What is Impostor Syndrome and How to Overcome it

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Have you created your success, or has it all just been a stroke of luck? Impostor Syndrome will have you thinking the latter, but in reality – it’s probably the first!


Impostor Syndrome, a term coined in the 1980’s, is a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”

People experiencing Impostor Syndrome attribute their success to external factors, such as luck or chance, rather than internal factors, such as hard work and talent. They fear being exposed as a fraud with someone noticing that they don’t belong where they are, and they’ve just been fooling everyone around them.

If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone.

Even incredible leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, experience Impostor Syndrome:

“Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again.”

Everyone experiences self-doubt at some point in their lives, but some are more at risk of being affected by Impostor Syndrome including high achieving women.


First, you need to recognise when you’re feeling like an impostor: awareness is the first step to overcoming this mindset.

Next, you should identify why you are feeling like an imposter: what is shaking your confidence? Have you recently been promoted to a new job? Is there a big presentation looming? Finding out what is causing you to question yourself is an important step to addressing and overcoming your self-doubt.

Tell someone! It’s great to talk through issues with someone you trust and hearing their viewpoint can help you identify that your concerns aren’t your reality.

You should also remember that those who have lifted you up and provided you with the opportunities to succeed have done so based on your experience, achievements, and potential. You deserve to be where you are – no one has made a mistake.

Remember the phrase: comparison is the thief of joy. Stop comparing yourself to other people – what they have to offer doesn’t mean that you don’t have things to offer too.

Finally, you should take some comfort knowing that Impostor Syndrome is a symptom of success: successful people are more likely to suffer from Impostor Syndrome.

So, whenever you’re full of self-doubt, you should remember you’re in the company of incredible people including: Maya Angelou, prize-winning author, Kirsten Gillibrand, US Senator, Michelle Obama, lawyer and former-First Lady, and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in the US.

We are proud to support young women as they start their successful careers, and work with them to empower them further with our The Future is Female campaign.