Imposter syndrome, also known as imposter experience or imposter phenomenon, is not a diagnoseable mental illness but rather, a term used to describe the intense feelings of intellectual worthlessness (linking with social context and perfectionism) which is often experienced by  high achieving individuals (Vergauwe et al., 2015; Cuncic, 2023). It may present itself  as being nervous, restless as well as being characterised  by  negative self-talk especially regarding areas that you typically excel in (Cuncic, 2023).

There are five variations of imposter syndrome which are interchangeable and can be experienced in all aspects of one’s life, namely in work, relationships, health etc. It includes the following (Cuncic, 2023):

  1. The Perfectionist: Believing that unless you are absolutely perfect, you could have done things better which makes you feel like you are not good enough in what you do.
  2. The Expert: Feeling like a fraud/failure due to the reason that you do not know everything that there is regarding a specific subject/topic or that you haven’t mastered every step in a process.
  3. The Natural Genius: Feeling like an imposter or worthless due to simply believing that you are not naturally competent or intelligent.
  4. The Soloist: Feeling inadequate when you ask for aid in attaining a goal or status.
  5. The Super-person: Having the belief that you must be the hardest worker or obtain the highest achievement otherwise you are a failure/ fraud.

Imposter syndrome is fairly common – studies have indicated that approximately 70% of individuals varying in age groups, gender, professions and demographics have at least experienced one episode of this phenomenon during their lives (Bess, 2023). So, you are not alone!  But the question remains: How can we overcome this?

The foremost aspect of imposter syndrome is our feelings, therefore, it is essential to acknowledge our feelings, pay attention to them and become aware of how we respond to them. Just by bringing awareness to our feelings, we are already starting the process to overcome imposter syndrome and now the Feeling-Pause-Action method (adapted from Trisha Lewis: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome) can come into play.

Feeling: See the feelings you are experiencing as a cloud. As your ‘feeling cloud’ passes above, grab it and hold onto it. This is where you will investigate and acknowledge what you are feeling and pause.

Pause: During the pause, you will really look at your ‘feeling cloud’ and ask why you are feeling the way you do. Here we put our feelings through a rationality filter by questioning why and what makes us feel this way and if these feelings are a true reflection of who we are.

Action: After holding, investigating and inspecting our feeling cloud, we now decide if we want to let the cloud float away or embrace the cloud. This is where you will decide if you want to act or dismiss what you are feeling accordingly.

Example (Lewis, 2022):

Feeling: I feel like a useless child in a world full of professionals.

Pause: Am I really a child? Is everything about children useless? Who defines the word ‘professional’?

Action: Breathing exercises to calm me down, talking to someone about how I am feeling, positive affirmations, actively deciding to dismiss this feeling and not act on it because it is not true.

Reflecting back, imposter syndrome creates a feeling of surviving rather than thriving as it brings about the intense feelings of insignificance, negative thinking, self-sabotage and self-doubt, which may impact everyday life. Then again, it is not your master, and you can overcome it by looking at the root causes of your feelings, acknowledging why you are feeling the way you do and acting accordingly.

At the beginning it may be difficult to change these intense feelings but with some practice it can become second nature, however, if you still feel the intensity of your emotions, seeing a counsellor, or any mental health care professional can further guide you in overcoming these feelings. In the end “We are all imperfect, that’s what makes us human”– Jo Pacheco.

Author: Jessica Trollip


Bess, J. (2023) Imposter Syndrome: A Universal Struggle, National Cancer Institute DCEG . Available at: (Accessed: 13 September 2023).

Cuncic, A. (2023) Imposter Syndrome: Why You May Feel Like a Fraud, Verywell Mind. Available at: (Accessed: 13 September 2023).

Lewis, T. (2022) ‘Overcoming Imposter Syndrome’, Psychology Now, pp. 34–38.

Vergauwe, J. et al. (2015) ‘Fear of being exposed: The trait-relatedness of the impostor phenomenon and its relevance in the work context’, Journal of Business and Psychology, 30(3), pp. 565–581. doi:10.1007/s10869-014-9382-5.