In my more than three decades of speaking and leading workshops on Impostor Syndrome, I’ve spoken to an estimated 500,000 people.

Up until just a few years ago, I always ended my talks by giving audiences a list of ten ways to combat impostor syndrome.

Audience evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. The one criticism? “I wish she’d given us more solutions.”

Or during the Q&A someone would come up to the mic and say, “This was great… but do you have any other solutions?”

My response was always, “Of the 10 things I just gave you, what have you tried so far?”

To which they’d invariably reply, “Well, nothing – I just wondered if there’s anything else we can do?”

I spent years thinking, “I just gave them TEN things to do! Is it them? Is it me? What am I missing?”

Then one day it hit me.

What people want is to walk into the room feeling like an impostor and to walk out of the room not feeling like an impostor. 

That’s not how it works. In fact, feelings are the last to change.

So now, before I even get to the solutions, I make sure my audience understands that people who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent or capable than the rest of us.

The only difference between them and us is that during that same situation that triggers an impostor feeling in us, they think different thoughts. That’s it, folks.

Which is really good news — because it means all we have to do is learn to think like a non-impostor.

And because impostor feelings are indeed the last to change, today I make sure everyone understands that…

The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.

Today I give my audiences three simple but non-negotiable strategies. And they’re much happier.

(You can hear about them in a super short 6-minute TED talk I gave at TED headquarters in New York.) 

However, over the years people have asked about my original ten steps. So, here you go!

    1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. 
    2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
    3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent.  A sense of belonging fosters confidence. If you’re the only or one of a few people in a meeting, classroom, field, or workplace who look or sound like you or are much older or younger, then it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Plus if you’re the first woman, people of color, or person with a disability to achieve something in your world, e.g. first VP, astronaut, judge, supervisor, firefighter, honoree, etc. there’s that added pressure to represent your entire group. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being on the receiving end of social stereotypes about competence and intelligence. 
    4. Accentuate the positive. The good news is being a perfectionist means you care deeply about the quality of your work. The key is to continue to strive for excellence when it matters most, but don’t persevere over routine tasks and forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. 
    5. Develop a healthy response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for falling short, do what players on the losing sports team do and glean the learning value from the loss and move on reminding yourself, “I’ll get ’em next time.”
    6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance. 
    7. Develop a new script. Become consciously aware of the conversation going on in your head when you’re in a situation that triggers your Impostor feelings. This is your internal script. Then instead of thinking, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” tell yourself “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.” Instead of looking around the room and thinking, “Oh my God everyone here is brilliant…. and I’m not” go with “Wow, everyone here is brilliant – I’m really going to learn a lot!”
    8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress. 
    9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking °© and then dismissing °© validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
    10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn-out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build. 

    You are welcome to reprint this post with the bio below.

    Click here now to learn how you can bring Valerie in to speak at your organization.

     

     

About Valerie Young

Valerie Young, Ed.D. is an internationally-recognized expert on impostor syndrome and author of the award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (Crown/Random House) now available in six languages. She has delivered her highly solution-oriented to hundreds of thousands of organizations including IBM, Merck, Google, Boeing, Procter & Gamble, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, Chrysler, Blizzard Entertainment, Dell, BP, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, McDonald's, NASA, The Space Science Telescope Institute, National Cancer Institute, Society of Women Engineers, and The Conference Board. Valerie has also spoken at over 95 colleges and universities in the US, Canada, Japan, Europe, and the UK including Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Oxford. And her career-related advice has been featured in business and popular media outlets on five continents including The BBC, Yahoo Finance, Newsweek, Time, O magazine, Fast Company, Science, and many more. You can learn more at ImpostorSyndrome.com

56 Responses to “10 Steps You Can Use to Overcome Impostor Syndrome”

  1. Jim

    Egad, can we not use clichés? Fake it ’til you make it? I would like to suggest that there’s a better narrative to describe “winging it.”

    I’m a high achiever and never experienced imposture syndrome because I entered management young (at 21) and discovered that I could think on my feet quickly and solve problems as needed. It’s not that I never made mistakes, but that I did in fact solve many difficult problems quickly and on a regular basis.

    It’s not about “faking it” or “winging it.” It’s about having problem solving skills and knowing that no plan can account for every contingency — so you need those skills to accomplish anything. Recognizing your accomplishments, which is one of the steps, becomes very useful here. It’s not about bragging. It’s about having a healthy and realistic self-perception that recognizes your successes and failures and gives them relative weight. When I started doing that, I earned my confidence, and once earned, no one is able to take it away from me. No one can discount the things I’ve already accomplished, especially if they haven’t.

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Thanks for chiming in Jim. Agree fake it til you make it is a highly over used. I stopped using it in my talks a number of years ago.

      You’re right it’s definitely not about faking it. And there is a difference between the problem solving and contingency planning skills you describe and the need to indeed occasionally fly by the seat of our pants. I have an entire chapter that looks at the nuances of this conversation if you’re ever interested in learning more.

      Your experience is in part what I refer to in my talks Jim. Being someone who does not feel like an impostor, your thinking and therefore feelings, vary from those who do.

      My goal is to get people who — for a host of reasons — do experience impostor feelings to become consciously aware of the conversation going on in their head so they can then
      reframe it the way a non-impostor would.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Reply
      • Vin Harris

        I don’t like the phrase “fake it until you make it”. The implication is that you are not already ok and need to pretend…so feeding the vicious cycle. How about “behaving as if”. This way there is an acknowledgement of temporary blocks but a decision to think, speak and behave in alignment with how it would be if we didn’t get in our own way.

        Reply
        • Valerie Young

          I totally agree Vin. These 10 steps are ones I used to share with audiences. I no longer include this recommendation. But even when I did, it very much spoke to the need to keep going regardless of how confident you feel. In other words, don’t wait until you feel 100 percent ready to start or scale your business, go for the promotion, apply for a grant or to a degree program. Expecting to know everything at the beginning — or ever — is the equivalent of trying to get to the end of the internet. It is simply not possible.

          This concept is so key that I wrote an entire chapter about why the concept of fake it til you make it is harder for women — and why we must.

          Thanks for chiming in Vin.

          Reply
      • Robert Williamson

        I don’t like the phrase ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ as a Sufferer of this Terrible Emotional thing I was always doing well in my Jobs until I got a job in the Isle of Man in 2009 for a Private Bank when the Stand in IT Manager a Right Ball Bag constantly spoke words of Negativity Over me for 6 months just because I struggled with Dyslexia and the Pressure to do the job quicker compounded everything.

        Only today am I begging to get better in a New Job I have now only been in 2 weeks and feel so much more empowered to look my life and career in a different way.

        ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ didn’t work for me it only made matters so much more worse. After 10 years I have realised that I had to give up and just start applying for for Jobs lower than what I had experience for to build my confidence back up as the ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ approach was only empowering my sense of failure of myself which resulted in a major build up of Anxiety and Stress which caused me to be Fired from a couple of Jobs.

        My New Job has started me on the very bottom where I know I have skills for and can do that job which I will build on until i’m build up with full confidence in myself again. I am much Happier and I am now developing a webinar to help people with various issues around Anxiety and Stress including the Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD) and also Imposer Syndromes Including a Look a How our view of our environment can effect us and we can take control of our lives back.

        Reply
        • Valerie Young

          Thanks for posting. Work is hard enough without the added challenges of dyslexia, anxiety, and SAD. I’m not a fan of the phrase either. I used it here because people were asking for my original 10 steps (I no longer use these in my talks), but also to make the point that you don’t have to feel 100 percent confident before you stretch into a new challenge. That feelings are the last to change and that the only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor. (One such thought is the false belief that we need to know 150% before we feel remotely qualified.) I also find people feel like impostors because like you, they are trying to achieve a level of success that does not fit with who they are or what they want from work… and life. Success is not always about money, status, or power. When you have a more layered definition of success it includes satisfaction, balance, happiness, and yes, less stress. A lower-level job that offers these is a perfectly acceptable path when faced with staying on a fast track that is making you miserable. In fact, it takes courage to work on your own terms. I hope this is helpful Robert and I wish you all the best.

          Reply
      • Jay A

        Thank you for this article. What was even more fascinating were the responses, and more specifically from the ‘deniers’ of imposter syndrome, who seem to suffer from the same condition of thin people who fat shame and their answer is ‘well, just eat less and get over it.’

        I didn’t have much angst over ‘fake it till you make it’ as did so many other readers, but after reading their replies i can definitely understand their perspectives and value their opinions; i’ve since read your individual replies and understand how you’ve evolved the wording.

        For what it’s worth, i interpret ‘fake it till you make it’ to be more like ‘act as if…’ in that acknowledge the feeling but move forward anyway. It reminds me of the saying, Courage is not acting in the absence of fear, but rather, in spite of it.

        Thanks for the thoughtful article, and even more so your empathetic and thoughtful replies to critics and supporters alike. Cheers

        Reply
        • Valerie Young

          Glad you found comments useful Jay. I totally agree with your interpretation.

          In addition to courage, there can be a bit of fun chutzpa as well.

          I thought you might like to read this portion from my chapter titled:
          R E T H I N K I NG R I S K T A K I N G A N D C U L T I V A T I N G C H U T Z P A H

          Bold and Bolder
          Why be content with taking your garden-variety risks when you can experience the even greater benefits that come when you take bold action on behalf of your dreams? In the last chapter, you learned three things that relate to risk-taking. One: You don’t always have to feel confident to act confident. Two: There’s actually an element of creativity, play, and expansiveness in being able to “fake it till you make it.” And three: Some people who identify as impostors see the ability to wing it a bit as a skill.

          Convincing other people that you know what you’re doing is only a problem if you see it as such. On this last point, the American essayist and journalist H. L. Mencken once said, “All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.” All truly competent people know that to a certain extent they’re “impostors.” In other words, the difference between them and you is that they don’t see it as a problem. They know they may have to fake it a bit, especially in the beginning, and they’re fine with that. They feel comfortable bending the rules a little, relying on gut instinct, and having faith that they can learn as they go.

          It’s called chutzpah [hoot-spuh]—a wonderful Yiddish word originally used to register indignation over someone shamelessly overstepping a boundary. Yiddish, and later English, put a more positive spin on it to mean gutsy audacity. “That took chutzpah” is frequently used admiringly to describe a display of “guts” with flair and boldness.

          You are about to meet some famous and not-so-famous “chutzpah
          artists,” people who have a very different take on what it means to “fake it,” who understand that the ability to wing it a bit (or a lot) is a valuable skill. At their core, none of these stories are about deception. Rather, they are examples of believing in one’s inherent capacity to succeed. All of these individuals, in their own way, saw a problem or recognized an opportunity and had the boldness to act, no matter how insecure they may have felt. The fact that they did it with more than a bit of creative flair is what makes them chutzpah artists! Their stories are meant to inspire you to add a bit of fun to your future risk-taking endeavors.

          For example, someone who was undaunted by risks was Estée Lauder, who built what would become a multibillion-dollar cosmetics empire from scratch. Mostly she did it the same way any successful entrepreneur does—through enormous amounts of grit and hard work. But Lauder was also not above a few shenanigans. In his book Profiles of Female Genius: Thirteen Creative Women Who Changed the World, Gene N. Landrum tells how Lauder managed to land an important buyer for her first perfume:

          By 1960, the ever-aggressive Lauder had launched an international program and personally broke the prestigious Harrods account in London. She was forced to resort to some sales creativity to break the prestigious Galleries Lafayette account in Paris. When she could not get the manager to agree to stock her products, Lauder “accidentally” spilled her Youth Dew (her first fragrance) on the floor during a demonstration in the middle of a crowd. The appealing scent was pervasive and aroused customer interest and comments. The manager capitulated and gave her an initial order.

          For a particularly audacious example of chutzpah in action, we turn to a teenager with a passion for moviemaking. The tale beings when a seventeen-year-old visiting relatives in Canoga Park, California, went on the studio tour of Universal Pictures. The tram didn’t stop at the soundstages, so he snuck away on a bathroom break to find them and watch. When a man asked what he was doing, he explained about the 8-millimeter films he’d been making in his parents’ living room since he was practically old enough to hold a camera.
          As luck would have it, the guy was the head of the editorial department. He invited the fledgling filmmaker to bring in his films and gave him a one-day pass to get onto the lot. The department head was genuinely impressed but had to get back to work, so he wished the teenager good luck and said goodbye. As it turned out, he wouldn’t need luck, just the chutzpah to break a few rules.
          The next day the young man donned a business suit, tossed a sandwich and two candy bars into one of his father’s old briefcases, and returned to the studio. With a wave to the guard intended to convey the message “I belong here,” he strode confidently onto the grounds of Universal Pictures. This went on all summer. The teenager in the suit who dreamed of being a director got to hang out with actual directors, writers, editors, and dubbers. He even found an office that wasn’t being used and became a squatter. Since he was there every day, people just assumed he worked for the studio. And in an even more incredible show of chutzpah, the kid bought some plastic letter tiles, which he used to add his name to the building directory. It read: Steven Spielberg, Room

          As audacious as Spielberg’s stunt was, it was hardly original. Clare Boothe Luce was equally bold some thirty-five years earlier. After graduating first in her class at the age of sixteen, Boothe Luce looked forward to a bright future. However, ten years later she found herself divorced from a cruel alcoholic. With little job experience and the Great Depression just beginning, anyone would have found it hard to get work; being a woman and a single mother only made it more challenging.

          But Boothe Luce was no ordinary woman. She’d met Condé Nast, owner of Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines, through mutual friends. When she ran into him at a dinner party, she saw her opportunity. According to biographer Stephen Shadegg, “She approached the publisher with a directness which must have been disarming and asked him for a job on one of his magazines.” Nast gave her the brush-off. “My dear girl,” she later recalled him saying. “I’ve had many like you come and ask for jobs, but you won’t stick it out. You won’t have any capacity for work.”9

          Undaunted, Boothe showed up at the Vogue offices three weeks later only to find that Nast had left for Europe. What others might have viewed as a setback Boothe recognized as an opportunity. “She noted through the open door another editorial office where there were six desks. Two of them were vacant. She popped into the office and asked about the empty desks,” Shadegg writes. “Someone told her that two caption writers had left to get married. [She] took off her coat and gloves and settled herself at one of the desks with the brief explanation that she was ready to go to work.” By the time Nast returned, she was already on the payroll, proving herself.

          Boothe continued to prove herself. Four years later she became managing editor of Vanity Fair. That was in 1933. From there she went on to write six plays, three books, and an Oscar-nominated screenplay, to work as a foreign correspondent for Life magazine in Europe and in China during the early part of World War II, to become the first congresswoman from her home state of Connecticut, then ambassador to Italy, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her service. Boothe used a bit of fakery to make it, but there was nothing false about her competence or her success.

          Companies do this kind of thing all the time. In the early days when cash was tight, the owners of Home Depot had employees stack up empty boxes to create the illusion of a fully stocked store.10 As new business owners, Claudia Jessup and Genie Chipps also recognized the value of appearing bigger than you are. In 1972 the two out-of-work actors started a creative personal assistant company with ninety dollars and a catchy motto: “We’ll do anything that’s not illegal, immoral, or already being done.” They knew it would be hard to make the right impression when their world headquarters was a tiny Manhattan studio. So they bought a record of background noises called Sounds of the Office, complete with ringing phones and busy typewriters. And voilà, problem solved!

          Our last chutzpah artist is a children’s book writer named Starr Hall. By the time she was twenty-one, Hall had written three books. Despite positive reviews, every time she tried to set up a reading at one of the major bookstores she was met with the same response: “It sounds great. Have your publicist call us.” “Even if I could find a publicist,” said Hall, “I couldn’t afford one.” That’s when she hatched a plan to take on the persona of “Holly Grant, publicist.” “Holly” even had her own phone line and business cards.
          Hall didn’t know the first thing about being a publicist. So she did what any resourceful chutzpah artist would do—she learned “on the job.” “Each time I called on a new bookstore I’d discover something more about being a publicist,” she said. “When they asked about the media release, I’d think, ‘Okay, time to figure that out.’ ” It worked. Kids lined up outside Barnes & Noble for storytime, and once she even got a reporter from the Los Angeles Times to show up. And in one final act of boldness, when one bookstore manager innocently pointed out how much Holly sounded like Starr, Hall/Grant replied, ‘Oh yes, and people tell us we look a lot alike too!”

          Reply
          • Jay A

            Thanks!! All Great and loved it.
            I posted this blog at work and have had a few people acknowledge and thank me as they’ve felt personal shame around the notion and were relieved others felt the same way. Thanks again

    • Richard

      I think I may have taken a wrong turn and ended up on this website like Jim, and I am also compelled to comment as an outsider. The best instructors in math, or any other discipline, are the ones that have wrestled with the problems themselves and have, by necessity, developed specific strategies.

      Now here comes an expert generalist, who has never experienced impostor syndrome, to offer advice. He suggests there should be a better narrative to describe “winging it,” which is a call to ignore a continuous flashing false alarm that can’t be immediately turned off. How about, “just get over it?” or, “just have confidence like me.”

      It’s not about bragging Jim says, yet bragging does work well for his purposes. But not everyone can effortlessly sustain such a robust ego. The problem, as I understand, is not a matter of accomplishment or skill—it’s a matter of a realistic self assessment, which is why everyone needs to elicit feedback from others, including Jim. I offer Jim this favor because this problem is equally difficult for those with the inverse condition as described by the Dunning-Kruger effect.

      For advice, I gravitate toward those that start in the orientation of teachers in the principle of Buddha or Plato—“I know nothing”—and and must therefore arrive at any conclusion step by step from the beginning under watchful questioning and criticism of the audience. Confident people that know everything fill me with doubt.

      Reply
      • April

        Its comments like this that make me feel better and more confident. Very well said

        Reply
      • Kelly

        Brilliant. I like your thoughts on this. Imposter Syndrome is real for those that have experienced it. It’s like trying to explain what a beautiful flower looks like in full bloom to a person that is blind. We may create an emotion or feeling around the concept but will never know the depth.

        Reply
    • Peter

      “I’m a high achiever and never experienced imposture syndrome”…
      That sort of disqualifies you from commenting on this article, no?

      Reply
      • Valerie Young

        Thanks for chiming in Peter. As for whether people who have never felt like an impostor should chime in my feeling is — it depends. Sometimes really pompous people try to tell me “how it really is” and “what I should really be telling people.” This despite having never heard of impostor syndrome and therefore done zero research on it. With these people, I take their input with a huge grain of salt.

        Then there are those who have never felt like an impostor who we can genuinely learn from. People who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent or capable or talented or qualified than those who do. The only difference between them and us is that in the exact situation that triggers an impostor response in us… they are thinking different thoughts. That’s it.

        Which is good news because we can always learn how to think like “non-impostors.” Non-impostors think differently about three things: Competence, failure/mistakes/criticism, and fear.

        Once we have an alternative way of thinking about these things it can change everything.

        As a very quick example… there’s a guy named Jon Hine who after 12 years on my town select board failed to win re-election. Someone with impostor syndrome would likely be devastated by the loss — or at least upset. What did Hine do? The next day he took out papers to run for state representative. His comment to local media was, “It was the next natural step.”

        But if we all knew that sometimes setting your sights higher following a setback is the next natural step, then it would go a long way in alleviating normal impostor feelings.

        The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.

        Reply
        • Doris

          I stumbled on the term “Impostor Syndrome” when reading the bio of a well known female representative from New York. I’m not American or politically inclined so I don’t recall her name just now. I decided to look up the term and discovered I had stumbled on the name of something that has plagued me all my 45 years.
          I’m constantly seeking validation from others and always doubt my abilities despite my achievements, to the consternation of my husband and close family.
          I’ve worked for the same organization for 20 years, rising to a seat on the board and I’m considering moving on because my mind is dead here. But I’m terrified of moving in case someone finds out I’m not as good as my experience shows I am. I had to create a resume for the first time in 15 years and as terrifying as it was, I was shocked to see all I had achieved. But it didn’t stop me from feeling like a fraud.
          Your article is like a discovered treasure and I’m going to listen to the TEDTalk.
          Thank you for this article. I guess it’s never too late to get help and straighten out one’s thought life!
          Thank you again.

          Reply
    • Diana

      Dear Jim,

      I was a high achiever who did things many others were not even able to imagine.
      Later, I have been a subject of mobbing by my supervisor and team members for 5 years. You can not imagine what it can do to you until you experience it.

      Before that, I was able to stand up for my ideas. Can I bring that back? It will take a lot of time but I already lost 12 years being in this condition.

      Try to empathize.
      Best

      Reply
  2. Nancy Knettell

    Thank you as always Valerie for your sage advice. I am definately a poster child for Imposter Syndrome. After all I am a woman in tech. We are not supposed to be competent in that field. (PS I never believed that) Never-the-less CEO of my own technical company thanks to you. Fake it until you make itm Oh yeah…And oh boy have I had humiliating failures. Pick yourself up…dust yourself off…start all over again. Doesn’t get any easier but I keep reminding myself if anyone can do this why can’t I. Read her book. It is excellent.

    Reply
    • valerie young

      Thanks for the kind words about my book Nancy.

      No easy task to start your own business, and all the more impressive that you did it in a field with so few women

      The fact that you have such a healthy response to failure is why you’ve been able to be successful. I tell my audiences that you can disappointed if you fail — crushingly disappointed. But not ashamed. The only time you should feel shame is if you didn’t try.

      Reply
  3. Nancy Knettell

    Thank you as always Valerie for your sage advice. I am definately a poster child for Imposter Syndrome. After all I am a woman in tech. We are not supposed to be competent in that field. (PS I never believed that) Never-the-less CEO of my own technical company thanks to you. Fake it until you make itm Oh yeah…And oh boy have I had humiliating failures. Pick yourself up…dust yourself off…start all over again. Doesn’t get any easier but I keep reminding myself if anyone can do this why can’t I. Read her book. It is excellent.

    Reply
  4. john wick

    Thanks for an awesome post, I recently struck out on my own as a freelancer and have been fighting Imposter Syndrome SO much. It made me feel better to know it’s a common feeling.

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      There are many perfectly good reasons why someone would feel like a fraud John and working alone is one of them. Unlike in a job-job, the only performance review you get is the one that comes from you — and it’s impossible to consistently measure up to our unrealistically high standards.

      Add to that the fact that you’re starting something new and it makes perfect sense that this is when impostor feelings would rear their ugly head.

      I know you said you’re a freelancer, but I encourage you to think of yourself as an entrepreneur? Why? Because the entrepreneur mindset with it’s emphasis on constantly trying new things and learning from what worked and more importantly, what didn’t, can be tremendously helpful in battling impostor syndrome.

      Finally, remember – the only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.

      Best of luck with your new freelance career. I’m a huge fan of self-bossing!

      Reply
  5. Daniel

    I recently received a promotion at work. You would think I should be excited, but because I did better than my best friend I don’t feel that way. Initially I said, he should get it, but my supervisor emailed me and asked my intention of the position. I said yes during follow up meeting. I was very nervous and not confident in there because I could only think about my friend. He still thought I was ready. Everyone is congratulating me, but all I can think about is that I’m a fraud and don’t deserve it and everyone will find that out. From this point I spiral down a path that I’m going to lose everything, most important my kids and wife. I’m trying to accept and believe that this was the right thing to do.

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Dan — First, a BIG congratulations on your promotion.

      Second, what you describe is actually pretty common.

      Sometimes when we hesitate in the face of success it’s not a matter of confidence or impostor syndrome. The fact of the matter is, success is complicated. And no one ever tells us that.

      What I mean by that is that the same situations where impostor feelings are most likely to come up — a promotion, relocating for a job or school, job interviews, talking about our accomplishments — are all times when there are consequences either on or in our relationships with other people.

      I wrote an entire chapter on the role that care and concern play in achievement which can make it harder to parse out where the fear or hesitation is coming from.

      In your case, you get a promotion over not just your co-worker, but your BEST friend. Suddenly instead of being work pals, you may be his boss. Even if there is no reporting relationship, the fact is you “won” and he lost. It’s normal to feel empathy for your friend.

      If you’d given up the promotion for your friend you may have felt like a good friend in the short-term. But over time you may have come to regret it both professionally and financially. After all, not taking the promotion means less money not just for you, but for your family. It may help to ask yourself, what advice would you give your wife if she were in the same situation with a friend at work…

      There are lots of reasons why one person is chosen over another — reasons that don’t always have to do with how good you look on paper. Back in my corporate job I hired a number of people and can tell you that if it’s a choice between two candidates, and one has more personality or otherwise feel like a fit style-wise — even if they have FEWER qualifications — you’re going to go with the person you feel comfortable spending 40-50 hours a week with.

      Let’s say in your case, personality or “fit” was a factor. Often people with impostor syndrome will dismiss their accomplishment by saying, “It’s JUST because they like me.” They fail to realize that likeability is itself an actual skill!

      It’s your friend’s job to ask for specific feedback on what he needs to do to be ready for the next promotion — or if possible to find out why he was not chosen. They may be looking at him for another role. Or for reasons you can’t see, you were the better fit.

      If it’s important to you, you can also ask what was it that caused them to select you over other candidates. Not in a way that positions you as hesitant or unsure of yourself, but more in an effort to continually grow professionally.

      As for whether accepting the promotion was the right thing to do… imagine you were in a track meet competing with your friend. Would you pause before you got to the finish line to “let” him win? Hopefully not, because no one wants to win that way. And it’s definitely not healthy for you.

      Finally, as you start your new position give yourself permission to feel off-base for the first 3 months (at least). You’re in a learning curve and can’t expect yourself to hit the ground running and pick everything up immediately. When you can normalize the anxiety of a new role you’re less apt to judge yourself as an impostor.

      If I were going to recommend two chapters of my book it would be Chapter 6: The Competence Rulebook for Mere Mortals and Chapter 8: Success and the Female Drive to Care and Connect. Don’t be too concerned about the title. Men who have a high level of emotional intelligence as you do will also identify.

      Bottom line: Everyone has setbacks in life; it’s how you handle them that count. Your best friend may be disappointed, but he’ll survive. You earned your promotion. Just because you feel like an impostor, doesn’t mean you are. Now go out and celebrate with your family!

      Reply
    • Lungile Buthelezi

      I am actually going through the same situation. Imposter Syndrome has been part of me all my life unfortunately. Everything I have achieved feels like luck and due to short term memory loss as well as being an over thinker, visual and kinesthetic personality, I tend to suffer from it severely. I firstly got an internship immediately after I quit my former job. Already raising my suspicion that it’s pure luck.
      Within 6 months of the internship, of all legal interns I am considered for a position in the firm. Now I am sure you probably think I have been hard at work but I promise you I am the least experienced and constantly don’t know what I am doing most of the time. This takes a toll on my self esteem and constantly think I might let everyone down as I am not worthy of such and then everyone will know that I am clueless.
      Now that I am constantly dragged to the meetings, I cannot even engage in any way as I indeed know nothing.
      There is willingness to push myself but the fear of failure is a big issue for me.
      All my life I thought there was something wrong with me as this syndrome is non existence in my culture, you are just told to stop doubting yourself and “you can do it”.
      Daniel I do wish you all the best and hope you overcome this and hopefully we will conquer the syndrome before it destroys us.

      Reply
      • Valerie Young

        Dear Lungile — You seem to be operating under the assumption that every else who is starting as an intern knows what they are doing. I assure you, they do not. It sounds like the firm sees something in you that you do not value — like potential and/or a pleasing personality. I worked in a large corporation where I hired several people. Trust me, personality is a skill set that is as important as what is on your resume. I wrote an entire chapter about how rather than being an external excuse for success, things like luck, personality, timing, and connections play a LEGITIMATE role in success. At the risk of sounding self-promotional. I genuinely think you would find it as well as Chapter 6: The Competence Rulebook for Mere Mortals to be tremendously helpful.

        Imagine marching into your boss’s office to explain to them how you have fooled everyone. Because what you’re really saying is others are so stupid, they don’t realize you’re incompetent. Which of course would sound incredibly arrogant and absurd. The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.

        Reply
  6. Kathy

    Hi, I don’t even know where to star, but I will try. I have this felling for a very long times ( like from high school) and just now everything is fooling in place. Like is not only one reason are many of them, from been a woman to been and emigrant, and all of the voices that I sometimes believe; that are a big wall that are separating me from my dreams. I hope find my way through and becaming complete how I want to be.
    English is my second lenguage and probably my gramar is not good.
    Thanks for give me tools to bring down this wall.

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Hi Kathy,

      First, you are no impostor. And what you’re feeling is really normal. There are lots of reasons why capable, intelligent people feel like impostors. Family messages and expectations are one. There are also situational factors like being a student or working alone. For different reasons, people in fields like medicine, technology, the law and creative fields like acting, writing, etc. are more susceptible.

      It’s also true that having a sense of belonging fosters confidence. Think about walking into a classroom or a workplace or the halls of power. Once there, the more people who look like you — or when English is not your first language, who sound like you — the more confident you feel. This is even truer when you belong to a group for whom there are stereotypes about competence and intelligence. For instance, we all know what it’s like to be the youngest person in a work setting and feel underestimated based on our age.

      I speak at a lot of universities including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Oxford. International students always come to my talks in droves. After all, they have the same pressures as all of the other students but they’re doing it in a different culture and often in a second language.

      I am pointing out the sources because it’s important that we have a context for them. That we realize there are external factors that lead to internal feelings.

      Try to not over psychologize or over personalize your impostor feelings but instead remind yourself that it is a normal response.

      If you have not read my book Kathy, I do think you’d find it useful. If you learn better by listening than reading, it is also in audiobook form.

      I hope this is helpful and remember, everyone loses when bright people play small!

      Reply
      • Igor

        Hi Valerie,

        I really find myself in Kathy’s message.

        I came to Canada, and throughout my Master’s, I doubted myself. It got to the point that I had several health problems that doctors said could be related to stress (alopecia areata, GERD).

        Now, reading both your text and especially this comment and your answer to it, everything makes more sense. And I can see how your book could have helped me.

        I’m currently job hunting; thus, I still find this helpful and am looking forward to reading your book.

        Reply
        • Diana

          Dear Igor,

          I obtained my PhD in Canada, where I also had my imposter syndrome. I truly understand you including the alopecia areata. Stress gives a lot of harm to our brain and body. Being under the same psychological condition for long term shapes our brains in this way. I hope that you will find a way out.

          I am sure that you are a very strong young person who can achieve his dreams. I wish the best for you…

          Reply
        • Valerie Young

          Sorry for the very delayed reply Igor. Being in graduate school automatically puts you at risk of having impostor feelings. For starters, you’re surrounded by highly educated people (most of whom also feel like impostors but don’t often share it). Plus you now have to do research and likely a thesis which is not something any of us are trained to know how to do.

          Now being in job hunting mode you’re even more likely to feel like an impostor because you’re competing with others who have more or fewer or just different credentials from you and you have to now “prove” you’re qualified. All stressful stuff.

          Just know that you don’t need to know everything going in (in fact, it’s impossible). BUT you are “smart enough” to figure it out.

          Valerie

          Reply
    • Valerie Young

      I’m sure I could have worded it better Sofia. As I originally wrote: If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider. 

      The point being, we often over-psychologize impostor syndrome when in fact, there are many perfectly good reasons why someone might feel like a fraud. Some, like being a student or working alone are situational. People in certain fields are more prone to impostor syndrome, like for instance people in creative fields, in medicine or technology. You could be working in an organizational culture that fuels self-doubt — medical school and academia being two.

      When I made the point about recognizing there are situations when you “should” feel fraudulent the example I gave was related to situations familiar to many women, people of color, people with a disability, first-generation as well as international students or professionals, where you either feel pressure to represent your entire group and/or are on the receiving end of societal stereotypes about competence.

      In all of these situations, it’s important to normalize impostor feelings. How? By doing less personalizing and more contextualizing. In other words, how could you NOT feel like an impostor in certain situations.

      Does that answer your question Sofia?

      Reply
  7. Marjan Venema

    What are the three simple but non-negotiable strategies you nowadays give your audiences?

    Having the original 10 steps is all nice, but I prefer to have fewer things to remember and prefer strategies over tactics.

    I would appreciate it very much if you could list them and point me to a resource where I can dig into them.

    Thanks, Marjan

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Hi Marjan,

      Sorry for the long delay in responding.

      The three tools I now promote are:

      Normalize impostor feelings — much of which comes from understanding how common they are and also understanding what I refer to in my book as the perfectly good reasons we might feel like a fraud. The goal is to do less psychologizing and more contextualizing.

      Reframe — people who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent, capable, or talented than the rest of us. The only difference is that in the same situation where we feel like an impostor, they’re thinking different thoughts. That’s why when we’re having a normal impostor moment, we need to step back and reframe the conversation going on in our head to think like a “non-impostor.” Specifically, people who don’t think like impostors think differently about competence, failure/mistakes/criticism and fear.

      Keep going regardless of how you feel. I write extensively about this and the previous tool in my book and more briefly in my very short TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7v-GG3SEWQ

      I hope this is helpful Marjan!

      Reply
      • Donna

        From a very early age – 1st grade, I decided I was an impostor. I am now 74 years old and had never heard the term. Your suggestions are helpful in helping me to understand my path. I own a business and have been very successful but never felt that I belonged.

        Reply
  8. Mk

    As women, we have to be careful of the typical white male belittling us and then preying on us to prove ourselves by working harder or doing free work. I noticed a new trick that is being used after the #Metoo movement, which is it appears that we are getting our voices heard but we are still being manipulated to some extent. For example, I was asked to be on a panel by an investor I’ve known for a few years and someone I thought I could trust. I was doing it for free because he promised to help me fund a project of mine. Tickets were a small price just to cover costs. But then a colleague of mine caught wind of it on twitter and unbeknownst to me got his employer to contact my investor so he couldn’t be tied to it. My investor and his employer made a deal to ‘sponsor’ the panel and raised the ticket price tenfold, without consulting anyone else. I was still not getting paid anything. Turns out they were raising money to fly my investor over to judge a contest at a conference of theirs. But here’s the kicker, I had been previously invited to the conference at my own expense but they had given me the wrong dates. I felt so betrayed. In the end, I lost the investor because they were able to slander me to my investor at the conference without me being there to defend myself. That triggered my impostor syndrome. I experienced a mix of shame, belittlement, worthlessness and loss. Now who can I trust? I feel angry that they poached my investor and fear that my project will fall apart without him. To do so much work for people and be told it has no value, is almost debilitating.

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Wow Lisa — that’s quite the unsettling experience!

      Years ago I was asked to be on a panel on advancing women in the workplace that was being sponsored by Exxon. Not only were they not planning to pay me to be there as the expert on impostor syndrome, (“good exposure” they said) but I expected to cover my own travel. At that stage in my career I really could have benefitted from the exposure. But the disconnect the topic and their revenues were too much, so I declined.

      I wish I could say this is unique to large corporations or to men.

      I’ve been asked to either be the impostor syndrome expert on panels or a speaker at women’s conferences that were charging up to $900 to register and expecting 800+ attendees (you do the math). They said they don’t pay speakers because that’s there policy. And again, I’m getting “exposure.”

      As importantly, there’s a certain irony to well-funded national women’s associations expecting women to donate their time and expertise. Something I now politely make clear.

      Your situation is more complicated Lisa because it involved an investor presumably for a startup.

      Did you feel betrayed because they raised the price and didn’t share the revenue with the panelists? Or are you saying they intentionally gave you the wrong dates?

      If the first, is it also possible that it didn’t even occur to them to go back to panelists who had agreed to be on the panel to offer them compensation? That once the sponsoring organization got involved they were given the budget for the event, someone said, “Hey we can raise the price and use the money to send our guy to this conference”?

      In other words, in the scenario you describe, I’m not sure this sponsoring company would have done anything differently if the panelists were all men, especially since people who are invited to be on panels typically receive a salary elsewhere and are invited to be on a panel to share their expertise or perspective.

      Unless there had been a discussion upfront where you said you normally are paid for these things but because the ticket price was low, you would wave your fee… then I’m not sure there was a betrayal. (You obviously know far more about this so if I’m misunderstanding please let me know.)

      Now losing your investor to slander without the chance to defend yourself – that IS cause for distress.

      Is it too late to take your investor to lunch and set the record straight?

      The loss and bitterness are certainly understandable.

      But why shame and worthlessness? What did you do that would be cause for shame?

      I realize people with impostor feelings feel shame when we fall short, but the only time we should feel shame is if we didn’t try. If you gave it your best shot, you can be crushing disappointed, but there’s no shame.

      It has to be incredibly disappointing to lose this investor. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Do you still believe in your project? If so, lick your wounds then pick yourself up and get out there and get an even better investor. Then continue to nurture the relationship and continually remind them of how great your project is. That way you will be less vulnerable to losing them to others moving forward.

      You are down Lisa, but NOT out!

      Reply
      • Lisa

        Thank you, Valerie. I feel a bit better.
        Your words did make me draw out the reality of the situation. I guess the aim in being a good businessperson is to help people feel encouraged and want to work with you.
        And they just didn’t do that for me. Looking back now, I’m starting to recall all the completely unacceptable things they did and how one-sided it was. The problem I have is worrying if other people see how ridiculous their behaviour is. But after a while I understand that it doesn’t matter. They are bullies and the bully’s MO is to make you feel bad so you work harder for them in order to prove yourself. But you’ll never get the approval no matter how much work you do for them. And that’s how they prey on you if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome.
        I

        Reply
  9. La

    Dear Valerie, thank you for shedding some light on what I thought was a weird problem of mine.
    Truth is, I feel bad and I don’t even know who I could express my inner thoughts to. I feel like I’m constantly overrated as a person and as a young professional. I’ve always thought that since I was at school, and when people praise me, I say to myself: how can they have such low standards? How can they settle for me? What is it they’re looking for?
    People think I’m being overly modest, but the thing is, I’m not. I’m just realistic.
    Recently, I got a job offer I was, and still am, enthusiastic about. But.
    I’m not sleeping well at night. I feel like a liar, like an impostor, like someone who’s fooling people without being held accountable for it. To get this job, I had to go through a couple of interviews and a business simulation, but I think they were way too easy, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten the job. I don’t know what they expect from me, and the more they show their enthusiasm over me joining them soon, the more guilty and doomed to failure I feel. The fact that I’m going to live in a different country and that English is not my first language isn’t helping either. I think they got a wrong idea of me being able to speak a proper English, when, in fact, I’m below the average and I’ll be lucky if others’ll understand me.
    You know, at University I’ve never skipped an exam because I didn’t feel 1oo % confident. But when I graduated, I experienced some sadness and guilt, because I had accomplished something that I didn’t deserve. For some days I couldn’t bring myself to unwrap my presents. They were too much for me, when a lot of people much more deserving than me should have had them.
    Every day I fight these feeling, try to hide them, feel more guilty because I succeed hiding them. I feel like an impostor, and I have no way to prove otherwise.

    Reply
  10. Ewa

    Hi Valerie,
    I was looking for your book on audible.com but it is not there, would you consider publishing it there?
    Please let me know.
    Kind regards,
    Ewa

    Reply
  11. JV

    I’ve tried most, if not all of these and it still doesn’t help. Beginning to think that I don’t have impostor syndrome and am just a failure.

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Joseph,

      I no longer use these tips in my talk. They’re posted here because a professor is using them in her talks and referenced them in the Chronicle of Higher Education so people kept asking me about them.

      The reason I no longer use the 10 steps is explained in my very short TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7v-GG3SEWQ

      The three tools I now promote are:

      Normalize impostor feelings — much of which comes from understanding how common they are and also understanding what I refer to in my book as the perfectly good reasons we might feel like a fraud. The goal is to do less psychologizing and more contextualizing.

      Reframe — people who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent, capable, or talented than the rest of us. The only difference is that in the same situation where we feel like an impostor, they’re thinking different thoughts. That’s why when we’re having a normal impostor moment, we need to step back and reframe the conversation going on in our head to think like a “non-impostor.” Specifically, people who don’t think like impostors think differently about competence, failure/mistakes/criticism, and fear.

      Keep going regardless of how you feel. What you want Joseph is to stop feeling like an impostor. But that’s not how it works. Feelings are the last to change. So you need to change your thoughts first, then behaviors, and over time you really will experience fewer NORMAL impostor moments.

      I write extensively these tools my book (which despite the title is very useful for men), in several blog posts here (check out my advice at the end of Unpacking Michelle Obama’s Impostor Syndrome), and again briefly in my very short TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7v-GG3SEWQ

      I hope this is helpful Joseph.

      Reply
  12. Coach LockMarie

    Well standing ovation to all the comment section imposter syndrome experts lollll that she has so graciously given a platform to in her comment section. smh I hope you all send her a thank you card lol with all this info you have I truly hope none of you are allowing it to go to waste. ANY HOO
    I enjoyed the article It was just what she meant it to be informative and an eye catcher so smart lady lol and IF I have any opposition I have plenty of my OWN platforms to express them on smh wow – people are funny ha Carry on !!!!

    Reply
  13. Keith

    Dr. Young, my 14 yr old is struggling with, what they have researched and ‘self diagnosed as ‘, imposter syndrome. In short, she had a horrible experience at her K-8 school with supposed friends, acceptance, etc., and has also struggled with her gender. In her last year, which was last years school year, she found a group of girls that, ‘accepted’ her, although they all had there share of issues ranging from depression, suicide attempts, transgender, lesbian and more. They accepted her and she decided soon after that she wasn’t okay with herself, so decided she related better as a male. I know this is a lot, but to inquire without sharing our backstory seemed counter productive. As of now, depression seems apparent, even though she says she’s not, but her grades are not great and she has been considered gifted since the 2nd grade. We are concerned, she has changed in all regards, personality, drive, humor, they are all at 10% now whereas these were a constant until around age 12-13? We are broken, feel at a loss and only wish for someone else to care. We have her meeting virtually, once a week with a counselor/ therapist, which she enjoys, but she and we, feel he’s not really helping as he’s not offering suggestions or other. Any help or direction would be so appreciated. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Dear Keith,

      First I commend you for being a caring parent to your daughter. The teen years are tough — period. In many ways, harder for girls due to social pressures around appearance, being popular, and fitting in with other girls.

      These things may b does not sound to me like impostor syndrome is the issue — although being academically gifted, it could be at some point.

      I say this because the mpostor phenomenon as it is more accurately known (it is not a diagnosable “syndrome” but somehow got referred to as that in the popular culture) has to do with 1) discounting or otherwise externalizing evidence of abilities or accomplishments e.g. I got an A because I got lucky or my Dad helped with my homework; my teacher said I did a great job but that’s just because he/she likes me as a person, and 2) as a result leads to fear of being found out.

      It may be happening, but I’m not hearing that in your daughter’s story. Rather I’m hearing about a teenager who is struggling as so many teens do in these years — more so during COVID — and more so as she explores gender identity. Puberty is TOUGH!

      If you’re specifically concerned about impostor feelings — current or future, I highly recommend two books: Mindset by Carol Dweck which has a great chapter on parenting, and another excellent book called The Gift of Failure (sorry forgetting the author’s name). Academically (and generally in life) you want to be teaching and modeling resiliency. The ability to bounce back from the normal setbacks and challenges in life without giving up, burning out, or giving in.

      You might also engage your daughter in some sort of volunteer activity. Thinking about and doing for others has been shown to make people happy, to say nothing of the life lessons.

      Finally, research shows that adolescents who “co-ruminate” meaning who dwell on negative thoughts and feelings with their friends, experience higher levels of depression and anxiety. Girls tend to co-ruminate more, partly because for girls, talking is a way to manage stress and boys are more likely to compartmentalize and distract themselves from negative feelings by say, going out to shoot hoops or playing a video game. That said, researchers found that boys who did co-ruminate, also experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety.

      I hope this is useful Keith. I wish you all the best and wish for your daughter that she come out of this stage of life happy and healthy.

      Reply
  14. Crissy

    This was brilliant. Thank you so much and I am very much looking forward to reading your book.

    Reply
  15. Amanda

    I have impostor syndrome, but it won’t go away. I can’t think of myself as a person who “achieves” big goals, because that’s not who i am. I’m just really lucky. Is there some type of medication that would help?

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      Hi Amanda — you don’t need medication. And rather than try to make impostor feelings “go away” I suggest you instead focus on gaining the tools you need to talk yourself down faster. It starts with changing how you define competence and your response to failure/mistakes/criticism and fear. And you don’t have to achieve big goals. Instead, look to achieve goals you find satisfying.

      Reply
  16. Adam

    Hi Valerie
    I’m 44, and have struggled with low self-esteem and a lack of self-belief for as long as I can remember. I thought for years that I was constantly ‘faking it’, or ‘getting away with it’, fearing that I would be one day found out for not being as good as people thought I was, or as how I portrayed myself to be. Since becoming away of imposter syndrome last year, I am at least now recognising something in myself, that is seemingly very common, and also quite common amongst people who are very successful. It has been a revelation in many ways! I am not on the other side of this yet, but the more I learn and recognise, and the harder I try to put strategies in place, the easier things get, slowly admittedly, but at least there is some progress.
    My struggles have led me to hold myself back from jobs and opportunities as I was worried of being found out, and also quitting university (I did go back and complete it), and turning my back on a high-powered, high paid job as I just didn’t feel I was good enough to do the job.

    What are your thoughts on trying to understand where these feelings stem from? Having seen a few counsellors over the last 20 years, the focus has always seemingly been on trying to get to the bottom of some ’emotional trauma’, which has led to the sense of being an imposter. In truth, i have led a relatively charmed, lucky life and I consider myself lucky and blessed in so many ways – I grew up in a loving home, had great opportunities, was relatively bright at school, good at sport, popular with friends and girls, went to uni, travelled etc etc. Would understanding where my sense of inadequacy, and constantly (negatively) comparing my skills with others, has come from, help in really getting over it once and for all and then being the confident self I long to be?

    Reply
    • Valerie Young

      I’m so glad you asked this question Adam! So often I see people spending years in therapy as you say, searching for some often childhood trauma or otherwise focusing exclusively on early expectations and messages from parents and/or teachers. Certainly, parent’s who expect perfection or the opposite, who offer no praise for academic achievement, or parents who praise children for every unremarkable thing they do can contribute to impostor feelings later in life. The thing is none of us grow up in a vacuum and there is more going on than “if it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.”

      On the one hand, understanding the situational, organizational, and social reasons why one might feel like a fraud can be helpful. For instance, being a student itself makes you more susceptible. People who work in certain fields are also more prone, e.g, creative fields like acting or writing, technology/science/medicine and other rapidly changing, information-dense fields, organizational cultures like higher education and medicine can fuel self doubt. As can belonging to any group for whom there are stereotypes about competence or intelligence. Which is why we see people studying or working in other cultures, first generation students/professionals, women, people of color, people who have an obvious disability, and those who feel underestimated because they’re young… or old — are all more likely to feel like impostors.

      Understanding these reasons can help us to do less personalizing and more contextualizing so when we have a normal impostor moment we can say, well of course I feel this way… most people in my situation would.

      By far though, the COMMON AND CORE reason you and others have impostor syndrome is because of our unrealistic, unsustainable notions about what it means to be competent and our unhealthy response to failure/mistakes/setbacks/constructive criticism, and fear.

      This is where you should be spending your time.

      Despite the horrible title of my book (Random House chose it), that implies its only for women — as a man you’ll find it helpful too.

      In the meantime, here’s a link to a chapter I’m confident you’ll find useful: Chapter 6: The Competence Rulebook for Mere Mortals https://impostorsyndrome.com/bonus/

      Do let me know what you think.

      Bottom line: The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.

      Reply

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