What is the Imposter Syndrome?


The Imposter Syndrome has been around as a recognised syndrome since the late 1970’s. It was identified by two psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. they were working with high level female academics nearing the end of their studies. Clance and Imes were puzzled by the fear these women expressed about not making it through the finals. It made no sense. They hadn’t failed before. So, they investigated and found that 70% of people they talked with had experienced this feeling not good enough and 33% of them experienced it at a chronic level. The symptoms that were common amongst the people they talked with were:

  • feeling like a fake or fraud
  • denying their success or attributing it to good luck or someone else’s mistakenly positive view of them
  • denying their talents an focussing instead on their weaknesses and failures
  • if they can’t deny their success, their fear lies in their ability to repeat their success

This syndrome has been investigated extensively since then.

  • it applies equally to men and women although it manifests quite differently
  • it only applies to successful people – those who have been pushed or pulled outside their comfort zone
  • the tendency to experience the syndrome is associated with certain personality factors – a lower level of conscientiousness (discipline and order) and a higher level of neuroticism (emotional reactivity)
  • it is also linked with a less effective means of goal setting – one that sets up failure rather than success.

The thing about the imposter syndrome is that it is latent until triggered and that under its influence, we step into small behaviours.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that at times, you go into defensive or risky behaviours that you question later with the benefit of a cool head. If that’s the case, why not investigate further and see if this is something that ma be standing in the way of your success, however you define it.

Firstly, though, let’s find out if you experience the imposter Syndrome.

Find out if you experience the imposter syndrome

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