How to Recognize and Deal with an Imposter Syndrome

imposter syndrome

You are convinced that your achievements are nothing and everything you reached is just luck. When somebody praises you, you are sure that you don’t deserve the compliments. You don’t want anybody to see your shortcoming and painfully respond a criticism.

Have you ever felt like this? Have such words ever stormed your brain? If yes, you are not alone.

Michelle Pfeifer, a famous actress and producer awarded many accolades, once said, “I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m really not very good. It’s all been a big sham.”

Professor of Psychology in California Gayle Matthews is convinced that 70% of successful people feel the same way. This phenomenon is called an imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a constant feeling that you are a “fraud”. Such people always doubt their capabilities, knowledge, accomplishments and they, mostly, think they don’t deserve all they have achieved. They perceive their success as good luck and continue to think they are not as good as others think.

What Does It Feel Like?

People who suffer from impostor syndrome have low self-esteem, fail to enjoy praise, and undervalue their professional achievements and skills.

An imposter syndrome feels like an inner voice in your head that whispers, “My success is not so valuable, it is just an accident”, “I do not deserve praise”, “There are a lot of real professionals, I’m not one of them”. It causes stress, anxiety, low self-confidence, shame and, in some cases, even depression.

What Can Make You Feel Like an Imposter?

Frequently, you can feel like an imposter when you don’t know your strengths and don’t consider them when choosing and building your career. However, even if you have chosen your profession right, there are certain cases when the syndrome is likely to turn on:

  • Changes. When you decide to change something, for example, change your profession, accept a promotion, take up a new position or a new project, you exit a comfort zone and face uncertainty. This makes the imposter syndrome more likely to occur.
  • Stereotypes. Stereotypes suppress self-belief and devalue success. If you think that you are worse than others, you fail to build confidence and progress.
  • A high level of responsibility. The increase in the level of responsibility turns on feeling like an imposter too. Pressure and doubts increase when you do something very important.
  • Previous failure. If you had a great failure in the past, e.g. dismissal or project failure, it will be much harder to tame your inner imposter. You should treat your failures as lessons that make you stronger, wiser and more experienced.

Who Suffers from Imposter Syndrome?

Valerie Young, an impostor syndrome expert and the author of the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, has suggested the people who suffer from an impostor syndrome can be subdivided in the following subgroups:

1. The Perfectionist

Perfectionism and imposter syndrome are often intertwined and go hand-in-hand. It happens because perfectionists set big goals for themselves, and if they are not able to reach it, they feel overwhelmed and experience major self-doubt. If you feel like you must be 100% perfect 100% of the time, you must be one of perfectionists suffering an imposter syndrome too.

2. The Workaholic

Workaholics or “supermen”/ “superwomen” often push themselves to work harder and harder. Often, this is not because they find purpose and meaning in work, but because they want to prove to themselves that they are good enough and able to manage with a heavy workload. Thus, if you stay late in the office and feel stressed about having a lot of free time, this may be due to the imposter syndrome.

3. The Expert

People who feel a strong need to know every piece of information about the subject they are going to present or a project or business they are going to start are called “experts”. They would only speak up when they are 100% confident in their response and wouldn’t apply to a job posting unless they meet every single requirement.

4. The Natural Genius

According to Young, “natural geniuses” feel shame about their ability to learn something slowly. This is because they set the bar extremely high, just like perfectionists. natural geniuses are used to doing things very quickly, so when they have to put in an effort, their inner alarm goes off. As a result, they are not willing to try something new and avoid challenges.

5. The Soloist

These people feel that asking someone for help is a big shame and reveals that they are unsuitable for the job. Thus, they prefer to accomplish tasks on their own and fail to overcome a lack of trust, which is a basic team dysfunction.

How to Deal with an Imposter Syndrome?

Here are 7 steps that will help you get rid of feeling like an imposter:

1. Find the aim

It is quite hard to lose this feeling, that’s why you need to set a goal and move systematically to it. A goal will motivate you to overcome your fears and doubts. What’s more, you can make it one of your goals to learn to speak freely in front of the audience, to recognize your mistakes, to ask and give feedback.

2. Raise your self-esteem

Take a strength-based approach to develop confidence and self-esteem. No one else can do this for you. Only when you know, appreciate and develop your strengths, you can stop feeling like an impostor.

3. Keep track of your achievements

Know your strength and weaknesses and invest into personal and professional development. When you develop a strong competence in one sphere and have achievements to be proud of, you won’t feel the need to justify your knowledge about every other thing too.

4. Let yourself be wrong

It is okay to make mistakes. Learn to treat failures and losses as lessons and opportunities to learn. Most of our mistakes are not as fatal as we tend to think and we can correct them easily. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from acting.

5. Analyze the example of successful people

Look at the people you look up to. Did they achieve all their success at once? Where they afraid to try a new thing or accept someone’s help? Has criticism detracted their achievements? Have their example in mind each time an imposter syndrome does not let you act.

6. Get curious about your feelings and thoughts

Try to be very attentive to your feelings and thoughts. Learn to recognize the moments when you feel scared to act or doubt your capabilities and ask yourself why you can feel this way. This is the first step to getting control of your thoughts.

7. Balance your positive thinking

Don’t fall to the extremes thinking that every doubt is a sign of an impostor syndrome. Excessive positive thinking can make you overlook the hurdles and overestimate your abilities. Learn to balance your positive thinking by getting a realistic perspective.


The very first step to getting rid of an imposter syndrome is revealing your strengths. Thus, every time you find yourself in a situation that can exacerbate the impostor syndrome, you have a valuable toolbox that will help you to talk you inner imposter. High5Test strengths finder is a reliable personality test that will help you to get started.

Remember, most people experience moments of doubt, and that’s normal. The important part is not to let that doubt control your actions and take away opportunities.

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Take the first step to get rid of the rid of an imposter syndrome – identify your personal strengths