The phenomenon of imposter syndrome was first described by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, whose 1978 study looked at high-achieving people who consistently believed themselves to be less bright or talented than the world thought they were. Since then, numerous researchers have attempted to tease out the reasons for the increasing prevalence of self-doubt in the workplace and beyond.
Feelings of fraud and performance anxiety have become so common that many experts now question whether the solution really lies in the minds of those experiencing imposter syndrome, or if we might be better served as a society by looking at the work environments where people report suffering from these challenging emotions.
As the debate over the underlying causes of imposter syndrome carries on, those who find themselves experiencing it can take heart in the fact that they’re not alone. Everyone from Lady Gaga to Michelle Obama has reported feeling anxious about their qualifications from time to time. It’s perfectly normal, and some studies have even shown that it can spur us to be more cooperative at work, supporting others even as we continue to build our own skills.
In the name of encouragement, we’ve compiled these insightful quotes on imposter syndrome from 10 successful people you might think could never doubt themselves.
The greatest obstacle for me has been the voice in my head that I call my obnoxious roommate. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. We would realize how important it is to stop this negative self-talk. It means pushing back against our obnoxious roommate with a dose of wisdom.
— Arianna Huffington
I still have a little imposter syndrome… It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.
— Michelle Obama
I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need for me to be.
— Lady Gaga
I believe what I have to say is important, and I believe the people coming to hear me are important, and so the occasion of itself alone has an importance, which forces me to stare down my nerves.
— Maya Angelou
Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.
— Shonda Rhimes
When you know you're ENOUGH! When you stop focusing on all things that you're not. When you stop fussing over perceived flaws. When you remove all imposed and unbelievable expectations on yourself. When you start celebrating yourself more.
― Malebo Sephodi, writer and scholar
Trust yourself — you know more than you think you do.
— Benjamin Spock, pediatrician
Never, ever, ever, write off anything you’ve achieved as merely being lucky. You are not lucky: You are hard-working and capable. Don’t ever question it.
― Charlene Walters, business mentor
New situations may stoke old fears; future sensations of inadequacy might reawaken long-forgotten insecurities. But the more we are aware of our anxieties, the more we communicate about them, and the smarter we are about how they operate, the easier they’ll be to shrug off the next time they pop up.
— Amy Cuddy, social psychologist
You don't have to be an expert. No one is expecting you to be an expert. All you need to do is show up and be you.
— Ruth Soukup, motivational author
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