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Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome, characterized by a persistent fear of being exposed as undeserving of one’s achievements and is a prevalent psychological phenomenon affecting high-achieving individuals (Cameron, 2020). Despite not being classified as a mental disorder, imposter syndrome is notably common, especially in academic and professional settings (Cokley, Awad, Smith, Jackson, & Awosogba, 2020). This psychological pattern prompts individuals to doubt their skills, talents, and accomplishments, raising questions about their competence.

Recent research has shed light on the dual nature of imposter syndrome, revealing both positive and negative outcomes. On the positive side, imposter syndrome can serve as a motivational force, propelling individuals to work harder and strive for excellence (Teng, Chen, Cheng, & Lin, 2021). It fosters a desire for improvement, encouraging individuals to actively seek feedback and engage in self-development efforts (Vonk, 2020).

However, the flip side of imposter syndrome can manifest in detrimental effects on mental health and overall well-being. Individuals grappling with imposter syndrome may experience heightened levels of anxiety, depression, and burnout, undermining their psychological resilience (Teng, Chen, Cheng, & Lin, 2021). Furthermore, the fear of failure associated with imposter syndrome may hinder individuals from pursuing new opportunities or taking risks, limiting their personal and professional growth (Vonk, 2020).

Finally, imposter syndrome is a nuanced and multifaceted experience with both positive and negative implications. While it can act as a driving force for improvement and excellence, its detrimental effects on mental health and success cannot be overlooked. Acknowledging and addressing imposter syndrome is crucial to fostering individuals’ well-being and unlocking their full potential. By promoting self-awareness and providing support mechanisms, individuals can navigate the challenges posed by imposter syndrome and harness its positive aspects for personal and professional growth.

If you need someone to chat with confidentially consider…

City University Health Mind Centre Helpline:

There are many locations and easy free access to help.

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Helpline: 1-833-456-4566

This helpline is completely confidential, and you can call anytime you need to talk. It’s a great first step towards getting the help and support you need. 


  • Cameron, K. (2020). The Imposter Phenomenon. Academy of Management Review, 45(1), 5-8.
  • Cokley, K., Awad, G., Smith, L., Jackson, T., & Awosogba, O. (2020). The roles of gender stigma consciousness, impostor phenomenon and academic self-concept in the academic outcomes of women and men. Sex Roles, 83(3-4), 179-190.
  • Teng, F. H., Chen, Y. C., Cheng, B. S., & Lin, H. J. (2021). Impostor phenomenon and emotional exhaustion: The moderating roles of proactive personality and supervisor support. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 125, 103474.
  • Vonk, R. (2020). Imposter phenomenon, procrastination, and flow. Journal of Research in Personality, 88, 104000.
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