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Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome and how to deal with it

If you have ever been terrified that everyone is about to figure out you are not as smart as they thought, in spite of great success, you likely have impostor syndrome. Have you read the poem: Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson? I included it here, as it is so powerful. Read it, even read it aloud to yourself, and let it sink in.


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. 

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. 

Your playing small does not serve the world. 

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 

We are all meant to shine, as children do. 

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. 

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. 

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Have you heard of Impostor Syndrome? Impostor syndrome is the feeling, that fear, that someone is going to figure it out.  That they’ll find out that you are not as smart or as capable as they first thought, even though you have proven to be very successful and capable to this point. You may even have the grades, the awards, the salary, and a long list of accomplishments to back yourself up, but still – that nagging belief that you shouldn’t be where you are, continues to haunt you. In fact, Impostor syndrome really only occurs in High Achievers. It is not a problem for under-achievers. So, if you have been feeling like a fraud, it probably only means you have high standards for yourself. As Marianne Williamson’s poem inferred, you SHOULD have high standards for yourself, for you were created to let your own brilliance shine. 

One of the earliest references to this phenomenon was in 1978, in a Georgia State University research paper titled, The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, written by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. They studied 172 different women who have earned PhDs in various specialties, who are respected professionals in their fields, or who are students recognized for their academic excellence. 



There are two types of women who suffer from Impostor Syndrome the most 

1.  Girls with siblings that were called the “smart one,” and yet found the determination to also succeed academically.  

2.  Girls whose parents told them they can achieve absolutely anything with ease, but (of course) later found that sometimes things were hard and they did have to work, and they then did not want to disappoint their parents, so their parents wouldn’t know they were actually not as gifted as they had been saying all these years.

Four Ways You Might Demonstrate it

  1. If you have fear of being discovered as an intellectual fraud, and as a result, you work they worked very very hard to overcome this. Your true result might be that you are actually the most knowledgeable person on a topic, yet due to your fear, you can never stop learning.
  2. Even though you are highly intelligent, do you hide your intelligence? For example, do you try to make a Professor or your Boss happy with a response you thought they wanted to hear, rather than saying what you were really thinking? This could be one example.
  3. Do you use charm and perceptiveness to win the approval of superiors? For a woman who uses charm in this way, the aim is to be liked as well as to be recognized as intellectually special. Typically, she believes, “I am stupid,” but at another level, she believes she is brilliant, creative, and special if only the right person would discover her genius which would help her believe that she is actually smart. 
  4. Do you believe that negative consequences come to a woman who displays confidence in her ability, and therefore believe that you should not show confidence or intelligence?

How do You Overcome Impostor Syndrome?

Are you worried that you have climed too high and that you are precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff, ready to come crashing down at any moment? The odds are high that you are right where you are meant to be. So, what can you do to relax a little and embrace the challenge in which you find yourself?

1.  Remember that NO ONE is perfect, and up to 70% of people in multiple studies, men and women, have struggled with Impostor Syndrome from time to time. You are not alone.

2.  If you are in a new position or starting a new field of study that you know little about, you will be one of the people who is not constrained by “The way it has always been.”  You will see things from a different perspective, you will notice things others take for granted, you will ask, “Why” about things that haven’t been questioned in too long, and your fresh take on the scene will likely lead to improvements no one even considered.  Embrace this time, it is golden.

3.   The good news is, you must be out of your comfort zone, and that is a GREAT thing!  These are the times when you learn SO MUCH. Your brain might hurt at the end of the day, and your thoughts might be racing, but instead of thinking about what you don’t know, focus on the learning and growth you are experiencing. Your future self will thank you for working through these times.

4.  We have talked about bullet journals before, and I think you should create a page in your journal with a list of all the talents and skills you know you are very good at. Refer to it from time to time to remind yourself how multidimensional and capable you truly are.  

5.  Don’t compare yourself to others, we are all unique and have different gifts. People can succeed in so many different ways. Be authentic, embrace your gifts, and even learn to embrace the things you see as different, and remember that others see those unique qualities as what makes you special.  

6.  You DO have something special, we know it, and if you decide to hide it rather than shine, the whole world may be missing out on whatever positive change you are here to impart.  

7.  Listen to one of my favorite songs, “It ain’t yours to throw away,” it is a duet by Sam Palladio & Clare Bowen

Here are a few of the lyrics:

What if you’re just a vessel
And God gave you something special

It ain’t yours to throw away

Every time you open up your mouth
Diamonds come rolling out
It ain’t yours to throw away.

In the book, The Confidence Code, written by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman (TV News journalists), They said, “We should star in our own production. Often, women just seem to have the spotlight thing backward. We want to shine a bright light on our faults, insecurities, and the outlandish reasons we will surely fail, but when it comes to taking credit or enjoying our triumphs, we step into the shadows, looking at our accomplishments as though we’ve never seen them before.”

SO, who are YOU to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous

Actually, it’s who are you NOT to be all of these wonderful things – and more.