Young professional woman sitting at a table in a public café, looking demotivated with her cheek resting against her hand.
Image: © Yakobchuk Olena/

How to identify and challenge imposter syndrome

18 Oct 2019

Are you living with imposter syndrome? Here are some tips on how to recognise it and how to deal with it.

Feelings of doubt and insecurity are most often associated with people just starting out in their careers but, in reality, they can crop up at any point along the path. Even your most seemingly confident and successful colleagues could be working through these feelings.

The feeling that you will be ‘found out’ for not being good enough is called imposter syndrome, and researchers who first coined the term estimated that it impacts around 70pc of the population.

They described the syndrome as a persistent belief that you have only fooled people into thinking you’re bright “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments”.

Imposter syndrome causes people to “find innumerable means of negating any external evidence that contradicts their belief that they are, in reality, unintelligent”, they added.

Not one-size-fits-all

Another academic devoted to understanding the phenomenon is Valerie Young, who identified five different types of imposter syndrome. Like many syndromes, this is no one-size-fits-all scenario.

Young’s ‘Natural Genius’ iteration, for example, values the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of accomplishments.

People in this category define competence as the ease and speed at which they complete tasks, and tend to pay less attention to how they came to work on the project in the first place and the skills they’re learning while undertaking it.

A valuable tool

As this infographic highlights, imposter syndrome can be tricky to navigate.

Because of the nature of imposter syndrome, those who have it may find it easy to dismiss. It can be difficult to overcome the idea that you’re not actually an imposter if you already have very little confidence in your capacities.

This flowchart can help you recognise if you’re living with imposter syndrome and what steps to take based on academic research. Check it out below or click here for a larger image.

Flowchart and advice infographic on imposter syndrome from


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Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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