Imposter phenomenon is the persistent feeling that one’s success is due to luck or chance, rather than competence, despite evidence to the contrary. The phenomenon has been observed in individuals at all career levels; it is more common among women, minorities, in interdisciplinary settings, and among people in the midst of a job transition.
Imposter phenomenon can manifest in several ways. Self-doubt can result in procrastination, risk aversion and avoidance (for career advancement, job applications, etc.), or compromising health and work-life balance. People suffering from the imposter phenomenon are unlikely to talk about their experience with others. While you may not have heard of it, it may be occurring to someone around you.
If you are feeling like an imposter, have an open discussion about it with trusted mentors and peers.
As a mentor, you can help your mentees by attributing their successes to internal factors and by acknowledging failure as a common and necessary step for learning and growth.
To learn more:
- Self-evaluation test: Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale (PDF)
- Book review: The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It
- Peer-reviewed article: Imposter Phenomenon
- Podcast: Impostor Syndrome: True Tales, Tricks, and Tactics for When You’re Feeling Fraudulent