Gabriel Mizrahi (@GabeMizrahi) joins us for this deep dive into identifying and overcoming imposter syndrome — the sinking feeling that your accolades are unearned, your successes are undeserved, and you’ll be discovered for the fraud you (think you) are at any moment by somebody — anybody — more qualified than you (which only seems to be everybody)! [Photo by Steve Lundqvist]

What We Discuss with Gabriel Mizrahi:

  • Why you’re not alone in feeling pangs of imposter syndrome (or imposter experience or imposter phenomenon, depending on who you ask) — it strikes nearly everyone (even elite athletes and military special forces) from time to time.
  • How to tell the difference between true fraudulence and imposter syndrome — and act accordingly.
  • The three behaviors that should help you avoid feeling imposter syndrome but counterintuitively tend to reinforce it.
  • The two common beliefs that invite imposter syndrome to visit most frequently.
  • What you can learn from incidents of imposter syndrome to grow more resistant to its eerily convincing distortions of reality.
  • And much more…

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Imposter syndrome refers to feelings of fraudulence that are not tied to an accurate understanding of our own competence. When we fail to internalize our talent and achievements, then we mistakenly believe that we haven’t organically earned our success. It’s this miscalibrated relationship to ourselves that causes feelings of fraudulence. We feel like imposters, but we’re not.

If we fail to work through this imposter syndrome, then we walk through life feeling like strangers, liars, and scam artists. But if we learn how to process it the right way, we can work through our insecurity and self-doubt and embrace our achievements in a way that makes life a lot more fun, connected, and fulfilling. In order to do that, we need to understand how this strange experience actually works — which is what we aim to do in this deep dive with Gabriel Mizrahi. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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In 1978, Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term “imposter syndrome” to describe the experience of being unable to internalize accomplishments and feeling a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

This state, they explained, made us feel disconnected from our own talents, abilities, and achievements. It also created an anxiety — sometimes even a straight-up paranoia — that the world will eventually figure out that we’ve lied, cheated, or finagled our way through life.

People who experience these feelings of fraudulence tend to believe that they haven’t truly earned the success they’ve had, often despite clear evidence of their intelligence and capability.

Instead, they attribute their success to luck, random chance, or the ability to trick people into believing they’re more competent than they actually are.

And the really fascinating thing? Everyone has this experience at some point or another.

Imposter syndrome — also known as the “imposter experience” or the “imposter phenomenon” — visits people from all walks of life. Multiple studies have shown that impostorism affects both genders, and occurs in people from all professions, cultures, and levels of success.

“The reason that imposter syndrome is so troubling for so many people is that it’s a little bit more than being disconnected [from their achievements],” says Gabriel. “It’s not like someone could come into the room and be like, ‘Hey, just to remind you, you did the work. You went to school. You went through training. You’ve handled situations like this before. You’re going to be fine.’ And then you leave that conversation like, ‘Oh, yeah. Of course. I just forgot for a second.’ That’s a very different kind of fraudulence.

“What imposter syndrome is about is feeling like those accomplishments almost never happened and are not part of you. In fact, you might even trust that they happened and still feel like they’re not part of you. Like, ‘I did go to school. I know that I went there. I know that I’ve handled situations before that are similar to this,’ but somehow you can’t lock onto them or feel like they’re part of your identity, so they’re not part of your toolkit. So that’s a more profound disconnection.”

If you’ve ever looked up to a role model who’s accomplished superhuman feats — whether it’s an astronaut who walked on the moon or an Olympic gold medalist or a hometown hero on the path to the presidency — chances are pretty good they’ve struggled with imposter syndrome. In fact, it’s the people at the apex of competence and capability who most often find themselves experiencing its seductively ruinous sway, but Gabriel assures us that it really affects “people from all walks of life…both genders…across jobs and industries, locations, regions, socioeconomic backgrounds. It really cuts across all of humanity.”

Which you should find reassuring if you’ve ever danced with the imposter syndrome devil, because it means you’re not alone. You’re just a human being like the rest of us, and there are ways to overcome imposter syndrome without being some kind of moon-walking, Olympian leader of the free world. Listen to this episode in its entirety to tell the difference between true fraudulence and imposter syndrome, identify the three behaviors that should help you avoid feeling imposter syndrome but counterintuitively tend to reinforce it, understand the two common beliefs that invite imposter syndrome to visit most frequently, what you can learn from incidents of imposter syndrome to grow more resistant to its eerily convincing distortions of reality, why experiencing imposter syndrome often indicates you’re on the right path toward growth, and much more.

To dive even deeper into overcoming imposter syndrome, make sure to read this episode’s companion article here: How to Stop Feeling Like An Imposter.


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in Deep Dive, Podcast Episodes