Impostor Syndrome: When We Fight a Battle Within Us

Do you feel guilty when people give you accolades for an achievement? Or fear that you’re not skillful or talented enough? You might be experiencing impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome or Impostor phenomenon or Fraud Syndrome is a series of prevailing thoughts that make individuals question their capabilities, and doubt their skills, talents, and achievements. 

Despite a track record of past successes, it continuously instills in them the fear of failure. It tells them their past accomplishments were due to luck or their ability to deceive people into thinking they are competent.

Impostor syndrome makes individuals continuously live in fear of being exposed as frauds. Although it was once referred to as a disorder, research has shown that it is a normal experience. Therefore, it is better called a phenomenon, not a syndrome.

Studies infer that 70% of human beings experience Impostor syndrome at least once in their lifetime. Contrary to the initial belief that it is more common among women, research has proven that it affects both genders equally. 

Notable individuals with impostor syndrome are Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Michelle Obama, Neil Gaiman, Mmusi Maimane, etc.


The actual cause of the impostor phenomenon is unknown, but researchers have linked it to personality, environment, genetics, etc.

Some common triggers of impostor syndrome are:
  • Family expectations.
  • Overbearing guardians.
  • Self-esteem.
  • Perfectionism.
  • Racial identity.
  • Recognition for achievements and accomplishments.
  • New career, experience, or promotion.
  • Extreme self-monitoring and so on.

These triggers, though, are not mutually exclusive.


Individuals having this experience show various symptoms like:

  • Fear of being a fraud.
  • Guilt and shame over allegedly deceiving others.
  • Worry.
  • Self-doubt.
  • Procrastination.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.


The long-term effects of unmanaged impostor syndrome are:

  • Generalised anxiety and depression.
  • Stress.
  • Frustration.
  • Feeling unsuccessful.


Individuals can manage impostor syndrome over time by the following methods:

Keeping track of past achievements: One can keep track of past achievements and accomplishments in a diary. This is so one can easily refer to these glory moments to boost confidence when feelings of being a fraud or not being good enough arise.

Expressing intrinsic motivation: Research has proven that stressing the positive by saying motivating words like “I can do it,” “I am not a failure,” and so on can help quieten the storm the experience brings. 

Getting a mentor: Getting oneself a mentor can provide support and help reduce feelings of fear and self-doubt.

Seeking support of friends and family: Opening up to nonjudgmental friends and loved ones can help provide moral support for one in times of worry and doubt.

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