Compiled by: Chelsi Nehoya


Have you ever felt like all your accomplishments are based on pure luck and nothing else? How about feeling like a total liar at the thought of being exposed as a fake? What about all the compliments given for your hard work? They refuse to sink in right? Well fear not, you are simply suffering from Imposter Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome, which was introduced by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes (1978) is a pattern of behaviour in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a constant fear of being unmasked as a fraud. This is somewhat weird especially for extremely successful people.

Surprisingly, Clance (2013) experienced Impostor Syndrome when she was in graduate school. Like every other student, this feeling occurred before an important examination with the fear of failing. This led her to focus mainly on the things she did not know rather than what she did. Since this behaviour was not recognised the way it is today, her friends did not understand her struggle. As a result, she kept her worries to herself. She thought the feeling of being incompetent was related to her educational background but she had a good academic status. So what was the issue? Things became clearer when she started teaching at an arts college. Students would come to her for counselling and express the same fear even though they had good grades and recommendations. After these events, that is when Clance and Imes came up with the term Impostor Syndrome and wrote a paper about it.

In spite of evidence that proves their capabilities, those suffering from Impostor Syndrome continue to perceive themselves as fraudsters and believe that they are not worthy of all they have attained (Sakulku & Alexander, 2011). Clance and Imes (1978) believe that factors such as gender stereotypes, culture and attribution styles are causes for this behaviour.

Furthermore, Clance (1985) stated that people with Impostor Syndrome give credit to external factors such as luck or good timing for their success…..all the time! It hardly turns into a ‘’I knew I could do it’’ moment which is very disappointing. To make things worse, Impostor Syndrome happens in various settings for example relationships, where people feel like they do not meet the expectations of others (Harvey & Katz, 1985).

Early research centred mainly on the idea that Impostor Syndrome was dominant amongst high-achieving women but as of late, it is known to affect both women and men equally (Lebowitz, 2016).

Dr. Valerie Young (2011) came up with the following subgroups:
• The Perfectionist: sets extremely high goals for themselves and when they fail, they suffer from insecurities.
• The Superwoman/man: are convinced that they are the fake ones amongst their colleagues. As a result, they work hard to stay on the same level as others.
• The Natural Genius: base their abilities on ease and speed instead of their efforts. The longer it takes to become skilled at something, the more incompetent they feel.
• The Soloist: refuse to ask for assistance in order to prove their worth.
• The Expert: focus on ‘’what’’ and ‘’how much’’ they know or can do. They try to be acquainted with everything to avoid looking inexperienced.
No matter which profile you fit in, remember you are not alone. Up to 70% of people experience Impostor Syndrome at some point in their life (Gravois, 2007).

Those that are affected have a high price to be pay which can be very draining. For starters, Arlin Cuncic (2019) noted that you work harder than necessary to ensure that nobody exposes you as being a fake. Furthermore, people avoid talking about this and end up suffering alone.

Researcher Queena Hoang (2013) stated that attributing your success to your own efforts can lower the feelings of being a fraud.
Harvey and Katz (1985) provided more tips on overcoming Impostor Syndrome which includes:
• Making a list of your impostor feelings and working on them
• Breaking down tasks that are discouraging into smaller parts
• Learning to be in control of situations
• Being your own person
• Accepting compliments given for your work
• Talking to others who can provide you with the support you need
If you are a victim of this feeling, it would be best to identify what type of impostor you are in order to overcome your problem appropriately. Instead of letting this ruin your chances of exploring new potential areas, start by appreciating your capabilities as they are well deserved.

Clance, P. R. (1985). The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.
Clance, P. R. (2013). Impostor Phenomenon. Retrieved from
Clance, P.R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The impostor phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15(3), 241-247.
Cuncic, A. (2019). The Link Between Imposter Syndrome and Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from
Gravois, J. (2007). You’re Not Fooling Anyone. The Chronicle of Higher Education 54(11Nov), (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ782339). Retrieved’re-Not-Fooling-Anyone/28069
Harvey, J. C., & Katz, C. (1985). If I’m so successful, why do I feel like a fake?: The impostor phenomenon. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
Hoang, Q. (2013). “The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming Internalized Barriers and Recognizing Achievements”. The Vermont Connection. 34(6). Retrieved from
Lebowitz, S. (2016). Men are suffering from a psychological phenomenon that can undermine their success, but they’re too ashamed to talk about it. Retrieved from
Sakulku, J., & Alexander, J. (2011). The Impostor Phenomenon. International Journal of Behavioural Science 6(1), 73-92.
Young, V. (2011). The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of it. New York: Crown Business.