Updated: Jul 11, 2020
"They do not take on specific opportunities out of the fear that they may not perform adequately, leading to lost opportunities that they may have been more than qualified for."
According to clinical observations during therapeutic sessions with high achieving
women conducted by Dr. Pauline Clance, "Approximately 70% of
people will experience imposter syndrome, 20% of whom will first experience this in
their college career." However, imposter syndrome can manifest at any age.
Imposter syndrome is especially prevalent among women in STEM fields because
they may often be one, or among the very few females in their classes or
workplace, and are consequently constantly being doubted and tested on their
What is imposter syndrome exactly? Imposter syndrome is, "A psychological pattern in
which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of
being exposed as a 'fraud.'" The term imposter syndrome was created back in 1978 at Georgia State University by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. Although this
phenomenon is not gender nor sex-specific, many individuals who experience imposter
syndrome are women. Imposter syndrome is a dangerous thing to deal with because it
creates negative thoughts and harms the individual's self-esteem and self-perception,
which could be harmful to their careers and personal lives. The following thoughts
could present themselves.
You don't know
They'll find out I don't know
I am a failure
These thoughts may lead women to commit self-sabotage. They do
not take on specific opportunities out of the fear that they may not perform
adequately, leading to lost opportunities that they may have been more than qualified
Now, how do we combat imposter syndrome? It's not a simple, one-and-done fix,
but a journey.
1. Start a conversation.
This could be with trusted friends, a mentor, professors,
therapist, or parents. You may be surprised that they, too, could have once gone
through the same thing themselves.
2. Record and celebrate every accomplishment that you achieve.
No matter the size, a feat is still an achievement, and you have every right to be proud of it.
Be aware of these thoughts when they start popping up. It helps to take a few breaths
and look at the bigger picture. Are these thoughts true? Or are they thoughts that are
being generated by a fear of failure? For example, "I can't do this" could be replaced
with "Okay, it is taking me a little bit longer than expected, but I know that I can do it!" It
is totally okay if it is difficult at first. Take your time and practice. I still struggle with this
3. Focus on your strengths, your contributions, and your achievements in both your career and personal life.
Write them down and save them as a reminder that
you have a lot of skills and ideas to offer.
People suffering from imposter syndrome tend to strive for perfection. Remember that
perfection is not attainable. Mistakes will be made, and that is perfectly okay. What
matters is progress, not perfection.
Have faith in
Be proud of everything you have
accomplished so far.
You are going to accomplish so