What is Imposter Syndrome and How to Overcome it?

Ishita Sharma

May 27, 2021

Have you ever felt like others are far more capable than you? Do you think your ideas and opinions might be completely wrong? And do you experience a crippling fear that you might be exposed as a fake? Then you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome. Scroll down to read more about it and learn ways to tackle it. 

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Have you ever felt like you got success by fluke? That you were a fraud? Do you doubt your capabilities? Have you believed that you did not earn your achievements? If your answers to these questions are YES, then you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome also known as imposter phenomenon is an individual’s belief that their achievements, worthiness of recognition is false and they will be exposed as a fraud. Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes described and explored this phenomenon in the 1970s. According to their findings, they found that this syndrome affects most people at least once. Even high achievers who struggle with internalizing their success. Despite their numerous accomplishments, they feel like their success was by chance. 

Signs of imposter syndrome

Individuals who have self-esteem issues tend to doubt themselves. They feel that their ideas and opinions will not be good enough. However, individuals who experience imposter syndrome don’t just doubt their competency but also feel that they are tricksters. They tend to believe that whatever they achieve is not through their own efforts. This makes it difficult for them to own the favourable outcomes. Here are some features of imposter syndrome to look out for:

  • Perfectionism: Focusing on being perfect at any task, preoccupied by minor details to ensure you reach a high standard.
  • Self Doubt: Facing constant self doubt along with feeling incompetent in any situation.
  • Discounting success: Undermining your success and believing it happened due to luck or fate. Underplaying moments of triumph and growth by relating them to external factors. 
  • Fearing exposure: Feeling worried that others might call out your achievements and deem you as unworthy of recognition. 
  • Declining opportunities: Refusing or avoiding taking chances due to the fear of not being good at the job, task or activity.

Imposter syndrome impacts both men and women. Around 70% of the population has faced this issue. Given the rise of social media, this phenomenon has affected a lot of us. As the need for accountability and spread of information keeps growing, so does the fear of being called out. It’s easier to get challenged by strangers now than ever before.

Six ways to overcome the imposter syndrome

#1 Communicate


There are so many people suffering from imposter syndrome. Talking and listening to others’ experiences gives a better perspective. It makes you realise that you are not alone. There are others who experience something very similar. Connect with your trusted group and mentors and hear about their struggles and journey with this syndrome. 

#2 Recognise


Awareness is the first step to any change. Catch yourself when you are questioning your worth and start to fear being called as an imposter. Write down these incidents along with the thoughts. 

#3 Reframe


Question back the thoughts that tell you that you are undeserving. Keep a list of your strengths and refer to it whenever doubt takes you over. 

#4 Accept imperfections 

Accept imperfections

Nobody is perfect. Life is a learning experience. Information on social media gives only one side of the narrative. There is a lot underneath the surface of those posts and reels. 

#5 Trust your accomplishments 

Trust your accomplishments

Success does not fall into one’s lap. Give permission to yourself to celebrate your victory. Acknowledge and make a timeline of your progress and growth. 

#6 Seek professional help

Therapists provide support and guidance to break away from downplaying your accomplishments and manage the fear of being called an imposter. 


Imposter syndrome is a very common phenomenon. Most individuals get used to minimising themselves and their wins without recognizing how it affects them. 

The feeling of being a fraud haunts them. With open conversation, thoughts and feelings of inadequacies can be reduced. Remember, you are worth everything!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. I cannot accept compliments, is it Imposter Syndrome?

A. Inability to acknowledge compliments may arise from many factors. It can be due to self-esteem issues or imposter syndrome. If you discount your success and feel like you are deceiving others, you may be suffering from imposter syndrome.

Q. Why do I feel I am not good enough constantly?

A. Believing that you are not good enough makes you feel low, disappointed, and let down. This low self-worth can be due to many reasons. Some of them are- your core belief system, your caregivers were critical, or you are surrounded by people who belittle you. Working with a therapist can help you overcome these feelings. 

Q. I fear something bad will happen when faced with accomplishments. How do I overcome this?

A. Fearing a negative outcome even when you achieve something could be because of an unattended psychological issue. Understanding what led to this can help you unfold the root cause of the problem. This can be the way you were raised, social conditioning, inbuilt belief system, etc. You can start by introspecting the factors that led to this and writing it down. Therapist can guide you to counter such thoughts and feelings. 

About the Author

Ishita Sharma holds a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Christ University, Bangalore. As a counselor, she uses eclectic approaches to provide support and gently guide her clients to their inward journey. According to Ishita, "What matters is how you engage with your NOW". She believes that adopting holistic wellness habits is an essential step for self-growth and leading a content life. She loves to help her clients connect with themselves and appreciate their progress.

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