What Is Imposter Syndrome?

What is Imposter Syndrome? What isn't it? And why are people making such a fuss about it? Surely it's just a fancy new name for self-doubt?

The original definition of Imposter Syndrome was from the research by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes back in 1978. Back then they called it The Impostor Phenomenon. And they defined it as:

'an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that those who feel fraudulence and worthlessness have, in spite of outstanding academic or professional accomplishment'.

If you're like most people, you'll be giving your screen a glazed-over, confused look right now. So here's my definition, based on nearly 20 years of specialising in Imposter Syndrome and leading the 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study:

Imposter Syndrome is the secret fear that you'll be 'found out' as not good enough, despite the outside world thinking you've got your act together.

Imposter Syndrome keeps us awake at 3am. It plagues our self-talk. It holds us back from taking action on our dreams. It gets us self-sabotaging, without even realising.

But surely it's just a trendy new form of self-doubt?

Not at all! When I led the 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study it showed us that there's a clear difference between Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt, despite the two often being confused:

Self-doubt is about what we can and can't do. Imposter Syndrome is about who we think we are.

And here's an article with more detail, if understanding the difference between Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt is important to you. It includes my Imposter Syndrome Iceberg model.

When I'm working with students on my Imposter Syndrome programmes or mentoring clients, we describe Imposter Syndrome as:

Imposter Syndrome is the secret fear of others judging us the way we're judging ourselves.

And if you're running Imposter Syndrome, you'll likely 'get' that statement. Imposter Syndrome takes normal, healthy evaluation of our performance and makes it personal. We judge ourselves. A mistake in a meeting or a fluffed client pitch ceases to be just a learning opportunity. It becomes about who we are, as a person. We judge ourselves. And we feel shame.

That's why people who are running Imposter Syndrome work so hard to hide it.

If you're interested in finding out more about Imposter Syndrome and how you can handle it, here are some of my most popular articles on it - they're a great place to start. And then scroll down to make sure you're getting my fortnightly Imposter Syndrome Inspiration newsletter:

Imposter Syndrome isn't incurable - far from it. In fact, clients and Ditching Imposter Syndrome readers report breakthroughs in as little as two weeks, when we start working together on it.

Ditching Imposter Syndrome Book by Clare Josa

If you've already got my book - Ditching Imposter Syndrome - make sure you've signed up for the readers' vault resources that come with it, to fast-track your journey.

If you love videos and audios to guide you through a process, then my Ditching Imposter Syndrome Kickstart is a fab place to start.

And if you're in a space where you need to do something major about Imposter Syndrome, fast, then my Stepping Up To Lead programme could be the perfect solution for you.

x Clare

P.S. Want to take inspired action for your organisation on Imposter Syndrome, to raise awareness and share solutions? I'm an international keynote speaker on this and related topics. Here's how to find out more and book me to talk or run a workshop for you.

Here Are Some Of My Latest Articles To Help You Understand More About What Imposter Syndrome Is

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Don't Know Clare Josa Yet?

Author | Speaker | Leadership Mentor

Clare Josa is considered the UK's leading authority on Imposter Syndrome, having spent nearly 20 years specialising in the field, including publishing the landmark 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study and her new book: Ditching Imposter Syndrome, which already has readers in over 30 countries.

After a corporate career in engineering, specialising in Six Sigma, and as Head of Market Research for one of the world’s most disruptive brands, since 2003 she has specialised in helping leaders and high-achievers to clear out the glass ceilings they never realised they had put in their own way.

An expert in the neuroscience and psychology of performance, add to this the demystified wisdom that inspires her Soul-Engineered Solutions, and you'll get to experience transformation at the deepest levels, in ways that are fast, fun and forever.

She is the author of eight books and has been interviewed by the likes of The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and Radio 4, amongst others. Clare speaks internationally on how to change the world by changing yourself.

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