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Have You Got Imposter Syndrome?

Do you agree with the following statement?


“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved’.”


If so, you’re in good company. Emma Watson – Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films – said these very words in a 2013 interview with Rookie magazine. Apparently even Albert Einstein had it. And more recently Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.


So, what is it? Have you got it? And what can you do about it?


Feeling like a fraud and fearing being found out – especially at work… Known as Imposter Syndrome this phenomenon was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes . 


Weirdly, Imposter Syndrome afflicts talented people the most. Apparently to 70% of successful people have experienced impostor syndrome at some point! Perfectionists are particularly prone. 


Confidence and an assertive nature are frequently quoted as key to workplace success, but… “[T]he better everyone gets at crafting a self-assured facade, the easier it is to feel like you’re the only one who lacks confidence on the inside.” says Oliver Burkeman, author of  The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.


Imposter Syndrome is partly down to survival of the fittest. In the past surviving took being on your toes. That meant living with a degree of anxiety – or you’d be toast.


But that anxiety hasn’t gone away. So, with less on it’s life-or-death plate to deal with anxiety sometimes turns its hand to manifesting stuff, like Impostor Syndrome… 


Take this test to see if you’ve got it! Apparently a score of 80 or above shows an intense feeling of imposter syndrome, while 61 to 80 shows frequent experience, and 41 to 60 shows moderate experience.Take the Imposter Syndrome test here


Think you haven’t got Imposter Syndrome? That could be worse… You could be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect. Psychology Today puts it like this:  “[B]ad drivers believe they’re good drivers, the humorless think they know what’s funny, and people who’ve never held public office think they’re make a terrific president. How hard can it be?”


In essence – you think you’re good but you’re not! Ways to tackle Imposter Syndrome…


  • Call it out: Experts advise naming your fear whenever you hear those critical thoughts saying stuff like: “I’m useless and people will know!”  Remind yourself this isn’t reality – just a perception. By naming it as Impostor Syndrome you begin to get a sense control over it.


  • Practice taking compliments: Executive coach Deena Gornick, writing for Psychologies Magazine says “Let [the compliment] land, breathe, and say ‘thank you’. Be aware of your habit of deflecting praise, and choose to break it. You’ll be amazed at what you hear, and how much the world appreciates your talent.”


  • Tell someone else: “The syndrome’s so common that, if you tell a colleague about your self-doubt, they’ll almost certainly reply by telling you she feels the same,” says Oliver Burkeman.


  • Make an objective list of your skills and accomplishments: You know, like a CV. By listing your skills and accomplishments when Imposter Syndrome strikes you can see some objective proof of your abilities.


  • Have the courage to be imperfect… : The perfectionist in us and society seems to have a ‘failure is not an option’ take on things. Remember: everything is a work in progress says coach Fiona Buckland.


  • Know your values: “When you know what you stand for, you know what you uniquely have to offer so you won’t pretend you are something you are not, just to get along,” Fiona Buckland advises.


Want to find out more about Imposter Syndrome and how to deal with it here:




Next Steps: We want to hear your thoughts on Imposter Syndrome! Is self doubt holding you back and playing havoc with your career? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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