APR 24, 2017 05:14 AM PDT

What is Imposter Syndrome?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

For anyone who has ever started a new job, gone through graduate school, or just tried anything outside of their comfort zone, feelings of fear and self-doubt are all too familiar. The fear can be paralyzing and so deep it can distort your own evaluations of your abilities. As it turns out, this fear has a name.

It's called the imposter syndrome, and it refers to a feeling of "phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement," as described in 1978 by the American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. People who suffer from this mental state "live in fear of being 'found out' or exposed as frauds," the psychologists wrote. Furthermore, the deep insecurities in these people can't be easily countered with proof of their success or intelligence; such proof are usually dismissed as luck, timing, or deception.

Some studies have shown imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent among high-achieving women. Do you agree?
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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