Is Imposter’s Syndrome a Real Thing?
Imposter Syndrome is a topic that has been trending. However, it is not a new concept. The
term was coined in the 1970’s by Clance and Imes as Imposter Phenomenon. Dr. Pauline Rose
Clancy developed the Imposter Phenomenon Scale to determine whether you possess any
Imposter Syndrome characteristics. The initial study was focused on women, but in my
experience, I have found that it impacts all genders. The idea of Imposter Syndrome is where an
individual doubts their abilities, skills or accomplishments. This often manifests into Depression
or Anxiety, but can also trigger past traumas. Sometimes, environments can perpetuate an
Imposter’s Syndrome Mindset. For example, if you experienced lots of pressure from your
parents to achieve highly in academics, sports or other activities, you may develop feelings of
How does Imposter Syndrome Look?
There is not one definitive answer to this question because Imposter’s Syndrome can look
different in different people. Some common characteristics of Imposter’s Syndrome can be
low/poor self esteem, self-sabotaging, constant need to be the best, second guessing decisions
and having a hard time accepting constructive criticism(views this as negative), constantly
overachieving and setting unrealistic goals. Here are descriptions of the different types of
1. The Expert- feels like they are an Imposter because they do not know everything about a
topic. They spend lots of time researching more information on topics which stops them
from completing tasks.
2. The Perfectionist-feels like they are an Imposter because they are always searching for
“perfection” or that they could have done something better instead of celebrating their
3. The Natural Genius-feels like they are an Imposter because it may take them longer to
master a skill or if something is not done right the first time especially things usually
come naturally to them.
4. The Soloist-feels like they are an Imposter because they may have had to ask for help.
They believe that you must get to a certain level by yourself to be recognized for
5. The Superhero-feels like they are an Imposter because they may not have reached the
highest level of achievement possible. They often overload themselves with work and
experience high levels of burnout.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
1. Do you worry that people will find out that you are a “fraud” because you do not know
2. Do you minimize your skills or talents and attribute your success to luck?
3. Do you have a hard time accessing your competence or skills?
4. Do you struggle with making mistakes or not being perfect?
If so, you may have some characteristics of Imposter’s Syndrome.
Can Imposter Syndrome be treated?
While there is no actual diagnosis for Imposter Syndrome, its symptoms can be treated. In my
practice, some things that I help my clients to focus on are: normalizing the feelings of doubt as
they are a common feeling, to focus on the things that they have accomplished, perfection is an
idea, so it is ok no to know what you’re doing and that failing is normal, but it does not make
you a failure. Working with a Mental Health Professional or Coach can help you work through
these feelings and help to change the Imposter’s Syndrome Mindset. Having a mentor or circle
of friends who have experienced this can be helpful as well. Some activities that are helpful
tools that my clients enjoy are journaling and doing positive affirmations.
It is important to remember that feelings of self-doubt are normal. If you are experiencing this
consistently, talking to a Mental Health Professional can help you learn coping skills to help with questioning, negative thoughts and comparing yourself
By: Katrina R. Bell, LPC LPCS