What Is Imposter Syndrome


What Is Imposter Syndrome


Maybe you’re like me — you have it all? The degrees, the certifications, the experience, but you still feel like a fraud. You feel inadequate. You have imposter syndrome…

I remember when I became a Director at 22 managing a team of five, I felt like a fraud. When working with my 3k+ clients, I’ve noticed a majority of them experiences imposter syndrome for both men and women.

It feels like imposter syndrome hits you out of nowhere. And in this blog, my intention is to get a handle on those tricky feelings.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern where you doubt your skills, talents, or accomplishments. You have a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Dr. Pauline Rose Clance has a book that shares how to overcome the Imposter Phenomenon, “The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success.

I’ve experienced imposter syndrome myself. When I first started my business, I felt like a fraud. I questioned my knowledge and abilities, even though I’ve had a track record of success successfully gotten a raise, switched careers and raised millions for political campaigns and nonprofit organizations. And now I’ve helped hundreds of clients get results.

Imposter syndrome is especially common among high achievers. The more successful you become, the more likely you are to feel like a fraud. It’s a vicious cycle that can hold you back from reaching your full potential.

For example, I remember when I had a client finally got her first Director job managing a team. It was overwhelming for her, but we had to work on how she had the experience and skills to lead the team successfully.

The Five Types of Imposter Syndrome

According to researcher Dr. Valerie Young, there are five main types of imposter syndrome:

  1. The Perfectionist – You set excessively high goals for yourself, and when you fail to reach them, you experience major self-doubt. You have a hard time accepting failure or mistakes.
  2. The Expert – You feel like you need to know everything before you start a project. If you don’t know something, you feel like a fraud.
  3. The Natural Genius – You judge your competence based on ease and speed. If you take a long time to master something, you feel shame.
  4. The Soloist – You feel like you have to accomplish tasks on your own. If you need to ask for help, you think it’s a sign of weakness or incompetence.
  5. The Superhero – You push yourself to work harder than those around you to prove that you’re not an imposter. But this is just a false cover-up for your insecurities.

Do any of these sound familiar? I’ve definitely fallen into the Perfectionist trap thinking I can do everything. And as a Woman of Color, I always felt like I had to be an expert in everything from getting my Masters and getting a number of certifications. It sometimes felt like my success to external factors was important to be deemed “worthy.” Recognizing these thought patterns is the first step to overcoming imposter syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome Characteristics

Unfortunately, Imposter syndrome can hold us back from celebrating our success where you’ve just accomplished something great, but instead of celebrating, you feel like a fraud.

You downplay your achievements and attribute your success to external factors like luck or timing. You worry that you won’t be able to live up to people’s expectations of you.

Some common characteristics of imposter syndrome include:

  • Perfectionism
  • Overworking
  • Undermining your achievements
  • Fear of failure
  • Discounting praise

I remember when I first started speaking at conferences. I was sure that the organizers had made a mistake in inviting me. I spent hours over-preparing, convinced that I needed to know everything about the topic to avoid being “found out.”

When people came up to me afterwards to say they enjoyed my talk, I brushed off the compliments. “Oh, it was nothing,” I’d say. “I’m just glad everyone stayed in the room.” I just couldn’t take positive feedback.

Looking back, I can see how these thoughts were holding me back. I was so focused on proving myself that I couldn’t enjoy my successes. I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

If you’re a high achiever, you might be especially prone to imposter syndrome. You’re used to setting the bar high and reaching it. But when you do, you feel like you’re not really deserving of your accomplishments.

This can lead to a destructive cycle of overworking and burnout. You push yourself harder and harder to prove your worth, but it’s never enough. You always feel like you’re falling short.

How Imposter Syndrome Affects Mental Health

Imposter syndrome can take a serious toll on your mental health. It’s often accompanied by anxiety and depression.

You might have negative self-talk on repeat in your head, telling you that you’re not good enough or that you’re going to be found out. This can lead to social anxiety and isolation. Unfortunately social media even makes it worse as it is easy to compare ourselves with others.

In severe cases, imposter syndrome can even lead to diagnosable mental illnesses like generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder. It’s important to seek help from a mental health professional if you’re struggling.

I’ve definitely had my own battles with anxiety and depression, fueled in part by imposter syndrome. I’ve noticed this among college students, specifically when I was a college student. I had high standards for myself to do everything and that resulted to burnout.

It’s a vicious cycle – the more you feel like a fraud, the more anxious and depressed you become. And the more anxious and depressed you are, the harder it is to combat those fraudulent feelings.

But it is possible to break free from imposter syndrome. It starts with recognizing the thoughts and patterns that are holding you back. Then you can start to challenge those beliefs and build up your self-confidence.

Therapy can be a huge help in this process. A good therapist can help you understand where your imposter syndrome is coming from and give you tools to manage it. Medication may also be necessary in some cases. Thankfully, I worked with an EMDR therapist that helped me with my internal beliefs. What’s important is for you to find a right therapist.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. Imposter syndrome thrives on perfectionism and self-criticism. Learning to accept yourself, flaws and all, is an important step in overcoming it so you can beat imposter syndrome.

Factors That Contribute to Imposter Syndrome

I’ve seen so many high-achievers struggle with imposter syndrome, and it breaks my heart. Because the truth is, there are a lot of external factors that can fuel those feelings of being a fraud. Take parenting styles, for instance. If you grew up with parents who had sky-high expectations and were never satisfied, that can definitely plant the seeds of imposter syndrome. You internalize the message that no matter what you accomplish, it’s never enough.

Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome

Another big factor? Perfectionism. When you set such high standards for yourself that they’re practically impossible to meet, of course you’re going to feel like an imposter. You’re always focusing on what you haven’t done perfectly, rather than celebrating your successes. And let’s not forget about the tendency to attribute success to external factors, like luck or timing. When you downplay your own hard work and talent, it’s easy to feel like a fraud.

Challenging Goals and Imposter Syndrome

Sometimes imposter syndrome can actually be a sign that you’re doing something right. If you’re taking on challenging goals and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, it’s totally normal to feel some self-doubt. The key is not to let those imposter feelings hold you back. Acknowledge them, but don’t give them power over you. Remember, everyone feels like an imposter sometimes – even the most successful people you admire. It’s not about getting rid of those feelings altogether, but learning to thrive in spite of them.

Who Is at Risk for Imposter Syndrome?

Here’s the thing about imposter syndrome: it doesn’t discriminate. Men, women, young, old, newbies, veterans – it can strike anyone at any time. Trust me, I’ve seen it firsthand. But research does show that high-achieving women are especially prone to feeling like frauds. In fact, studies suggest that up to 82% of women have experienced imposter syndrome at some point.

High-Achieving Women and Imposter Syndrome

As a high achieving woman myself, I totally get it. We face so much pressure to prove ourselves, to be perfect, to “have it all“… it’s exhausting. And when you’re constantly doubting yourself and your abilities, it can feel like you’re just waiting to be exposed as a fraud. But here’s the thing: those imposter feelings? They’re lying to you. You are not a fraud, and you do deserve your success. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to silence that inner critic and start owning your accomplishments. Celebrate your wins, big and small. And remember, you’re not alone in this. So many other amazing women are right there with you, facing the same doubts and fears. Let’s lift each other up and remind ourselves that we are capable, competent, and worthy – no matter what that pesky imposter syndrome tries to tell us.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Alright, so you’re dealing with imposter syndrome. Welcome to the club – we’ve got jackets. But seriously, I know how tough it can be to shake those “fraud” feelings. It takes work, but it is possible to overcome imposter syndrome. One strategy that can be super helpful is online therapy. Talking to a professional can give you tools to reframe your thinking and build up your self-confidence.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

I’ve also found that a lot of people with imposter syndrome tend to think they need to work harder and harder to “prove” themselves. But that’s a recipe for burnout, trust me. Instead, try to focus on working smarter, not harder. Delegate where you can, set realistic goals for yourself, and prioritize self-care. And when those imposter feelings start creeping in? Acknowledge them, but don’t engage with them. Remind yourself of your accomplishments and the value you bring. It can also help to connect with others who experience imposter syndrome. Hearing that you’re not alone in your struggles can be so validating and empowering.

You Are Not an Imposter

At the end of the day, remember this: You are not an imposter. You are talented, capable, and deserving of success. It’s okay to have doubts sometimes – that’s just part of being human. But don’t let those doubts hold you back from going after your dreams and celebrating your achievements. You’ve got this. And if you ever need a reminder, just come back and re-read this. I’ll be here, cheering you on every step of the way. And if you need a reminder, check out my Legacy Meditation.


If you would like further support in your careerbusiness, or leadership, my team and I would love to support you in creating a sustainable life through our coaching services! You can schedule a 30-minute legacy business or career review call with me to see if it’s a good fit to work together, and you’ll receive 3 action-items from me.

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Legacy Maker!

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