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impostor syndrome

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Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like your friends or colleagues are going to discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?

If so, you’re in good company. These feelings are known as impostor syndrome, or what psychologists often call impostor phenomenon. An estimated 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives, according to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.

One of the key limiting beliefs that humans often face, impostor syndrome or "Not Good Enough" syndrome has a number of root causes.

aka "Not Good Enough" Syndrome, or Impostor Phenomenon.

Impostor Syndrome (IS) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.

Impostor Syndrome affects about 70% of people, regardless of their objective level of success in life. Those who experience it suffer from anxiety, fear of failure and dissatisfaction with life.  

"Competence Types"

Competence types are internal rules that people who struggle with confidence generally follow. This categorizations can be helpful in identifying bad habits or patterns that may be holding you back from your full potential.

Common competence types include;

  1. The Perfectionist. Perfectionism and impostor syndrome often go hand-in-hand.
  2. The Superhero. Since people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they’re phonies amongst real-deal colleagues, they often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up. But this is just a false cover-up for their insecurities, and the work overload may harm not only their own mental health, but also their relationships with others.
  3. The Natural Genius. People who struggle with this, who are also natural “geniuses,” judge success based on their abilities as opposed to their efforts. In other words, if they have to work hard at something, they assume they must be bad at it. These types of impostors set their internal bar impossibly high, and further judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try. When they’re not able to do something quickly or fluently, their alarm sounds.
  4. The Rugged Individualist. Sufferers who feel as though asking for help reveals their phoniness are what Young calls rugged individualists. It’s OK to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance so that you can prove your worth.
  5. The Expert. People who fall into this competence type may feel like they somehow tricked their employer into hiring them. They deeply fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.


Although causes are not well studied, there are several factors thought to contribute to Impostor Syndrome. For example, you might have come from a family that highly valued achievement or had parents who flipped back and forth between offering praise and being critical.

A new challenge, such as entering a new role can trigger impostor syndrome. For example, starting college or university might leave you feeling as though you don't belong and are not capable.


  • People who experience Impostor Syndrome often have a heightened expectation of failure, and see the correct action as "do nothing." This is often a contributing factor to preventable deaths that occur before a medic arrives - because no one was confident enough to attempt even basic first-aid, thinking "I'm not trained.."
  • Stage fright is often related.
  • Perfectionism strongly contributes to Impostor Syndrome.

Further Reading

5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One)

The Impostor Phenomenon ( Journal of Behavioral Science )

Yes, Impostor Syndrome Is Real. Here's How to Deal With It ( Time )

Imposter Syndrome and Social Anxiety Disorder ( VeryWell Mind )

Impostor syndrome ( Wikipedia )

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