Uncovering The Harsh Truth About “Imposter Syndrome”

“Imposter Syndrome” Factoids

  • First, what is an imposter? An imposter is defined by Merriam-Webster as “one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception.” If someone isn’t setting out to deceive OR has not been put in a situation through the process of deceit, the person is NOT an imposter. The term doesn’t even apply.
  • Pauline Rose Clance and Suzane Ament Imes were not regarded or respected by their male peers in the the world of psychiatry, resulting in their beginning to doubt and question their own abilities and status. This led to the conceptualization of imposter syndrome by Clance and Imes in 1978.
  • According to Nicola Andrews, “Imposter syndrome,” also called imposter phenomenon, imposter experience, fraud syndrome, and imposterism, is when a person doubts the validity of their accomplishments, attributes them to external forces, and has an irrational fear that they will be revealed as a mistake.”
  • According to Psychology Today, “People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held.”
  • Psychology Today also states “Personality traits largely drive imposter syndrome: Those who experience it struggle with self-efficacy, perfectionism, and neuroticism. Competitive environments can also lay the groundwork…. Around 25 to 30 percent of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome.
  • According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), everybody suffers from imposter syndrome. More on this later, but HBR says, “One of the greatest barriers to moving outside your comfort zone is the fear that you’re a poser, that you’re not worthy, that you couldn’t possibly be qualified to do whatever you’re aiming to do. It’s a fear that strikes many of us: impostor syndrome.”
  • In order to “qualify” for imposter syndrome, one must FIRST be fully and truly qualified. Neophytes are not “eligible.”
  • Discover Magazine echoes the sentiment of HBR stating “A body of research has shown that perfectionism often goes hand in hand with impostor syndrome — doubting your accomplishments and fearing you will be sniffed out as a fraud.”
  • Early studies about imposter syndrome were focused on women, but have since expanded to be applicable to men as well.
  • According to the American Society for Microbiology, “Recent data reveals that imposter syndrome affects men as well as women, and disproportionately affects certain racial minorities.”

The Claims

The Crutch

Trends & Traits

  • High level of achievement
  • Tendency to deny ability and attribute success to luck, mistake, overwork, or a result of a relationship
  • Discounting of praise, feeling fear and guilt about success
  • Fear of failure and being discovered as a fraud
  • Not feeling intelligent
  • Perfectionism
  • Overestimating others, while underestimating oneself
  • Not experiencing an internal feeling of success
  • Overworking or self-sabotage to cover the feelings of inadequacy

The Solution

  • Always strive to be qualified.
  • Know who you are.
  • Never allow someone to convince you that you’re something other than what you truly are (i.e., don’t let folks gaslight you).
  • If you’re not qualified, get qualified.
  • If and when you ever fail, just get back up and learn from what you did wrong.
  • Repeat!!!


About Darren



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UX Uncensored

UX Uncensored


Darren Hood: UX pro (27+ yrs), adjunct professor, TEDx and conference speaker, author (97 Things UX book), host of The World of UX podcast, & “pure UX” advocate