Impostor Syndrome

The start of the academic year can be a period of mixed emotions, ranging from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and uncertainty. One phenomenon that often becomes more apparent during these transitions is the so-called impostor syndrome. This syndrome not only affects students but extends to numerous professional and personal realms, disproportionately impacting women and minorities. This article delves into the facets of impostor syndrome, relying on social science research to understand its causes, manifestations, and management strategies.

Understanding Impostor Syndrome

Definition and Origin

Impostor syndrome was initially identified as the “impostor phenomenon.” It is characterized by an internal belief that one does not deserve their success and the fear of being discovered as a fraud. Although this phenomenon can affect anyone, it tends to be more prevalent in systematically marginalized groups such as women, first-generation students, and BIPOC and queer communities.

Prevalence and Impact

Despite advances in diversity and inclusion, impostor syndrome continues to thrive, possibly intensified by these very changes. Those affected often doubt the authenticity of their achievements and live in fear of being exposed as frauds. This doubt is frequently exacerbated by disorders like social anxiety and depression, which can lead to self-sabotage.

Contributing Factors

Family Dynamics and Social Expectations

Research by Clance and Imes in 1978 suggests that the family environment can play a crucial role in the development of impostor syndrome. Children perceived as less capable or, conversely, as exceptionally talented, can develop beliefs that reinforce or question their self-image, respectively.

Role of Criticism and Stereotypes

Exposure to harsh criticism or unfavorable stereotypes can also foster feelings of inadequacy. Gender or racial stereotypes that label individuals from certain groups as less capable can be internalized, strengthening the impostor idea in those who deviate from these stereotypical expectations.

Influence of Vital Transitions

Significant life changes, such as a new job or promotion, can trigger or intensify impostor syndrome. These transitions, though positive, can naturally trigger deep-seated doubts about one’s ability to take on new roles.

Management Strategies and Overcoming

Institutional Interventions

Educational and workplace settings can play a crucial role in managing impostor syndrome. Mentorship programs, psychological support, and conscious inclusion strategies can provide the necessary support for those struggling with this phenomenon.

Promoting Self-Acceptance and Resilience

Promoting a culture of acceptance and support can mitigate the effects of impostor syndrome. This includes fostering resilience, recognizing one’s achievements, and developing healthy self-esteem.


Impostor syndrome is a complex interplay of personal, social, and psychological factors that affect individuals across all areas of life. Understanding its roots and manifestations can help develop effective strategies for its management and overcoming, allowing affected individuals to reach their full potential without the shadow of doubt.

Imposter syndrome defined: 5 fascinating research findings. (2021, marzo 3). Positivepsychology.Com.
The Society Pages. (s/f-b). Imposter syndrome and the limits of diversity – there’s research on that. Recuperado el 9 de noviembre de 2021, de