Getting beyond impostor feelings

Many talented and creative people experience impostor feelings and beliefs about themselves, despite their accomplishments.

Getting beyond impostor feelings

Valerie Young, Ed.D. is an expert on impostor syndrome and commented in an Entrepreneur magazine article:

“Millions of people, from entrepreneurs to celebrities, have a hard time internalizing their accomplishments.”

The article author notes “the impostor syndrome is especially common among people who become successful quickly or early, and among outsiders, such as women in male-dominated industries.”

Dr. Young adds, “They explain away their success as luck or timing. They feel this sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

From Fake It Until You Make It: How to Believe in Yourself When You Don’t Feel Worthy by Nadia Goodman.

Emma WatsonOne example is actor Emma Watson, who commented about its impact for her:

“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.

“I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are.”

She added, “After Harry Potter I didn’t feel very confident in myself as an actor. It’s lucky that I’ve improved that now, but back then I needed someone to believe in me, and Stephen really did.”

[Referring to 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' director Stephen Chbosky.]

[Quotes from DailyMail 29 May 2013]

Kate Winslet“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me — all these things. I’m fat; I’m ugly…”

Kate Winslet – even after her Academy Award nominations for Titanic (1997) and Sense and Sensibility (1995).

> Read more in article The impostor phenomenon – Feeling like a fraud.

Jonathan Safran Foer commented about his novel Everything Is Illuminated, which made The New York Times best-seller list:

“I can be very hard on myself. I convince myself that I’m fooling people. Or, I convince myself that people like the book for the wrong reasons.”

He also said, “The writing itself is no big deal. The editing, and even more than that, the self-doubt, is excruciatingly impossible. Profound, bottomless self-doubt: it has no value, what’s the point? In a way, that takes up as much time as anything else.”

Do you relate to those ideas and feelings? Or these:

* Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?

* Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?

* Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?

* Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”

These questions are from the longer Impostor Syndrome Quiz on the site for the Overcome the Impostor Syndrome program by Dr. Young.


One of the quotes on the site:

“Women have always had a more layered definition of success, which means it’s just as likely that your anxiety could be signaling a mismatch between the social definition of success and what matters most to you.”

[Photo from post: Creating money: The inner and outer work of financial goals By Molly Gordon.]

Valerie Young is also author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.”

Dr. Young notes on her site that this is not an issue for only one gender.

“Men are attending my seminars in increasing numbers, and among graduate students the male-female ratio is roughly fifty-fifty.

“I’ve heard from or worked with countless men who suffer terribly from their fraud fears, including a member of the Canadian mounted police, an attorney who’d argued before the Supreme Court, a corporate CEO, and an entire team of aerospace engineers, one of whom spoke of the ‘sheer terror’ he feels when handed a major assignment.”

Referring to her book, she says “Despite the title you will find male voices reflected in the book. Once you read the book it will be clear why, in the end, there were more reasons than not to focus more so on women.”

[Quotes from post: Talented and insecure.]


Colin Firth and Meryl StreepMeryl Streep has said, “I have varying degrees of confidence and self-loathing….

“You can have a perfectly horrible day where you doubt your talent… Or that you’re boring and they’re going to find out that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

This is not an isolated feeling or an issue for only a few talented people.

Over the many years of researching creative people and reading many interviews with high ability people, I have seen quotes like Streep’s showing up often.

Read more in my High Ability site post ‘I’m a Fraud’: Gifted and talented with insecurity.

[Photo: Colin Firth and Meryl Streep - from post: We Need Healthy Self Respect to Be More Creative.]

Also see related quotes by Taylor Swift, Will Smith, John Lennon and others in article: Talented and Insecure.


The Psychology Today article, Field Guide to The Self-Doubter: Extra Credit, by Susan Pinker, excerpted below, brings insight into the thoughts and feelings many people have about being frauds, incompetent or impostors:

Not giving herself credit

Rosalyn LangRosalyn Lang has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, has just completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University, and recently launched her own consulting firm.

“In other words, she’s a walking advertisement for what it takes to be successful in science: smarts, opportunity, and perseverance.

“Yet when she looks back, she takes little credit for her successes.”

“I felt inadequate the entire time I was in graduate school. If I got a nice compliment, I just felt, ‘What? They’re trying to pull my leg! I can get kicked out at any minute.”

“Lang now realizes she wasn’t really an impostor. She just felt like one. Like many highly accomplished women, Lang suffered from ‘impostor syndrome.’ On the outside, she was a star and a role model. Secretly, though, she chalked up her successes to powers beyond her control, and meanwhile felt personally responsible for any failures—a feeling shared by 93 percent of African-American female college students, according to one study.”

External success. Internal agony

“According to recent studies of medical, dental, and nursing students with impostor feelings, the phenomenon is linked to perfectionism, burnout, and depression. This was true for Rosalyn Lang, whose impostor feelings drove her to work harder.”

“The work ethic was great. That’s the kind of focus you need to get everything done in graduate school,” she said.

“But ‘internal agony’ was how she described her psychological state.”

~ ~ ~

“At any time I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me.” Mike Myers

From book: The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, by Dr. Valerie Young.

Overcome the Impostor Syndrome

Six steps for matching perceptions to reality.

  • Separate your self-assessments from objective evaluations of your skills. Group-based evaluations, promotions, and letters of reference are less biased than the world seen through “impostor”-colored glasses.
  • Give yourself opportunities to compete. Don’t let your self-judgment prevent you demonstrating what you know.
  • Reduce your isolation. Talk about your feelings with trusted friends and colleagues. Seek out a mentor or advocate in your organization who believes in you.
  • Enjoy your successes and acknowledge praise when it comes your way.
  • Resist the impulse to deny and deflect compliments.
  • Remember that those who project an air of confidence may not know more than you do. Research shows that most people overestimate their abilities.

See Overcome the Impostor Syndrome for more.

More resources for overcoming impostor feelings and limiting beliefs

See my Impostor syndrome page for more quotes, articles, books etc.


The Impostor Syndrome – Finding a Name for the Feelings, by Dr. Valerie Young.

Building self-confidence: changing limiting beliefs and helping others

How to build confidence by Morty Lefkoe

To experience his program for overcoming self-limiting beliefs The Lefkoe Method, go to ReCreate Your Life where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

Also see his Natural Confidence Program :  “Morty’s got a technique that works like magic.” Jack Canfield, New York Times Best-Selling author.


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Originally posted 2013-06-02 17:39:56.

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Comments (20)

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  1. […] > From article: Getting beyond impostor feelings. […]

  2. […] Photo also used in post: Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings. […]

  3. […] – See more in article: Getting beyond impostor feelings. […]

  4. [...] Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings [...]

  5. [...] Also see post: Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings. [...]

  6. Hi Cat!
    Love your article.
    I believe that people are much more afraid of success than they are of failure and unsciously make it difficult for themselves to embrace their “greatness”. Failure is so much more familiar to us as we have spent years building internal resources for dealing with and recovering from our failures. Yet success is all about the “unknown”.
    Building success is often like trying to bust through our own self-made cocoon – it is a challenging struggle and takes a great deal of persistence and personal fortitude. One of the most successful techniques I use with my coaching clients is to help them to develop new, more effective decision-making criteria and strategies for proactively dealing with the challenges and problems that their success will potentially create for them… challenges such as dealing with the added responsiblities that success brings and responding to friends, family and/or loved ones who may not appreciate their success. Being prepared for the challenges of success increases our comfort and knowledge that it is safe to move forward into manifesting our dreams and goals.
    Thanks again for your insightful post.

  7. [...] is why Rosalyn’s comments about the imposter syndrome made me realise I’m not alone in this feeling.  She lists 6 steps for matching perceptions [...]

  8. As a therapist, I have talked to many beginning therapists entering the field, often highly qualified and accomplished. They often have guilt and insecurity, and I have literally heard them use the words, “I feel like an impostor!” Thanks for sharing.

  9. Douglas Eby says:

    Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings #perfectionism #selfesteem #achievement

  10. Laura Warnke says:

    RT @GramLear: Psych: Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings

  11. The Mind says:

    Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings

  12. carlees says:

    Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings: The Psychology Today article, Field Guide to The Sel…

  13. Gary Young says:

    Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings

  14. Gram Lear says:

    Psych: Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings

  15. Darrell Davis says:

    If that is what black women feel, you can’t imagine what black men feel. We, as black men, have to be ‘hard’ and a M-A-N! So many black women want the ‘thug’. Quite a few black women thought I was gay because I read books and like to write stories and poetry. That’s how lost my black people are.

  16. Helen Akers says:

    RT @talentdevelop Dealing With Self Sabotage: Getting Beyond Imposter Feelings

  17. christy l says:

    Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings: Enhancing creative expression and advanced developme…

  18. Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings:

  19. Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings: According to recent studies of medical, dental, and …

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