Do You Have Imposter Syndrome?

Don’t worry, your boss could feel like a fraud too.

Do you ever feel like you’re incompetent at work despite colleagues praising your stellar performance? Or how about feeling that you’re a phony parent, despite what others see? If you’re in school, you might have felt like you don’t deserve the grades you got, and feel like you rode on the back of more studious classmates. If your answer is yes, you may have imposter syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome?

According to Harvard Business Review, imposter syndrome is a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. People with imposter syndrome always doubt themselves despite their achievements. At school or work, they often have a sense of intellectual fraudulence (even if there is none) or difficulty owning up to their accomplishments, despite clear evidence of their success on their own effort. At home, parents could feel like they're not really as good as everyone else thinks. 

Highly successful people are susceptible to imposter syndrome. It is called imposter syndrome exactly because those who suffer from it believe they are frauds, often attributing their success to luck, dependence on others, and others thinking they are more intelligent than what they perceive themselves to be. It’s important to distinguish that imposter syndrome is not a mental health disorder, but can be a serious issue that may cause you to actually fail at work.

Don’t stress about feeling like a fraud at work—your boss probably feels the same way.

Imposter syndrome is common and equally observed in men and women. The only difference is that men rarely talk about it than women, that is why for the longest time, since the syndrome was described in 1978, it was thought that it was more prevalent among women than men.


Imposter syndrome is not just about lacking self-esteem or self-confidence. On the contrary, researchers have linked it with bosses’ excessive perfectionism, which is more evident in women in academic professions.

How do you know if you have symptoms of imposter syndrome? The following is a list of common things that people suffering from it are always anxious about.

1| You downplay your successes.

You always tend to attribute your successes with easy work and support from colleagues. You tend to downplay compliments thrown your way and say that your accomplishments are no big deal. You get a feeling that you fooled others every time they compliment you.

2| You attribute your successes to luck.

Somehow, you always find an excuse that would explain why you succeeded. “It was just good timing,” you would say, or something like “I just got lucky.” Whatever accomplishments you achieve, you always think that the universe somehow conspired to align the stars in your favor.

3| You feel like a fraud.

You have a constant fear of being discovered that you are a fake. This fear of being unmasked or discovered is common, even if very few people would admit it. You think that people have the wrong impression that you are intelligent and competent. When you get a raise or promotion, you think you don’t deserve it and someone made a mistake.

4| You have a fear of failing.

You are extremely pressured about not failing because of your fear of being found out that you’re a “fraud.” Ironically, such a feeling can lead to success, but the person may never enjoy his success because of the feeling of being a fraud.

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5| You criticize yourself internally.

You develop a self-critical attitude toward your work and your relationships. You become too busy being self-conscious. You anticipate being anxious and never get to enjoy the moments of success. When you do succeed at one task, your brain automatically goes into post-mortem analysis reviewing everything that went wrong and how you could have done better.

How to overcome imposter syndrome

According to Business Insider, there is no cure for imposter syndrome and the only way to get rid of it is to acknowledge the symptoms and be open about them. Below are a few tips on how you can manage your imposter syndrome.

1| Give yourself some slack.

People make mistakes. You have to recognize that. Reward yourself when you get things done right.

2| Remember that it’s okay to fail, but make it a learning opportunity.

Instead of framing failure as a way of being discovered, reframe it as a way of becoming better.

3| Be humble and remember you don’t know everything.

Remind yourself everything you don’t know now you will learn along the way, and that your boss is probably struggling with keeping a composed image at work too.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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