The imposter syndrome occurs when people believe that they’re not worthy of success and lack the skills, competence or intelligence expected of them. As a result, they feel undeserving of their achievements and are constantly afraid of being exposed as a fraud. In this book, clinical psychologist Dr. Jessamy Hibberd provides a step-by-step guide to help you understand and overcome the imposter syndrome, rebuild your confidence, health and well-being. In this free version of The Imposter Cure summary, you’ll learn where the imposter syndrome comes from and how you can overcome it.
Do also check out our complete summary bundle in pdf/mp3 infographic, text and audio formats!
Understanding the Imposter Syndrome
What’s Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome comes from the underlying fear that you’re not good enough. It can affect anyone from students to professors, executives and entrepreneurs. In fact, about 70% of people have experienced the imposter syndrome at some point, though it affects different people in varying degrees. Some occasionally feel worried about their inadequacies, while others are constantly plagued by self-doubt, fear of failure, or fear of being “found out”.
It usually begins with a task or challenge where the perceived expectations exceed your perceived abilities. Someone with confidence may simply take action to bridge the perceived gap. However, someone who lacks self-belief may start to dwell on their inadequacies and how they might fail. They end up acting in ways that lead to their own failure, which further reinforces their poor self-esteem.
According to Dr Valerie Young, there are 5 types of imposters. They differ in the yardsticks they use to measure competence.
• Perfectionists set impossibly-high standards and seek to achieve them 100% of the time. They beat themselves up even if they’re just 1% off the mark. They also dictate how exactly they should achieve the goal and feel dissatisfied if things don’t go exactly according to plan.
• Experts are the knowledge version of the Perfectionist. They expect themselves to know everything, and feel like a failure if there’s just a tiny gap in knowledge.
• Natural Geniuses also set impossibly high standards, but they measure competence based on whether they reach the target on their first attempt. They believe that someone who’s naturally talented should be able to do things quickly and effortlessly. They equate struggles with incompetence, and don’t cope well with setbacks.
• Soloists define competence as the ability to do things on their own without assistance. They take pride in their ability to do things independently, and see any form of help (e.g. coaching, advice, assistance) to mean they’ve failed.
• Superhumans evaluate competence by the number of roles they can juggle and excel in. They expect themselves to perform perfectly in multiple roles (e.g. parent, friend, manager) and tend to overextend themselves.
Which of the 5 imposter types are you likely to be? How does it affect the way you do things, and what negative impact could it have on your life?
The Imposter Mind-Trap
The imposter syndrome involves a set of beliefs, feelings and behaviors that reinforce one another in a vicious cycle.
• Imposters believe that they are not good enough. They see their discomfort and anxiety as evidence of their incompetence.
• To prevent others from discovering that they’re frauds, they resort to overwork or avoidance. Unfortunately, such coping strategies only lead to worse performance and/or burnout.
• Even when they succeed, imposters ignore positive feedback or praises, dismiss their achievements and magnify their mistakes, thus reinforcing their negative self-beliefs.
Breaking Free with The Imposter Cure
There are 3 main steps to free yourself from the imposter syndrome:
- Consciously choose to change
- Understand the theory behind the imposter syndrome
- Test out all the strategies to find out which ones work for you.
The key to change is to realize that you’re not an imposter. You’re merely worried that you’re an imposter, which leads to ineffective copings strategies that sabotage your results and well-being.
Earlier, we’ve briefly summarized where the imposter syndrome comes from. In our complete version of The Imposter Cure summary (get full 15-page summary here), we’ll break down the steps for (i) gradually replacing your old beliefs, and (ii) tackling each of the elements in the imposter syndrome vicious cycle.
Replacing Old Beliefs
Before you can change your beliefs, you must want to change. Realize that the imposter syndrome is not required for success, i.e. you can strive for excellence and be humble without putting yourself down.
To facilitate the shift, you must (i) keep looking for evidence to chip away at old, unhelpful beliefs and see yourself in new light, and (ii) practice the strategies in the book to accelerate the process.
In the full version of The Imposter Cure summary, we’ll elaborate further on various strategies to (i) externalize the imposter voice, (ii) separate thoughts/feelings from facts, (iii) develop greater self-awareness and (iv) shift your perspectives.
Shifting from a Vicious Cycle to Virtuous Cycle
Besides replacing your beliefs, you must also address each of the underlying elements of the imposter syndrome, including secrecy, fear of failure, self-criticism, self-doubt, perfectionism, discounting positives and magnifying negatives. By gradually replacing parts of the old thought/behavior patterns with new, helpful thoughts/behaviors, you will progressively break down the old vicious cycle and start a new virtuous cycle.
There’s way too much information to pack into this article. Do check out the full Imposture Cure summary where we break down the strategies and steps for each of these components over 15 pages: how to…
- Shift from Fear of Failure to Embracing Failure
- Shift from Self-Criticism to Self-Compassion
- Shift from Perfectionism to Realistic Standards
- Shift from Self-Doubt to Confidence
- Manage fear, anxiety and low moods (at the heart of the imposter syndrome)
- Stop dismissing your achievements: acknowledge the role of external factors (e.g. luck, team effort, and personal contacts) without discounting the role of internal factors (e.g. your skills, focus, perseverance, and passion)
- Beat overwork and avoidance to reclaim your life
Getting More from “The Imposter Cure”
Ready to start applying the strategies and tools from The Imposter Cure? Do check out the our full book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 15-page text summary, and a 25-minute audio summary.
This book is structured like a self-help guide where Dr. Hibberd walks you through the process of re-evaluating your beliefs and exploring a new way to work and live. She includes numerous real-world examples to explain the imposter syndrome and bring the concepts/strategies to life. You can purchase the book here or visit For more details please visit drjessamy.com for more details.
Overcome the imposter syndrome and improve your confidence and success!