The Truth About Imposter Syndrome


Let’s debunk the universally experienced phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome: 

In the realm of personal and professional development, imposter syndrome has emerged as a prevalent concern affecting individuals from all walks of life. From students to seasoned leaders, this psychological phenomenon pervades our society, often hampering growth and success.

Imposter Syndrome is Universal

First, it’s crucial to understand that imposter syndrome is something everyone experiences at some point. According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, an estimated 70% of people experience imposter feelings at some time in their lives (Gravois, John. “You’re Not Fooling Anyone.” Chronicle of Higher Education, 2007).

It doesn’t discriminate by profession, age, or level of success. Even highly successful individuals often grapple with feelings of inadequacy, doubting their accomplishments and fearing exposure as a “fraud.”

Imposter Syndrome as a Societal COnstruct

Imposter syndrome isn’t just an individual psychological issue; it is also a construct that can hold entire populations back. It has been noted that certain societal structures and prejudices can exacerbate feelings of impostorism, especially in underrepresented or marginalized groups. Minority populations and women, for instance, often disproportionately experience imposter syndrome, which can be traced back to systemic issues of bias and representation (Cokley, Kevin, et al. “Impostor feelings as a moderator and mediator of the relationship between perceived discrimination and mental health among racial/ethnic minority college students.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, 2017).

Fear in Leadership: A NECESSARY Companion

Lastly, while it might seem counterintuitive, a little bit of fear is not only normal but also necessary for effective leadership. Fear keeps leaders vigilant, humble, and open to learning. They can channel it into staying motivated, pushing their limits, and continuously improving, as highlighted in the work of researcher Amy Edmondson (Edmondson, Amy C. “Managing the risk of learning: Psychological safety in work teams.” International handbook of organizational teamwork and cooperative working, 2003).

It’s crucial to acknowledge that imposter syndrome is a pervasive phenomenon experienced by many.


However, instead of allowing it to hinder our progress, we should use it as a tool for continual self-improvement and as a catalyst for societal change. Finally, leaders should embrace fear and use it as fuel to remain humble, open, and motivated. Thus, when it comes to the truth about imposter syndrome, perhaps the most important revelation is this: it does not define our worth or capabilities.

Check out my Youtube video on this topic:

Share via
Copy link