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Imposter Phenomenon: When You Suspect Yourself

an illustration of a woman looking into a mirror but her reflection is wearing a mask

Have you ever felt suspicious about yourself? Do you feel like a failure despite all your accomplishments? Do you think that your successes are due to mere luck and not because of your own efforts? Well, you are not alone. What you experience is called Impostor Phenomenon, the feeling of being a fraud. Many people around the world experience this phenomenon, from students to professionals in all fields.

This term was coined by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes after experiencing this phenomenon themselves and seeing it as a common occurrence among their students. This phenomenon “occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success” (Weir).

a comic panel of a woman, the first panel says "I don't deserve to be here" and has an X crossed over her. The next says "I should trust the judgement of those who invited me" with a green check over her. The last panel says "I'm here because I earned it" with a green check mark

Many people who experience impostor phenomenon may have grown up in families that give much importance to achievements, particularly, with parents who send mixed messages between over-praise and criticism. Furthermore, a study from the University of Texas done in 2013 revealed that minority groups are more susceptible to this experience, especially Asian-Americans. Most importantly, any sort of difference from the majority of peers, such as race, gender, or other aspects, can intensify the impostor phenomenon experience.

Impostor phenomenon is often related to perfectionism. This will cause a person to fall into one of two responses. In one case, they may become procrastinators due to the pressure of not feeling capable of meeting the high standard requirements. In the other case, they may overprepare, spending more time than necessary on tasks. Ultimately, this becomes a cycle where the person, who is afraid of being discovered as a fraud, makes the effort to complete a task perfectly and after they succeed, they believe that their achievement was due to their feelings of stress and anxiety rather than their capability to do the task.

There are a few strategies that you could implement to face impostor feelings. Talking to your mentors/supervisors about your experience can help you create a support network. Also, recognize your expertise; this helps you find the areas where you are good at, and areas that may need work. Very importantly, you should realize that no one is perfect, focusing solely on perfection does not allow you to appreciate your hard work.

Clance has created a Self-Assessment Test which you can access through the following link:

This is not a definitive diagnostic tool. If you feel like you may have impostor syndrome and that it affects your life, please visit a mental health care professional. Reedley College offers psychological services to currently enrolled students. For more information, visit:

Works Cited

Clance, Pauline Rose. “IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON (IP).” Pauline Rose Clance,

PH.D., ABPP, 2013,

Weir, Kirsten. “Feel like a Fraud?” American Psychological Association,

American Psychological Association, 2013,

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