Millions of people worldwide—executives and early career professionals, first-year college students and PhDs, entrepreneurs, and engineers—secretly worry they’re not as bright or capable as everyone thinks they are. These impostor-related feelings lead to unproductive behaviors like holding back, chronic procrastination, self-sabotage, and burnout. Left unchecked, impostor syndrome can lead to costly consequences not only for individuals but for organizations as well.
Impostor Syndrome Institute offers practical, immediately usable solutions that have been delivered to over 500,000 people around the world since 1983.
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
The term impostor phenomenon was first coined in 1978 by Georgia State University psychology professor Pauline Clance and clinical psychologist Suzanne Imes. More commonly referred to as impostor syndrome, it describes the false belief that we are not in fact as intelligent or capable or talented, or qualified as others “think” we are. Rather than see accomplishments in terms of our abilities or efforts, we chalk them up to luck, timing, personality, connections, and other external factors. Naturally, the biggest fear for people with impostor syndrome is being found out.
Rethinking Impostor Syndrome™
Impostor syndrome isn’t just an “interesting self-help topic.” It’s a bottom-line issue. Impostor-related thoughts and feelings lead to unproductive behaviors which are costly to individuals and their organizations. That’s why if you lead, manage, mentor, consult with, or train others, you need to understand impostor syndrome.
Join the Club
A 2017 study of UK executives found 80 percent of CEOs and 81 percent of managing directors sometimes feel “out of their depth” and that they’re struggling with their role. They’re not alone. An estimated 70 percent of achievers —men and women — have experienced impostor syndrome. Discovering a name for these all-too-common feelings is the first step.
Consider the Source
Rethinking impostor syndrome requires less psychologizing and more contextualizing. When we focus solely on the role family messages and expectations play in fostering impostor syndrome, we miss the ways in which situational, career, and organizational factors can also fuel self-doubt. Seeing our individual experiences in a broader context helps normalize and mitigate them.
Diversity & Inclusion
A sense of belonging fosters confidence. Conversely, the fewer people who look (or perhaps sound) like us—the less confident we may feel. People who also belong to a group for whom there are stereotypes about competence are especially susceptible to impostor syndrome.
Stereotypes matter because the fear of confirming a negative stereotype—whether related to gender, race, class background, age, language, or disability—has been found to cause stress which in turn negatively impacts performance. Notably, the more accomplished you are, the more this effect shows up.
The goal is not necessarily to cure impostor syndrome. Rather it’s to provide people with the information, insight, and tools they need to talk themselves down faster. It’s about understanding that people who are genuinely humble, yet don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent, capable, or talented than the rest of us; they just think different thoughts.
More specifically, these “humble realists” think differently about three things: Competence, failure/mistakes/criticism, and fear itself. Naturally what people want is to stop feeling like an impostor. But that’s not how it works. Feelings are the last to change. The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor. Fortunately humble realist thinking can not only be learned, but it can be supported in the organization.
Rethinking Impostor Syndrome™ Course Abstract
Understanding and Addressing Impostor Syndrome in the Workplace
Millions of people — CEOs and entry-level professionals, first-year college students and PhDs, artists and programmers — secretly worry they’re not as smart or talented as other people “think” they are. It's called impostor syndrome and it impacts both individuals and their organization.
In this interactive session, you will:
Understand what impostor syndrome is – and what it is not
Discover the sources of impostor feelings
Understand how impostor syndrome intersects with diversity and inclusion – and why it matters
Identify your personal “Competence Type”
Understand the individual and organizational costs of impostor syndrome
Leave with practical, immediately usable tools to help yourself and/or those you manage, mentor, or parent to address impostor syndrome