Are You Suffering From Impostor Syndrome?

Have you ever noticed a glimmer of doubt flash across the face of your most assured, valued, and adept colleague? Even the most confident-appearing of people can suffer from impostor syndrome; 70% of us will suffer from it at some point in our life, according to Dr. Pauline R. Clance, who first identified IS as a clinical phenomenon in 1978.

“Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persists in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise,” wrote Clance with Suzanne Imes in a paper at Georgia State University. “These women find innumerable means of negating any external evidence that contradicts their belief that they are, in reality, unintelligent.”

In fact, although Clance and Imes identified the issue as primarily affecting women due to gender expectations, more recent research suggests that men experience it nearly as frequently.

Five types of “imposter”

Dr. Valerie Young was one of the first to pick up on what Clance and Imes had identified. While still studying at the University of Massachusetts in 1982, Young realized that what they said applied to her – and set out on a lifelong career of researching, writing, and educating about the phenomenon. Young discovered that “impostors don’t all experience failure-related shame the same way” because “they don’t all define competence the same way.”

She identified five types into which IS-sufferers tended to fit. The “Natural Genius’, for example, values the “how” and “when” of accomplishments: they define competence as the ease and speed at which tasks are achieved. When a project seems to take too long, they feel like a phony for being in a position to take on the work in the first place. In fact, they probably got where they are for good reasons – but would benefit by identifying the specific skills that make up the task in question, and recognizing that some of these skills need to be learned and improved over time.

A tool for conquering impostor syndrome

At, we believe that it’s important for everybody to acknowledge that they might suffer from impostor syndrome. By its nature, it can be easy to dismiss IS as a cause of low self-esteem – because if you have low self-esteem, you believe that you’re truly an imposter and not that you have the syndrome. And crucially, as Dr. Young asserts, the journey to recovery requires self-knowledge because “you can’t share your way out of impostor syndrome.”

My friends at Have put together a new infographic that provides a flowchart to help you identify which type of impostor syndrome you have, and the best steps to overcome your particular category. They’ve gathered academic research from leading journals and from the writings of Drs. Clance, Imes, and Young, to create a snapshot of the syndrome today and advice on how to get past it and back to the real, excellent ‘you.’

Impostor syndrome may begin in the workplace or in your relationships, but it can soon have knock-on effects that compromise every aspect of your life. Get to grips with IS by learning to understand it better, and you can return to your life as an accomplished professional and move on to even bigger and better things.


Though first recognized in 1978, impostor syndrome has only come to the fore in research terms in the last decade. For this project we sourced academic research from the International Journal of Behavioral Science, American Nurse Today, the University of Notre Dame and Medical News Today.

As a psychological condition much insight was also given in the works of the leading professionals in the field, Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes who initially described the syndrome and Dr. Valerie Young, through various articles and lectures, and through her. book, How To Feel As Bright and Capable As Everyone Seems to Think You Are.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.