“You’re A Fraud!” – Imposter Syndrome

Image: Willowtreeapps


The connotation behind the word “imposter” has always been negative. The dictionary even defines it as a person who pretends to be someone else, someone who tries to convince you they are somebody they’re not. So why are we hearing more and more celebrities say the suffer from “imposter syndrome.”


To understand the new syndrome being tossed around we need to first define it. Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a “psychological pattern in which an individual may doubt their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. According to psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, imposter syndrome affects many high-achieving individuals. From actors/actresses to the thirteenth most powerful woman, anyone can fall prey to the imposter disorder. New research shows that nearly 70% of society are plagued with an impostorism condition. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg even notable stated when it came to her success, “every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”


Image: artplusmarketing
Image: Artplusmarketing


It would seem no one is immune to feeling like an imposter. Kate Winslet called herself a fraud in 2009 during an interview with The Independent. All while Emma Watson stated, “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases.” Before giving advice on ways to get out of the imposter rut, here are a few celebrities who have admitted to feeling like an imposter.


Lupita Nyong’o said in 2016 “I go through [acute imposter syndrome] with every role.” Serena Williams, Ryan Reynolds, David Bowie, Meryl Streep and even Michelle Pfeiffer have all admitted to a perpetual fear of being “found out.”  Tina Fey said it best when it came to her own imposter syndrome, “you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud!”

Image: Chanty

What to look out for?

  1. Perfectionists:
  • Do you set extremely high expectations, sometime even unreasonable one?
  • Does 99% of your goals reached = failure?
  • Small mistakes will make you question your own competence.
  • Do you feel like your work must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?
  • Have you been labeled a micromanager?

John Steinbeck: Pulitzer Prize winner for The Grapes of Wrath. 1962 Nobel Prize winner in Literature once said – “I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.”


2. Experts:

You feel the need to know every piece of information before you start a project and constantly look for new certifications or trainings to improve their skills.

  • You will not apply for a job until you meet every single criteria required?
  • Constantly “training,” “learning” and “perfecting” instead of working?
  • You always feel like you no matter how much you know it’s still not enough?

Dr. Margaret Chan: Ranked Forbes 2013’s thirtieth most powerful woman in the world. Queen Elizabeth II has named her an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and she finished two terms as the head of the World Health Organization. She admitted: “There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me?”


Image: Sheknows


3. Everything comes naturally:

  • Also known as the “natural genius.” You are used to skills coming easily with little to no effort.
  • You feel like you can handle tasks on your own?
  • Having a mentor sounds horrible to you?
  • Do you get great grades in almost everything you do? Which makes you “the smart one.”
  • When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble, feel shame, refuse to try the task again?

Sonia Sotomayor: The first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, also had admitted to feeling like a fraud – “I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of the world


4. Soloists:

You feel like you have to accomplish tasks on your own. Help is for failures.

  • You hear yourself say, “argh, I don’t need help.”
  • You can accomplish everything on your own?

Maya Angelou: Civil rights activist, author, poet and Nobel Laureate admitted – “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”


Image: Talent Development Resources


5. Supermen/woman:

  • You push yourself to work harder than those around you to prove that you’re not impostors?
  • Downtime = waste of time
  • You sacrifice your passion to work harder?
  • You constantly feel haven’t truly earned your position?

Cara Delevigne: Supermodel, actress and philanthropist said – “When you do everything you can to make people happy with your work but there are still people who aren’t happy, you start to think… you’re constantly disappointing others.”


Image: Grammarly

How to avoid that imposter feeling:

  • Know you’re not alone
  • Ask for help no matter how small or big it may seem
  • Put yourself outside your comfort zone
  • Trust yourself
  • constantly reassure yourself that you are worthy of where you are
  • Surround yourself with positive and useful criticism
Image: Pinterest

Do you think you may have imposter syndrome?


You can learn more about imposter syndrome from Dr. Valerie Young’s blog 


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