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Surprising Science

Explaining the “Impostor Phenomenon”

People who experience the “impostor phenomenon” believe their successes are undeserved—and they live in constant fear of being unmasked despite consistently good performance.

Why is it that some people who consistently receive praise for jobs-well-done do not believe they deserve congratulations? “Some people feel like they have fooled everyone into thinking they are smarter or more competent than they really are, despite consistently performing well and garnering praise. This feeling of being an impostor is related to but not fully explained by depression, social anxiety and low self-esteem. It may be more common in women. To break the cycle of self-doubt and self-sabotage, people must learn how to give themselves credit for their achievements as well as take constructive criticism about their mistakes and failures.”


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