At its core, imposter syndrome involves a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud or an impostor, even in areas where one has achieved significant success. Those experiencing it may attribute their achievements to luck or external factors rather than their own abilities, constantly questioning their worthiness and feeling like they have deceived others about their level of intelligence or expertise.

The imposter cycle is a common pattern observed in those with this syndrome. When faced with a new task or challenge, they may experience intense anxiety and self-doubt, leading them to either procrastinate until the last minute or overwork excessively. Even after successfully completing the task, they are unable to internalise their success, dismissing it as mere luck or chance. This perpetuates the cycle of self-doubt and imposter feelings for the next challenge.

While initially thought to primarily affect high-achieving women, research has shown that imposter syndrome can impact anyone, regardless of gender, social status, or level of expertise. However, certain groups may be more susceptible, such as individuals from underrepresented or marginalised backgrounds, those in male-dominated fields, or those transitioning to new roles or environments.

Several factors have been linked to a higher risk of experiencing imposter syndrome, including low self-efficacy, perfectionism, neuroticism, and a tendency towards negative self-talk. Additionally, experiences of discrimination, bias, or lack of belonging can reinforce feelings of being an impostor, particularly for individuals from diverse backgrounds.

While not a diagnosable mental health disorder, imposter syndrome can have significant negative impacts, including increased stress, anxiety, and even depression. It can hinder personal and professional growth, as individuals may avoid opportunities or challenges due to fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Overcoming imposter syndrome often involves challenging negative thought patterns, practising self-compassion, and seeking support from mentors or peers who can provide perspective and validation. Additionally, creating inclusive and supportive environments that celebrate diverse leadership styles and foster a sense of belonging can help mitigate the impact of imposter feelings.

It’s important to recognize that imposter syndrome is a common experience and not a personal flaw or weakness. By understanding its roots and implementing strategies to address it, individuals can learn to embrace their accomplishments and reach their full potential.

Contact us to find out more or request a one pager on Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome it.