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Get the upper hand on impostor syndrome

When you were in school or starting a job, did you feel like you were “faking it till ya made it?” Did thoughts of self-doubt, inadequacy or being a fraud, despite evidence to the contrary, undermine your belief in yourself?

That feeling is called impostor syndrome (IS), and it’s a real thing. Although not technically a syndrome and more a pattern of feelings, it was first observed in high-achieving women in the late 1970s by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. Since then, it has been seen as a challenge for both women and men moving into positions of greater responsibility and achievement.

An equal opportunity syndrome, IS affects people of all ages and is widely experienced, according to an article in the International Journal of Behavioral Science. The article cites research estimating that 70% of people experience the feelings of IS at least once.

Even our most accomplished idols have had extreme doubts about their abilities and struggled to see their accomplishments clearly. The late poet, novelist and activist Maya Angelou once said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”

“Who am I to have success?”

Even University of Phoenix alumna Jennifer Maggiore (BS in Business Marketing, 2005), who has launched numerous successful businesses, acknowledges moments of self-doubt. Now, with her latest venture, Catalyst Branding and Business Consulting, she’s helping other women navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship, including feelings associated with IS.

“I work with women who are so incredibly talented, but they’ll still ask themselves, ‘Who am I to have success?’” she says. “But when I’m working with clients, I’ll often caution them, ‘You don’t have to question your ability to do something.’”