What is imposter syndrome?

What is imposter syndrome?

Do you ever find yourself succeeding while privately dreading that you're on the verge of being revealed as a fraud? You're not alone. Big names like Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, and even Michelle Obama have had their moments of imposter syndrome-induced self-doubt.

Imposter syndrome is a subtle confidence killer that hunts down top achievers, casting shadows of self-doubt over their achievements. This gremlin also goes by the term, perceived fraudulence. Imposter Syndrome is also explained as a conflict between the perception you think people have about you versus the perception or the way you look at yourself.

In this blog, we'll look into the mind of the impostor, investigate its causes, and show effective techniques for defeating this difficult opponent. It's time to reclaim your self-worth and finally quiet your inner critic. It’s time you discovered that, all this while it was you and that you did have the potential and it was all you!

Without further ado, let's dive into the heart of self-discovery with a splash of quirk, courage, and wisdom!

Decoding imposter syndrome

According to the Oxford Dictionary, imposter syndrome is the feeling that your achievements are not real or that you do not deserve praise or success, and it is a state of constant anxiety and not allowing oneself to feel the joy of being successful.

If you experience imposter syndrome, you often feel as if you are a fraud, doubting your abilities, while in reality you were equipped to achieve a particular task. You often lack confidence and feel incompetent, irrespective of your achievements. It gets worse…

These feelings can also make one feel like you are living in a bubble and soon your lies will be exposed. As you rightly read, they are all just feelings and that’s all they are. Yes, being humble is nice, but not to the point where a healthy dose of humility slowly rots into something self-deprecating like imposter syndrome.

Characteristics of imposter syndrome and how you can tackle it

In the late 70s, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first coined the term in a research paper and identified the three most critical characteristics of the phenomenon or the syndrome. They were:

  • An exaggerated view of their abilities
  • The fear of being exposed as a fraud is constantly looming over them
  • The constant and unnecessary effort to downplay their achievements.

Remember, it is not an illness, but an internal psychological sensation that leaves you feeling like a fraud in some aspect of your life, regardless of your success in that area. Imposter syndrome can leave you feeling restless, anxious, stressed, and nervous and can also manifest itself as negative self-talk.

Here we put together 5 of the most striking characteristics of Imposter Syndrome:


This is the first and loudest sign you would feel if you experience imposter syndrome. You often doubt your abilities and credit your successes to luck, timing, or others instead of acknowledging your accomplishments.

Difficulty accepting praise

You tend to downplay your successes, attributing them to external factors, and may feel uncomfortable with positive attention and accept little praise or appreciation.

Chronic self-criticism

If you experience imposter syndrome, you have a loud and persistent inner critic. You engage in negative self-talk, exaggerate your shortcomings, and sometimes even mock yourself.


From setting overly high expectations for yourself to striving for excellence in your job and turning into the harshest critic for yourself; you are always up and about trying to deliver your best by pushing your limits.

Comparison and competition

You tend to constantly compare yourself to others. You frequently feel inferior when measuring your accomplishments against the achievements of colleagues or peers, even when there's no objective basis for this comparison.

Here’s something for you to think about…

Nearly one-third of young people in the world suffer from imposter syndrome and almost 75% of them are most likely to experience it at some point later in their lives.

When it comes to work, nearly 65% of working professionals are unfamiliar with the term but their symptoms scream imposter syndrome.

When we talk about gender, especially women in focus; some women in a few studies have cited that gender roles, societal cliches, cultural differences, etc, have all contributed to self-doubt, which also ultimately leads to 75% of women feeling like they are an ‘imposter’ for achieving their goals, 53% of women professionals between the ages 25-34 currently experience or go through the syndrome and with only 5% addressing it and speaking about the problem with their staff.

So what’s it going to be?

You might think that the office is no place for you to discuss what going on in your mind and why are you burning out.

This is where Manah Wellness comes in and serves as a bridge between improving your overall emotional health, silencing the inner critic, boosting your self-esteem, and increasing productivity at the workplace.

ACTS by Manah Wellness is a complete emotional wellness blueprint for the modern workplace. Packed with assessments, content, tools, and skills, you have four of the best pillars for assessing, accessing, empowering, and evolving as a person and as a professional.

Get in touch with us today to access deep-impact counseling sessions, wellbeing tools, a helpline, and a whole world of resources curated by seasoned, industry-leading psychologists.