Who are you fooling of your talents? Imposter Syndrome

I was 11 years old when I ran away from the stage, not because of stage fright, but because I had embedded belief that I couldn’t do it. It was extempore and I had enrolled myself and realized in the end moment that I stood nowhere compared to the other participants. Was that really the case? We’ll never know but I’m certain that standing among the smartest kids in class and seniors I did feel I was outwitted and I did not belong there. If everyone else was an innate speaker out there, I was a fraud standing in the line.

And that part of my life, rather, that part of everyone’s psychology, is called Imposter Syndrome. It’s when you do not accept that you are as capable as everybody else believes you to be.

You might be smart but still think you’re not cut for Harvard; not smart “enough” for it. In a group discussion, you might simply feel like a person who is soooo behind everyone. Even if you won a prize, you might think you still have all the chance to lose next time. As if winning was a chance event. You “somehow” managed it. Top it with an Introverted personality and you are down for deep self-criticism.


What if all this long I’d been only mistaking my intelligence but I’m NOT actually smart enough?

What if my employer finds out that they are paying me more than my worth?

She’s out of my league. Someday she might realize and leave me.

I’m not good enough to audition for this.

Not talented enough to find a job in MNC.

Not well-cut to lead this group of people who are already so smart.

JUST NOT READY for it yet.


Trust me, everybody else is elbowing their way through, doubting themselves but managing. It’s psychologically very practical. Psychologists, Ms. Pauline Carles & Suzanne Imes were the first to study imposter syndrome, the feeling of a phony, among “successful” women. Though this phenomenon was discovered back in 1968, it is timeless. Though it was studied first in successful women the issue is genderless. It was later unveiled that imposter syndrome is not limited to any particular group or ethnicity or gender. More surprising was their inspiration for this work: their clients. The trouble is universal. In fact, 70% of people experience such sentiments at least once in their life.

The Why of the matter

Your vulnerabilities, anxieties, failures are best known to you. While in others you only see what they present of themselves. It is natural to feel like you suck in comparison to others. And even with your achievements, it is natural to feel like a fraud; undeserving of the admiration, salary, post, recognition, and so on.

However, this is wrongly termed as Imposter syndrome. Why wrongly? Well for the feeling of fraud & phony, “imposter” sounds about right though more criminal. But even though termed as “syndrome” it is not a disease. It is only a psychological phenomenon that people go through, and even more so in unfavorable situations. Even the people who appear rock solid on the forefront go through imposter syndrome. So am I telling you that you’re not alone and everybody is with you in this? Well…

Michelle Obama is with you

Seok Jin from BTS is with you

Einstein is with you.

Maya Angelou is with you.

CEOs of many companies are with you. And it’s not this small a number. If you Google you can find about 5 million case studies on imposter syndrome.

And of course, I’m with you. Many times people think I’m being modest & downplaying my skills. Maybe I’m good with certain skills. But did you notice that “Maybe”?

“Why? Why do I have Imposter Syndrome?"

The social factors and bringing up of an individual have a huge impact on the confidence level. Coming to which, the imposter phenomenon is not your inherent problem, rather an inserted doubt by your surroundings. The most you’re appreciated the more confident you tend to become.

  • The more you are compared, kept in safety, reprimanded, the likelier you are to doubt yourself.

  • There comes a strong impact of shifting to new schools or groups where you don’t “fit in”.

  • When you are exposed to bias, that as well may cause this phenomenon.

What your environment tells you about yourself shapes you considerably.

This was why the imposter phenomenon was first studied in women, then it followed backward races and groups of marginalized people. Even if they achieved considerable success, they felt like a fraud because they were told they had limitations of talent.

So this...

Led to this...

All that hard work and they still felt like someday somebody will knock off their door of falsities.

Harvard Business School published a review last year of a personal account. I’ll link it here. https://hbr.org/2021/02/stop-telling-women-they-have-imposter-syndrome

Say your parents were overprotective, or constantly comparing you, or say you changed schools and felt out of place. These circumstances devote to the insecurity you might feel. And all the praise and appreciation might just feel right sometimes but hey maybe you just got lucky, or you had to work harder than other people need to, or it wasn’t really that outstandingly praiseworthy.

Even the CEOs of big companies feel this way. It’s no more only related to marginalized groups, but it evidently affects different people to a different extent.

Smart people have a way to deal with Imposter Syndrome

1. They know that nobody around them is superhuman and nobody has it all figured out with everything working out in their favor.

2. Instead of doubting themselves, they acknowledge that there is always room for improvement in their ideas, skills, procedures, and more. They take the help of other people to improve further. If you lead your corporate teammates, then instead of envying your smartest subordinate it’s best to make him/her your assistant or your best ally.

How can you make it work for you?

Instead of feeling like a phony, take it as a healthy challenge to step up. Give more effort to keep up with your accomplishments. There is no other secret to that. Confidence comes with knowledge and experience but imposter syndrome will give you a shit load of gratitude for everything you have received. It is eventually a league to be better than you are now… because you are aware of your shortcomings.

Is the league you are running of the Ivy League? Or is your worth dependent on how wealthy you are?

Or do you think you’re supposed to be perfect, and righteous, with the President of America kind of conduct (subtracting scrutiny, of course)?

Even if you were in that position you would probably have sleepless nights thinking that you are not good enough for the job.

Rarely people are born with remarkable talent. High chances are that you and I are not.

So what do we do?

“If you are talentless, be relentless.”

-Neha Mishra

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