreme perfectionism. Long term, it can leave to anxiety, low confidence, stress and even depression.


Be Kind To Yourself

It’s vital to understand nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and we need to accept our flaws. Shift the focus away from what’s wrong and try and treat yourself with kindness and fairness. Realise your fears are mostly irrational and that it’s time to put an end to them, then reward yourself when things go well and try not to berate yourself too much when they don’t – over time, giving yourself a pat on the back will break the cycle of seeking but dismissing validation from others.
'Even though I had sold 70 million albums, there I was feeling like "I’m no good at this".' – Jennifer Lopez

Watch Your Words

Using words like ‘just’ and starting your sentences with ‘You’ve probably already thought of this…’ or ‘Maybe this idea isn’t quite right, but…’ are bad habits that instantly undervalue your input and contribution. Unnecessary apologising demeans your accomplishments and ultimately serves no one, especially not you. Women are particularly prone to this, and there are even apps to stop you apologising in your emails – such as the Gmail Just Not Sorry plug-in.
'Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.' – Kate Winslet

Stop Comparing

Social media bombards us with daily images of perfection, so turn off Facebook, get off Instagram and give Twitter a rest – seeing the highly-photoshopped lives of others is less than helpful when it comes to being grateful for what you have and who you are. When you realise everyone has their own unique set of challenges and internal struggles, you’ll learn to accept your own complexity, respect your abilities, and understand nobody is getting by effortlessly. Make an effort to remove people from their imagined pedestals.
'When I won the Oscar, I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take it back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, "Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep”.' – Jodie Foster

Own Your Achievements

The root of impostor syndrome is the inability to internalise success. Making a list of accomplishments and writing down positive feedback and praise will make it harder to attribute your success to luck or just a fluke because you'll be confronted with evidence that you play a big role in your achievements. Get started on that list today and reflect on all the times your work was well-received and you truly brought your strengths to the table. Remember, you are recording hard facts here – think about them and internalise them.
'There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.' – Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook

Make Mistakes

Perfectionism and impostor syndrome go hand-in-hand because perfectionists set impossibly high standards for themselves. When, at times, these cannot be met, sufferers experience a strong sense of defeat, failure and stress about not measuring up. However, as motivational guru Tony Robbins points out, success is the result of experience, and experience is sometimes the result of failure – when we make a mistake we learn something. The world we live in is a consequence of lots of trial and error and losing is part of life, instead of dwelling on it, turn the negative into an opportunity and you’ll beat nagging feelings of inferiority.
'After filming Catch Me If You Can, I choked. I felt this pressure to suddenly be this level of actress that I wasn’t confident enough to be. I did a series of really bad auditions, I let the nerves get the best of me. And the couple of years after that it was, "I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough to continue with this level of rejection". It was, "What am I going to do with my life?"' – Amy Adams

On a Similar Note

Get Off Your High Horse

It may sound paradoxical, but it isn’t uncommon for an inflated ego to lead to impostor syndrome. We tend to feel like a fraud when we think we’re more important than we really are, so let go of some self-importance and you’ll feel like less of a fake. A little more humility and modesty could give you a more balanced view of your abilities because you'll be accepting you’re not perfect. Nobody else expects you to perform miracles, so why do you? Try not to take yourself too seriously.
'The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: "I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!" So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.' – Tina Fey

Take The Focus Off Yourself

Because they’re also usually workaholics, impostor syndrome sufferers are addicted to the rush that comes from being complimented for their performance. But because they become dependent on external validation, they feel like failures and frauds when they don’t receive approval the next time. The truth is that no one should have the power to make you feel good about yourself more than you, and that includes your boss, so start training yourself to let go of your need for validation and focus on nurturing the confidence that comes from knowing you are skilled and competent regardless of feedback. Try offering to genuinely help someone else without any ulterior motives – seeing your positive effect on another person is a quick way to stop feeling like an impostor.
'When I was younger, I just did it. I just acted. It was just there. So now when I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself. I feel like an impostor. It was just something I did.' – Emma Watson

Fake It Till You Make It

‘Faking it’ may sound counterintuitive but it’s not. Professional athletes visualise their success before it happens, and picturing yourself contributing and producing fantastic results will allow you to tap into feelings of control and confidence, which are the opposite of imposter syndrome symptoms. Children show us every day that pretending is a teaching tool and can help us realise what we’re actually capable of. Changing your behaviour will program you to be the best version of yourself, which will ultimately replace self-doubt with self-assurance.
'You think, "Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?" And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?' – Meryl Streep

Take Risks

Many people feel like frauds because they procrastinate and never really get started. Just thinking about it without acting on it can make us feel like impostors in our own lives. But the likelihood is, you’ll never be completely ready for most things, so force yourself to act now. Start the project you’ve been talking about for months or years – there will never be the ‘perfect time’ nor will your work ever be totally flawless. Margie Warrell, author of Stop Playing Safe And Find Your Courage says, “It takes courage to take on challenges and pursue aspirations that leave you wide open to falling short, losing face and being ‘found out’. But when you refuse to let your doubts dictate your choices, you open new doors of opportunity and discover just how much you can really do.” So raise the bar and put the pressure on – what’s the worst that could happen?
'I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need for me to be.' – Lady Gaga

Speak Up

If 70% of all people experience impostor syndrome, you’re certainly not alone. Because this condition thrives in isolation, most people don’t realise there are many others who feel just as inadequate. Once the situation is addressed, however, sufferers gain a sense of relief from finding others similar to them. Vocalising how you feel can be very freeing, confiding to a work colleague that you felt like an impostor during a presentation could very well see them open up to you about similar feelings, leading to a changed perspective for all. So speak up and open up the dialogue.
'You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, ‘"I made it!" You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other.' – Amy Poehler

Inspiration Credits:,
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at [email protected]