Get unlimited access to
personalised wellness content


What Is Imposter Syndrome and How to Identify The Signs

From undermining your talents to feeling inadequate, imposter syndrome can hold you back. Here’s what it means to have it, and ways to identify it.

By D Tejaswi
06 Sep 2021

Imposter syndrome is a way of thinking or psychological state where the individual feels “not enough” for the situation. According to American Journal for Pharmaceutical Education, 2018, people with imposter syndrome doubt their talent and often attribute their accomplishment to external factors such as timing or sheer luck.

“People with imposter syndrome have a constant fear of being exposed as a “fraud” and due to this fear, they tend to overcompensate with overworking, solo-working or over-skilling themselves, generally more than it is required,” says Dr Manjula Rao, clinical psychologist, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad. This perceived feeling of being a fraud can lead to stress, anxiety and guilt in social and professional interactions which can often be detrimental to one’s social and personal life, she adds. International Journal of Medical Education, 2016, says that Imposter Syndrome can cause physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, burnout and depersonalization.


Signs of Imposter Syndrome

While a healthy self-doubt can keep your confidence in check, extended periods of self-doubt can lead to damaging results. Here’s how to identify imposter syndrome.

  1. Do you have the constant fear of “becoming exposed”?
  2. Do you frequently undermine yourself and try to prove worthiness?
  3. Do you push away genuine success as “luck” or “timing”?
  4. Does working hard seem pretty common to you?
  5. Do you feel that praise is coming out of pity?
  6. Do you tend to work alone rather than working in a team?

“If you have answered yes to more than three questions, chances are that you are struggling with imposter syndrome,” adds Dr Rao.



The 5 Types of Imposters
In the book, Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, author Valerie Young shares five types of imposters. Find what type you fall in.

  1. The perfectionist: Chasing an unrealisable goal of “being perfect” and beating up oneself on not being able to achieve that.
  2. The natural genius: Trying to achieve success with minimal effort and feeling ashamed for putting more effort or failing on the first try.
  3. The soloist: Working alone to complete the work even when support is offered.
  4. The expert: Overskilling or learning more than what is required for the task and feeling like a failure when you are not able to answer a question or resolve a query.
  5. The superhero: Linking worthiness to the ability to succeed in all the roles and putting maximum effort to accomplish every task.

“An individual can feel one or more of these kinds depending on the situation, task, and the definition of competence/worthiness in their dictionary,” explains Dr Rao. Remember that there are solutions to work around these psychological barriers. Do not hesitate seeing a psychiatrist when in need, adds the doctor.






© Copyright Lifetime Wellness Rx International Limited. All rights reserved throughout India. Reproduction in part or in whole is prohibited. Wellness suggestions and treatments discussed in this issue are only indicators of what makes one healthy or not. It may not be an accurate assessment of what’s specifically ideal for you. Consult with your doctor before undertaking any treatment.