Signs you suffer from Impostor Syndrome at work

Signs you suffer from Impostor Syndrome at work

Do you work with a feeling of guilt most of the time and remain in fear? Read this.

Written by Shaloo Tiwari |Updated : October 31, 2017 1:47 PM IST

Do you work really hard at work and still feel that you will be caught someday for something that you might not even have done? Do you work with a feeling of guilt most of the time and remain in fear? You may have Impostor syndrome which is also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome. It is not a mental disorder but a concept that describes people who are unable to internalize their accomplishments. They constantly have a fear of being called out as a fraud or be exposed.


A term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, Imposter syndrome has been a topic of discussion among the psychologists for a very long time and has several pieces of research done on this subject. It is not yet considered as a mental disorder. Mostly common in women this reaction can hamper the ability to appreciate yourself for your success.

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Signs that you may be suffering from Impostor Syndrome

Overworking: People with imposter syndrome tend to overwork or work extremely hard to prevent people from discovering that they are impostors- a feeling that they keep building in their minds. As they work hard towards more praise and success it only continues the feelings of an imposter inside them and fears of being caught. This can even cause early burn out.

Undermining your achievements: Despite working really hard and having visible signs of competence, people showing symptoms of the syndrome make up their mind and convince themselves that they are cheats and do not justify the success they have accomplished. Even if they are given proofs of success, they belittle it as fluke or luck.

Fear of failure: For them, failure is equal to being caught for being 'imposters' therefore they fear failure the most. They start giving the people they want to please (their supervisors etc.) the answers that they believe they want, which then leads to an increase in feeling like they are "being fake."

The feeling of being artificial: As they are not all appreciative of themselves they sometimes just do too much to justify and still feel that they are being fake. To overcome that they become a people pleaser which again makes them feel that they are being artificial.

Avoiding display of confidence: People showing signs of imposter syndrome often avoid showing any confidence and disregard their abilities. They believe that if they believe in their intelligence and abilities others might reject them and this feeling constantly hovers around them. Hence, they convince themselves that they are not intelligent or do not deserve success.


Kolligian Jr, J., & Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Perceived Fraudulence in Young Adults: Is There an'Imposter Syndrome'?. Journal of personality assessment, 56(2), 308-326.

Dubin, W. R., Weiss, K. J., & Zeccardi, J. A. (1983). Organic brain syndrome: The psychiatric imposter. JAMA, 249(1), 60-62.

Reis, S. M. (1987). We can't change what we don't recognize: Understanding the special needs of gifted females. Gifted Child Quarterly, 31(2), 83-89.

Villwock, J. A., Sobin, L. B., Koester, L. A., & Harris, T. M. (2016). Impostor syndrome and burnout among American medical students: a pilot study. International Journal of Medical Education, 7, 364 369. http://doi.org/10.5116/ijme.5801.eac4

1: Kolligian J Jr, Sternberg RJ. Perceived fraudulence in young adults: is there  an "imposter syndrome"? J Pers Assess. 1991 Apr;56(2):308-26. PubMed PMID: 2056424.