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imposter syndrome: what is it and does it affect you?

"Lean In"

Recently I began reading the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg (a book, which I recommend you guys should read), and I came across the term ‘Imposter Syndrome.’ Imposter syndrome isn’t a medical condition, but a mindset affliction, where despite their past accomplishments and success people doubt and feel they don’t deserve the success they have. The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes.

While both men and women can both be afflicted by this condition, it is especially prevalent among women and can act as an inhibition to success. I have recognized this in my behaviour, despite having had previous success in my Bocconi studies, when I receive a positive grade I question whether they assigned the correct score and if I deserve the score assigned. Furthermore, after an exam I am likely to question my performance and very hesitant to voice my opinion if I thought it went well. Many prominent women with a lot of success under their belts have talked about being plagued with imposter syndrome such as Tina Fey. While it can be good to be cautious and reflective of your performance, it also doesn’t help promote confidence and further growth to remain interalnized with fear and playing down your accomplishments.

Across various industries various studies have shown how women will tend to judge their performance as worse than it is, whereas men will judge their performance as better than it is. This is going to be advantageous for the men, because this will aid them when new opportunities present themselves that require you to have confidence in yourself and put yourself out there or to explore potential new areas of interest. This is why it is of utmost important to alter your mindset to instill more courage and self confidence. As Sheryl Sandberg said “owning success is the key to achieving more success.” Below are some tips to help you deal with imposter syndrome.


  1. Speak up about your feelings: Know that many other people feel the same and that you are not alone.

  2. Adjust your mindset: Accentuate and positive and stop propagating negative messages to yourself.

  3. Make a list of your accomplishments: This helps separate your feelings from fact and gives yourself more confidence.

  4. Visualize success: Spend time picturing your success, instead of what could go wrong.

  5. Reward yourself: Validate your success and mark your achievements.

  6. Motivate yourself through kindness and not fear

  7. Fake it: By faking your confidence you’ll tend to feel more confident by the end.

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