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Imposter Syndrome

Updated: May 28, 2023

Have you ever had the feeling of alienation? Of being afraid that people will realize you are just sustaining a facade behind which all your incompetencies and insecurities lie? That you are not actually deserving of your successes?

Many people actually feel this way day in and day out. Deep down, they feel as though they are mere charlatans whose valuable life experiences take root in fortuitous luck. In fact, even prominent figures like Maya Angelou and Albert Einstein, despite their far-reaching accomplishments, bore feelings of fraudulence not unlike everyone else.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome (IS) is a psychological phenomenon that reflects the tendency of a person to perceive his or her faults as grounds for inadequacy of accomplishing goals despite evidence of achievements. First identified by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, IS has been characterized as a repository of frustrated feelings and disbelief in one’s talents and capabilities. Through research, light has been shed on its prevalence as it manifests in people from various backgrounds, social statuses, and levels of proficiency.

Imposter Syndrome is having the belief that your threshold for competence is not the same as those of others, thereby overriding feelings of triumph and jubilation and resulting in inability to internalize and embrace your own accomplishments. High achievers often suffer from this chronic internal experience, so IS does not necessarily equate with a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence.

Types of Imposter Syndrome

In her research, Dr. Valerie Young uncovered patterns in people who encounter feelings of pretense stemming from a set of strict internal standards to which they attempt to adhere. Listed below are her five generalizations:

1. Perfectionists

These people set very high expectations for themselves. When they feel like they have come short of reaching what they originally set out to do, they undergo fits of questioning their self-worth and competence. In addition, they have difficulty in delegating tasks, for they always strive for their works to be executed with utmost accuracy and finesse; when they do entrust the accomplishment of a piece of work to others, they often feel like they could have done so better themselves.

2. Experts

People with this competence type feel the need to always expand their body of knowledge to the point where they can safely say that they have acquired sufficient information for them not to be established as inept or unknowledgeable in their field. They aim to have a spotless resume so as not to shy away from the possibility of seeming inadequate to others.

3. Natural Geniuses

Natural Geniuses believe that the speed of mastering something takes precedence over the significance of efforts exerted. In addition to having unreasonably high expectations just like the Perfectionists, they ascribe their being competent not only to their ease of doing things but also to getting these right on the first try.

4. Soloists

People of this type believe that reaching out to others for help is an indicator of their inability to sustain independence to do things on their own. They refuse and altogether shun assistance so as to prove their worth, blinded by the viewpoint that victories are mutually exclusive from interdependence on others.

5. Supermen/Superwomen

These people incessantly push themselves to excel in all areas of life to prove they are not frauds. They often feel a lot more stressed when they are not working for the pursuit of something, convinced that spending some time for self-recuperation is a waste of precious time. This framework of thinking, however, can very likely take its toll on their mental health and relationships with others.

How Do You Cope With Imposter Syndrome?

Although there is no one definite means of mitigating feelings arising from an obsession grounded in seemingly perpetual self-consciousness, below are some suggestions to help combat IS:

Recognize your feelings. Take due time off to have some introspection for the thoughts and emotions that consume your mind. May it be through writing, listening to music, or making art, allow yourself to accept that feelings are just as important as concrete actions. Try your best not to inhibit negative and often gloomy thoughts from flowing, for they too contribute towards self-improvement once properly dealt with.

Have a realistic assessment of your thoughts. Try to make sure that your thoughts are rational and have reasonable grounds for taking up your time. Consider the context in which you are in, and have this serve as the basis to which you evaluate how you are feeling.

Stop the comparison. Albeit easier said than done, refrain from the toxic tendency of comparing yourself with other people. Everyone has his or her own set of troubles and pace in handling them, as well as distinct characteristics and personal values through which he or she operates. Similarly, engage in social media moderately so as not to be pressurized by several mere misconceptions circulating in the internet.

Share your feelings. In some instances, you may not even be aware that you embody signs of Imposter Syndrome. One way to know whether you do is to share what you feel with someone. Bottling up your emotions can very likely lead to further frustrations and notions of self-incompetence which can fester when concealed and not talked about properly.

Reframe failure as learning avenues. Do not let insecurities, setbacks, and failures get the better of you! Feelings of inadequacy and incompetence may arise, but these are nothing when compared with the experiences and learnings that you would be adding to your repertoire. Things may be difficult, but there is always more than one way to go about them and succeed.

Baby steps. Be kind to yourself. Although striving for flying colors can help shape you into a more persevering and courageous version of yourself, also be mindful of its excessiveness and how working too much with undue pressure and effort can slowly drain you.

Imposter Syndrome can manifest in people from all walks of life. Often correlating with social anxiety, feelings of fraudulence leave people berating their own performance due to an addiction to self-perpetuating improvement and frustrating, perfectionistic ideologies. Due to its pervasiveness across humanity, referring to Imposter Syndrome as a syndrome almost downplays its manifestation in everyday telltales of anxiety surfacing from the burning desire to fit in with peers and in the institutionalized constructs imposed by society. Encouraging feelings of imposter can also cost people a sense of comfort and happiness when they engage themselves in rest and activities that help maintain their well-being. In light of this, we should all be aware of the incisive fact that no threshold of accomplishments can appease one’s chronic worries. Rather, it is the journey and lessons learned that truly make a lifelong impact on him or her.

The concept of Pluralistic Ignorance also comes into play when people doubt themselves privately and believe that they are alone in feeling the way that they do since no one else voices his or her own troubles. This mentality can prove to be very toxic as it causes people to downplay their own capabilities. They tend to lay in juxtaposition their internal experiences alongside just the external image that others project, manifesting bias towards their own nagging anxieties, feelings, and idiosyncrasies, all the while romanticizing others’ experiences.

All these in mind, it is important to remember that the people around us are not entirely strangers. This is for the reason that they too exhibit characteristics that may be ingrained in us. We are, truthfully speaking, encountering people who, in spite of surface evidence, are very much like us. Taking into account our flaws and shortcomings, it is contrary to the nature of humankind to believe that we are capable of doing everything, and doing so with unparalleled skill at first attempt, for mistakes are vital towards authentic self-actualization.


Harvard Business Review. (2008, May 07). Overcoming Imposter Syndrome. Retrieved July 11, 2020 from

The Muse. (2020). 5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One). Retrieved July 11, 2020 from

Time. (2018, June 20). Yes, Imposter Syndrome Is Real. Here’s How to Deal With It. Retrieved July 11, 2020 from

Very Well Mind. (2020, May 01). What Is Imposter Syndrome? Retrieved July 11, 2020 from


Chronic doubts about ourselves and our capabilities may, more often than not, plague our mind. These can lead us to question our worth and often bring it to comparison with others'. Don't worry, because this happens even to the best of us! Especially during these unprecedented times, it is totally acceptable and justified to feel as though the world is crashing down upon us; it is not easy to proceed with our daily activities and tasks without the subliminal worry of "Am I doing enough?" or "Is what I'm doing productive?". In this piece, learn more about the rationale behind Imposter Syndrome and its different forms.


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