This post contains some of the best quotes about imposter syndrome.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome was first described by two clinical psychologists – Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes – in 1978 when they noticed that their female students were full of doubt about their abilities and accomplishments.
One student stated: ‘I was convinced that I would be discovered as a phony when I took my comprehensive doctoral examination. I thought the final test had come. In one way, I was somewhat relieved at this prospect because the pretense would finally be over. I was shocked when my chairman told me that my answers were excellent and that my paper was one of the best he had seen in his entire career.’
Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon in which people believe they are not worthy of success and doubt their intelligence, skills or competence, despite evidence to the contrary.
Quotes About Imposter Syndrome
1. “Imposter syndrome isn’t something that only you are suffering from. It’s something we can all relate to. We all know that feeling, whether it’s with you all the time or just in certain situations. It’s the feeling you experience when you start a new job, when you get a promotion or when you are accepted on to a course. It simply means you care about what you’re doing, that you want to do a good job, but that you’re worried you’re not up to it.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
2. “…imposter syndrome involves much more than just feeling fraudulent and that it presents itself in a long list of different ways. It may appear as insecurity, self-doubt, fear of failure and perfectionism. Or as self-criticism, low self-esteem, an inability to accept compliments or a focus on where you’re falling short.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
3. “Imposter syndrome normally occurs when there is a tension between two views – yours and what you believe others expect of you. Or the tension could be between the standards you set yourself and how you assess yourself as doing.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
4. “At the core of imposter syndrome is a fear of not being good enough. This might not be there all the time, but when it occurs, you seriously doubt yourself and your capabilities and feel incredibly insecure.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
5. “When you suffer from imposter syndrome you fear that you’re going to say the wrong thing or that you will be caught out. You feel comfortable with your ideas when they’re in your head, but as soon as you say them you worry that they will be judged. You imagine that everyone will spin round and focus their attention on you. ” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
6. “Imposter syndrome rules through fear, and when you are afraid it is much harder to keep in mind everything you’ve learned so far. When you feel anxious you experience anxiety both mentally and physically. Your mind whirrs and the fight-or-flight response kicks in.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
7. “Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate; it affects everyone from college students to CEOs. People from every demographic who are clever, driven, articulate, creative and successful have difficulty in acknowledging their achievements.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
8. “When you see how common it is you may begin to notice – even if only for a moment – that there’s something else going on here. And maybe, just maybe, you’re not right about yourself. We can’t all be imposters, can we?” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
9. “She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are- impostors with limited skills or abilities.” ― Sheryl Sandberg
10. “Imposter syndrome is common in all work settings, especially highly competitive business cultures in which performance is constantly under scrutiny and competition is encouraged.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
11. “Imposter syndrome runs on a continuum from an occasional worry that you’re not up to the task to full-blown fears of being ‘found out’. It can cause chronic self-doubt, fear and shame, making it hard to enjoy life or to live in the moment.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
12. “Trying to pass as something you’re not feels incredibly stressful. It can be exhausting keeping the ‘show’ going. It can also affect you physically with bursts of adrenaline, increased heart rate, a creeping sense of dread or general tension.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
13. “Relentless criticism in childhood can internalize a parental scorn that no amount of success will silence.” ― Bruce Watson
14. “Imposter syndrome prevents people believing in themselves and the more they achieve the worse they feel. Unable to fully own their accomplishments or good traits, they remain disconnected from all the good things they do. This makes it impossible for them to update their view and build a sense of self-worth or an inner measure of how they’re doing.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
15. “I’m sure it’s no surprise to discover that there are links between imposter syndrome and low self-esteem. If you believe you’re lacking in some way, you are much more likely to undervalue your achievements and alter your goals and ambitions to reflect your insecurity.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
16. “The imposter doesn’t see that failure is a normal part of life.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
17. “I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” – Maya Angelou
18. “Most – although not all – imposters are people pleasers, constantly trying to adapt themselves, putting others’ needs first and not thinking about their own.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
19. “It’s hard to feel close to others when you don’t like yourself very much. Trying to be something to everyone means you have nothing left for yourself and can make you feel disconnected from your relationships.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
20. “Many imposters go through life with a fairly negative impression of themselves, at least when they are experiencing a period of imposter syndrome. This limits what you do, stops you trying new things and prevents you gaining more experience. It becomes harder to achieve your goals, to learn from your mistakes and therefore to grow and improve.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
21. “Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up … This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name — the impostor syndrome. Both men and women are susceptible to the impostor syndrome, but women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it.” – Sheryl Sandberg
22. “Imposter syndrome can be triggered by any achievement or approval-related task or as a result of feeling insecure about your knowledge or skills, particularly when you work in a competitive atmosphere and when responsibilities increase.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
23. “Perfectionism and imposter syndrome often go hand in hand and this is the most common type of imposter.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
24. “Perfectionism is intertwined with your sense of self and is often about attempting to correct or deal with a feeling of not being good enough – something many imposters can identify with.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
25. “Unfortunately, imposter syndrome is all about fear. Fear of being found out, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough and chronic self-doubt.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
26. “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ . . . just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey
27. “Not only do imposters fear failure, they show greater concern about their mistakes and a stronger tendency to overestimate the number of mistakes they make compared with non-imposters.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
28. “Imposters fear being found out or not being good enough so strongly that they do not question their fear. If what you believe is true, then you’re right to be scared: being found out, failing, the humiliation that comes with what you imagine – these are terrifying.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
29. “Avoidance can also make many imposters risk-averse. Focusing on what you know feels safer than being too optimistic, making mistakes or taking chances. Some risk avoidance is normal and healthy – if you narrowly miss being hit by a car when crossing a busy road, choosing to cross at the traffic lights from then on is a proportionate response to reducing risk. However, deciding never to cross a road again would be a disproportionate response.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
30. “When it comes to imposter syndrome you know you’re an imposter, but everyone else sees something different. You have a catalogue of achievements, but you don’t count them. Your belief that you are an imposter is not based on evidence you can show someone – there are no huge muck-ups or epic fails – it’s based on a feeling.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
31. “As an imposter you think that not only are you not good enough for the job, but you have faked your way in there and don’t have the goods to back it up.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
32. “If a person — any human being — is told often enough, “You are nothing. You are nothing. You account for nothing. You count for nothing. You are less than a human being. I have no visibility of you”, the person finally begins to believe it.” – Maya Angelou
33. “We are all imposters – everyone wings it a bit – but those who believe they are ‘imposters’ see this as a problem rather than a normal reaction to not knowing something. Their belief that they are an imposter is so strong that they are unable to dismiss their feelings; it blinds them to any other information, so they are unable to take on board their achievements.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
34. “What if you’re wrong and you’re not an imposter?” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
35. “People with imposter syndrome tend to conclude that they are not good enough, or that they are unworthy or inadequate in some way.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
36. “Confirmation bias helps to explain the self-fulfilling nature of imposter syndrome. We pay more attention and place greater emphasis on evidence that supports our belief, while discrediting or ignoring any conflicting information. It means we interpret our experiences in ways that support our beliefs.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
37. “Imposter syndrome is a perfect example of confirmation bias. You decided a long time ago that you were a fraud and for years you’ve been building an argument in support of this in your head, ignoring any information that doesn’t fit and operating a strong bias against yourself.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
38. “When you live with the fear that you might be an imposter – no matter how deep down it lurks – you’ll do anything to stay under the radar and to avoid the shame it makes you feel. As a result, you’ve put in place certain coping strategies over the years to manage your life, stay safe and prevent others finding out the truth.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
39. “You’ve been brainwashed by the imposter voice and one of its main tactics to beat you into submission is self-criticism – it doesn’t want you even to entertain the idea of compassion.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
40. “Think about how imposter syndrome operates: it’s as though your brain hasn’t caught up with your new identity – and confirmation bias stops you from updating your view of yourself.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Quotes
41. “Imposter syndrome is what you’ve always known. It feels familiar and has been with you so long that it gives you a sense of security. Making a change can be daunting. Some people are reluctant to admit being wrong, as this would mean they’d suffered without needing to and have potentially missed out on a lot.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
42. “You need to let go of imposter syndrome to move forward. Say goodbye to it, wave it off into the sunset or write it on a piece of paper then rip up the paper and throw it away – whatever works for you.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
43. “The imposter thoughts and discomfort that you experience are like the fly; they’re nothing to fear. You are more than capable of doing what you want to do, and even if you did make a mistake or fail, this wouldn’t unmask you. Mistakes and failure are a normal part of life, not a death sentence.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
44. “But just because you worry you are an imposter, it doesn’t mean you are one. Your feelings are not facts. You need to listen to your feelings, but do not treat them as more important than all other information. It’s important to use your head and your heart.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
45. “…externalize the imposter voice. This might sound a bit strange! You need to see that this is not your voice, but the voice of your fears. The better you get at spotting the imposter voice in action, the more successfully the strategies will work.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
46. “You may feel like an imposter, but that doesn’t mean you are one. Of course your thoughts and feelings are useful, but they only form part of the picture, especially when it comes to anything imposter syndrome related.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
47. “Compassion is key to overcoming imposter syndrome and it needs to be at the core of every strategy you undertake. Think of it as the mortar that holds everything together, so you can confidently rebuild the bricks of who you are and how you operate.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
48. “Overcoming imposter syndrome doesn’t mean you’ll stop making mistakes; it means accepting that they’re part of life and that you need to learn how to use them to your advantage. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
49. “Remind yourself that you’re not an imposter if you don’t get everything right first time and that you won’t always see improvements week after week. Challenges aren’t a sign that you’re not up to the task, they are a part of doing anything that’s worth doing and just one step along the way to success.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
50. “The only way you will really see what you’re capable of and start to trust in the fact that you are not an imposter is to stop overworking and avoidance.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
51. “When you feel confident, life is so much easier. Confidence helps us back ourselves, reach our goals, try new things and believe in our decision-making capabilities. It helps us manage stress, feel self-worth and deal with problems. It’s the ultimate antidote to imposter feelings.” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
52. “Repeat after me:
• Feelings are not facts
• Feeling discomfort doesn’t mean I can’t do something
• Anxiety is a normal reaction” – Dr Jessamy Hibberd
FREE Imposter Syndrome Worksheets
How to Cope With Imposter Syndrome?
Coping with imposter syndrome can be challenging, but with some strategies and a supportive mindset, you can overcome it.
Here are some steps you can take:
1. Acknowledge your feelings: Recognize that feeling like an imposter is normal and many successful people experience it too. Understand that your self-doubt does not define your abilities or accomplishments.
2. Identify your achievements: Make a list of your accomplishments, skills, and experiences that prove your competence. Reflect on your journey and remind yourself of your past successes to gain confidence.
3. Challenge negative thoughts: When negative thoughts arise, acknowledge them but don’t let them control you. Challenge those thoughts by questioning their validity and replacing them with more positive and realistic statements about yourself.
The following prompts may help:
- What evidence do you have that supports the belief that you are an imposter?
- Is there anyone in your life who has validated your accomplishments and skills? How can their perspective help counter your negative thoughts?
- Can you identify any specific instances where you have succeeded or received positive feedback in relation to your work or abilities?
- Are there any objective measures or qualifications that you possess which demonstrate your competence?
- How would you perceive the accomplishments of someone else who had the same achievements as you? Would you consider them an imposter as well?
- Have you faced challenges or obstacles in your journey? How did you overcome them? Reflecting on your resilience can help challenge feelings of being an imposter.
- What would you say to a friend or loved one who expressed similar self-doubts? How can you extend the same compassion and understanding towards yourself?
4. Seek support: Share your feelings with trusted friends, family, or mentors. Often, they will provide encouragement and remind you of your worth. Finding a support group or seeking professional help, such as therapy, can also be beneficial.
5. Embrace continuous learning: Imposter syndrome often stems from a fear of being exposed as lacking knowledge or skills. Instead of letting this fear overwhelm you, embrace a growth mindset and see every opportunity as a chance to learn and grow.
6. Set realistic goals: Break down big goals into smaller, achievable ones. This way, you can celebrate your progress along the way and build confidence in your abilities.
7. Celebrate successes: Whenever you accomplish something, no matter how small, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate it. Recognizing your achievements will help you combat feelings of being an imposter.
8. Practice self-care: Taking care of your mental and physical well-being is crucial. Engage in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and help reduce stress. Prioritize self-care to maintain a healthy mindset.
Overcoming imposter syndrome takes time and effort.
Be patient with yourself, and focus on your strengths and growth rather than comparing yourself to others.
You are capable and deserving of all your achievements.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book The Imposter Cure, © 2019 by Dr Jessamy Hibberd. All rights reserved.
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