The Effects of Imposter Syndrome

Ever feel like you’re a fraud? Like you don’t deserve your accomplishments? Like you just got lucky, or maybe fooled people into thinking you’re better than you really are? Like you could be discovered at any minute, because people could catch on to you, and then the game will really be up?

If so, you’re suffering from a common state of mind called imposter syndrome. People with imposter syndrome think that their achievements have come about through some sort of accident or even deception and that other people might be about to wise up to what’s really going on.

Imposter syndrome is especially common among high-achieving people. Recently, a group of German research surveyed 242 people in leadership positions across a variety of industries to learn more about the effects of imposter syndrome.

The study found that imposter syndrome tends to be associated with all of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Dysphoric moods
  • Emotional instability
  • Negative self-evaluations
  • Perfectionism

Basically, it’s no fun at all to feel like an imposter. In the study, people with imposter syndrome reported being more stressed out about their work. They also tended to procrastinate more and to be more perfectionistic.

Although some previous research has suggested imposter syndrome may be especially common among high-achieving women, the study didn’t find any gender differences in imposter syndrome. Men and women were equally likely to feel like their successes were undeserved, even fraudulent.

The takeaway from the study is that imposter syndrome has real consequences in terms of both how you feel and how you act.

However, the good news is that imposter syndrome doesn’t have to be something you’re stuck with. If you feel like an imposter, shining light on your feelings by talking about them, writing about them, etc. can go a long way toward showing how baseless they are. Like any kind of shame, imposter syndrome thrives on secrecy and silence, so calling it what it is and challenging it directly can unmask imposter syndrome and show that it’s the real phony.