57 famous people reveal how to overcome imposter syndrome

You might not believe famous people or celebrities ever suffer from imposter syndrome.

In fact, when you’re caught up in a bad case of Imposter Syndrome it can feel like you’re the only person in the whole world who has this problem.

That feeling of being the only one can reinforce the belief you’re useless, inadequate, a fake, a con, incompetent, someone about to be found out and sacked.

If you’re someone who suffers from this you’ll often believe, quite sincerely, that any results you’ve achieved or awards you’ve won were due to luck, or a fluke or that someone made an error and gave them to you by mistake.

Even when you ‘know’ that you’re capable of carrying out your work, and you’ve been told by many people that your reports, presentations, analysis or cross-examinations are all on-point, you’ll still doubt what you’re hearing.

Feeling an imposter? You’re not alone

So the next time you start having thoughts you’re an imposter, realise that many famous and successful people have felt the same way too.

Imposter Syndrome is something that ‘everyone’ seems to have heard about, and millions do suffer from.

So in case you still feel like you’re the only one who’s ever felt an imposter, here’s a collection of quotes from more than fifty people who’ve acknowledged they have had, or still do, suffer from Impostor Syndrome.

As you read through their comments, remember to recognise that you’re not alone.

Rather like a powerful virus, Imposter Syndrome can affect all ages, colours, and classes. It doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, especially since one of it’s related issues is Underearning.

Famous people with Imposter Syndrome

celebrity famous impostor complex

Sanna Marin

“You can only accomplish things with the co-operation of other people,” she says. “This is the most valuable thing I’ve learned over the years.”

Sanna Marin, The Youngest Female Prime Minister In The World interviewed in Vogue.

Her time at Tampere city council, before she became Prime Minister, helped her overcome that scourge of millennial women: imposter syndrome.

“Of course, I have also felt that maybe I’m not as good as people think, but when you spend more time in politics, doing your work, you realise that everybody is just a human being, and every job is the size of a person.”

Sanna Marin, The Youngest Female Prime Minister In The World interviewed in Vogue.

Jodie Foster

“I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.”

Jodie Foster, Actress

“I didn’t have any confidence in my beauty when I was young. I felt like a character actress, and I still do.”

Jodie Foster, in an article in The Guardian, discussing being famous and having imposter syndrome

“I have varying degrees of confidence and self-loathing… You can have a perfectly horrible day where you doubt your talent….”

Jodie Wallace, being interviewed by Mike Wallace of after she won an Oscar for Best Actress,

Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o won an Academy Award for her best-supporting role in 12 Years a Slave. But she revealed to Time Out in 2016,

“I go through (Imposter Syndrome) with every role. I think winning an Oscar may in fact have made it worse. Now I’ve achieved this, what am I going to do next? What do I strive for? Then I remember that I didn’t get into acting for the accolades; I got into it for the joy of telling stories.”

Lupita Nyong’o, reported in Time Out in 2016

Robert Pattinson

“In a lot of ways, I’m quite proud that I’m still getting jobs. Because of falling into a job, you always feel like you’re a fraud, that you’re going to be thrown out at any second.”

Twilight star Robert Pattinson, reported in The Observer, 2015.

Emma Watson

“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.”

Emma Watson, Actress, in Rookie magazine 2013, someone known for being both famous and having imposter syndrome

“I’d walk down the red carpet and go into the bathroom,” she recalls.

“I had on so much makeup and these big, fluffy, full-on dresses. I’d put my hands on the sink and look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Who is this?’ I didn’t connect with the person who was looking back at me, and that was a very unsettling feeling.”

Emma Watson, when asked about being featured on the covers of Elle and Vanity Fair and other glossy magazines.

 Ready to stop the Imposter Syndrome?

Penelope Cruz

“I feel every time I’m making a movie, I feel like [it’s] my first movie. Every time I have the same fear that I’m gonna be fired. And I’m not joking. Every movie, the first week, I always feel that they could fire me!”

Penelope Cruz in a CBS interview in 2009

Tom Hanks

“No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?”

Tom Hanks, as told to the podcast Fresh Air in 2016.
famous people imposter syndrome sufferers

Tina Fey

“I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!”

Tina Fey

“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!’”

“So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud. Seriously, I’ve just realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”

Tina Fey in an interview with The Independent in 2010

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Kate Winslet

“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, ‘I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.’

She added,

“What people really think of me is something I remain blissfully unaware of most of the time. I love acting and all I ever try to do is my best. But even now I always dread those emotional scenes. I’m there thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m rubbish and everyone is going to see it. They’ve cast the wrong person.’ But I have to come to realize that those nerves are all part of the process for me.”

Kate Winslet is celebrated as one of the rare performers to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Grammy Award, as told to The Mirror in 2009

Famous people with Imposter Syndrome

Michelle Obama

“I still have a little impostor syndrome… It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”

Michelle Obama, reported in Newsweek

“I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

Michelle Obama

“I had to overcome the question ‘am I good enough?’” she said, when speaking about her time at Princeton. “It’s dogged me for most of my life. Many women and young girls walk around with that question in their minds.”

“It never goes away,” (Imposter Syndrome) “It’s sort of like ‘you’re actually listening to me?’ It doesn’t go away, that feeling of ‘I don’t know if the world should take me seriously; I’m just Michelle Robinson, that little girl on the south side who went to public school’.”

Michelle Obama, speaking at a North London school for the UK leg of her ‘Becoming’ live arena book tour

Sheryl Sandberg

“Confidence and leadership are muscles,” …“You learn to use them or you learn not to. If you are afraid to speak up at a meeting, every time you force yourself to do it, you get better at it. If you’re afraid to take your seat at the table, every time you take your seat at the table and you realize no one tells you to go get back to the back row, you learn to do it.

(Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO)

“There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

Helen Mirren

“It would be wrong to think that you’re always right and correct and perfect and brilliant. Self-doubt is the thing that drives you to try to improve yourself.”

Helen Mirren, actress talking to Esquire about self-doubt in 2011.

 Ready to stop the Imposter Syndrome?

Jennifer Lopez

“I don’t let the opinions of others really influence how I think about myself, and that took a long time, because in the early part of my career I did and it made me feel really bad about myself,”

“So I came out and my first song went to No. 1, my first album went to No. 1, and my first movie went to No. 1, and I was like ‘yeah, I’m killin’ it.’ And then everyone was like, she can’t sing; she can’t dance; she can’t act; she’s just a pretty face; or, her butt is big, or whatever they were saying about me, and I started thinking, ‘yeah, that’s true.’ And it really hurt me for a long time. Despite the hurt and the pain I just kept going,”

And here’s what she did next,

“I just couldn’t allow myself to let that become who I was. I was like ‘no, I’m going to make another record, I’m going to make another song, I’m going to make another movie; I’m a great actress; I’m a great singer; I’m a great dancer. I’m great at this stuff and I’m going to keep going.’ And I did. And that’s all I did – I kept going… and it started paying off, but more than that I started believing in myself, I started believing in the fact that I wasn’t an impostor, that I wasn’t a fake, that there was a reason I kept doing this and people kept hiring me.”

Jennifer Lopez, actress, singer & dancer

Barri Rafferty

“I regularly consult with clients and speak in front of large audiences, but I found myself battling with impostor syndrome the first time I was asked to speak at an event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The event was focused on the future of artificial intelligence and featured subject-matter experts like the director of MIT’s Media Lab and the CIO of IBM, so I felt wildly uninformed by comparison,” Rafferty admitted.

“I’m not a technology expert, I didn’t go to an Ivy League School, and I didn’t literally write the book on A.I., as my counterparts did.”

“Though I’m not steeped in the tech world, what I did bring to the conversation was the fresh perspective of someone with broad horizontal experience who could discuss best practices from across many industries,” she explained.

“Even more, I saw that my experience in storytelling and marketing helped me communicate in a way that resonated with the audience. I could be more relatable and memorable by speaking from experience instead of theory. By bringing a different perspective, I added value to the conversation in a way the other panelists couldn’t.”

Barri Rafferty, partner, president, and CEO at global communications firm Ketchum, talking to Business Insider

Dr. Margaret Chan

“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”

Dr. Margaret Chan, ranked by Forbes in 2013 as the thirtieth most powerful woman in the world.

John Steinbeck

I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.

John Steinbeck, won a Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath and the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature
famous celebrities  leaders impostor syndrome sufferers

Meryl Streep

“I have varying degrees of confidence and self-loathing… You can have a perfectly horrible day where you doubt your talent.”

Meryl Streep, actress

“I didn’t have any confidence in my beauty when I was young. I felt like a character actress, and I still do.”

Meryl Streep, interviewed in The Guardian, revealing that those Impostor Syndrome feelings first took root in her childhood.

“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’”

Meryl Streep, who holds the most Academy Award nominations of any actor, interviewed in USA Weekend in 2002

Cheryl Strayed

“Writing is always full of self-doubt, but the first book [Torch] is really full of self-doubt, and it was much more of a struggle to keep the faith.”

By the time her second book ranked first on the New York Times Bestseller list, “doubt and self-loathing” were so familiar to her that she thought,

“Okay, this is how it feels to write a book.”

Cheryl Strayed, author, on writing her novel, Torch, in which the main character, Teresa Rae Wood, encourages the listeners of her radio show to “be incredible.”

 Ready to stop the Imposter Syndrome?

Maya Angelou

I have written eleven 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.

Maya Angelou

Sheryl Sandberg

“Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself – or even excelled – I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again.”

“One day soon, the jig would be up… This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name – the impostor syndrome. Both men and women are susceptible to the impostor syndrome, but women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it.”

Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebok, from Lean In

Famous people with Imposter Syndrome

Darren Lockyer

“Every time I go to a game I always have that fear of losing or a sense of failure. You always have that fear of losing but you always have that confidence of winning. You never want to come off the field thinking you could have done more or given more.”

Darren Lockyer, former Australian rugby player & now sports commentator. He stated that part of his success was derived from learning to tap into the fear of not doing enough to push him to his limits so he could leave the field with pride.

Natalie Portman

“So I have to admit that today, even 12 years after graduation (from Harvard), I’m still insecure about my own worthiness. I have to remind myself today, You are here for a reason.”

“Today, I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999… I felt like there had been some mistake – that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”

“Sometimes your insecurities and your inexperience may lead you to embrace other people’s expectations, standards, or values, but you can harness that inexperience to carve out your own path – one that is free of the burden of knowing how things are supposed to be, a path that is defined by its own particular set of reasons.”

Natalie Portman, actress, multiple Golden Globe winner, Academy Award winner, and Harvard graduate, speaking at Harvard Commencement 2015

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Chris Martin

“It’s helpful to have some arrogance with paranoia… If we were all paranoia, we’d never leave the house. If we were all arrogance, no one would want us to leave the house.”

Chris Martin is the Grammy-winning lead singer of the internationally acclaimed band Coldplay

Arianna Huffington

“I’d been obsessed with going to Cambridge even before I’d learned English, and my mother had somehow helped make it happen from our one-bedroom apartment in Athens,” she shared.

“I felt like there I finally was, but the minute I opened my mouth, people would know I didn’t really belong.”

“My mother taught me that fearlessness isn’t the absence of fear, but the mastery of it. I leaned into my fear by trying to get into the Cambridge Union (the debating society,) where I eventually became the first foreign president,”

“What I learned was that what you have to say is more important than how you sound, which is to say that that feeling that we don’t belong is much more likely to come from us — from that obnoxious roommate inside our heads — than it is from someone else (who is likely dealing with their own forms of imposter syndrome).

Arianna Huffington, HUffington Post, as told to Thrive Global.

Angela “Merk” Nguyen

“My imposter syndrome felt a lot like a deceitful little red devil with horns was drowning out the voice of my confident, uplifting angel. I felt like I was constantly letting down my senior producers, and I would think things like: ‘Why am I such a failure?’ ‘They probably only hired me because I’m Asian’ or ‘I could’ve done way better on that last project but I didn’t – shame on me.'”

For Nguyen, asking for feedback was the game-changer.

“I asked both of my bosses how they thought I was performing,” she noted. “They told me my work was impressive, high quality, and ‘not half-assed if that’s what you’re thinking.’ Talk about a wake-up call! I’d say that along with positive reminders of my abilities and accomplishments from my support system, I’ve grown to see myself for what I truly am: a smart, talented individual who is 100% deserving to be where she’s at.”

Angela “Merk” Nguyen producer and co-host of podcast Adult ISH for YR Media.

 Ready to stop the Imposter Syndrome?

Albert Einstein

“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler”.

Albert Einstein, showing that winning a Nobel Prize, being famous and having imposter syndrome are all compatible

Seth Godin

“Yes, you’re an impostor. So am I and so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best.”

Seth Godin

Agatha Christie

“I don’t know whether other authors feel it, but I think quite a lot do- that I’m pretending to be something that I’m not, because even nowadays, I do not quite feel as though I am an author.”

Agatha Christie, best-selling author

Raj Jana

“I built my seven-figure business, launched a podcast and started growing my personal brand well under the age of 30. It almost felt unreal, like someone else’s life. I felt I had somehow landed here and eventually, everyone was going to find out I was an imposter. These thoughts kept creeping into my life. No matter how many times I was able to logically talk my way out of them, they would return.”

“Looking back, I can clearly see how incorrect this thought pattern was, but it wasn’t until I started to really take a closer look at what was causing this, did I learn how to overcome it for good.”

Raj Jana, Founder, Javapresse Coffee Company

Barbara Corcoran

When I sold my business for $66 million and I had made it from scratch out of nothing and the whole world applauded me, written up in all the papers, “Oh she’s a genius. Oh, she’s this. Oh, she’s that.”

Do you know what I thought (after) six months? That the whole thing was a fluke. (That I was lucky to) hire the right people, the right offices, promote the right people… (that) it was a fluke that I was able to fight my competitors and win the number-one market position with the old boy network going against me.

You would stand there and say to me, “Barbara, you actually really believe that?” And I could honest to God on a stack of Bibles say, “I did believe it.”

Thank God you doubt yourself, because the one thing that I have learned that is true of every single person who is exceptional in whatever they are doing is self-doubt. Without it, you become big-headed, arrogant …

The curse of being competent is self-doubt, because competence rides on your own self-doubt. It’s the edge of doubt that makes you a performer in anything you do.

Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran

Mike Cannon-Brookes

He said a common misconception is that “successful people don’t feel like frauds.”

“Imposter syndrome doesn’t go away with any form of success.”

(Imposter syndrome is) “a feeling of being well out of your depth, yet already entrenched in the situation”.

“Internally, you know you’re not skilled, experienced or ever qualified enough to justify being there – yet you are there, and you have to figure a way out because you can’t just ‘get out’.

Mike Cannon-Brookes, Australian tech billionaire & co-CEO of software company Atlassian to ABC News.

Chuck Lorre

“When you go and watch a rehearsal of something you’ve written and it stinks, the natural feeling is ‘I stink.’ I’m a fraud. I need to go and hide.,'”

Chuck Lorre, The writer and creator of hits such as Two and Half Men and The Big Bang Theory 

Michelle Pfeiffer

“I think it comes from not having a background of formal training. And I think when I started out, a lot of actors were coming out of Juilliard and I was just this young person from Orange County, kind of just getting by on my instincts purely and I think, for the longest time, I felt like it wasn’t really enough and maybe didn’t give me the credibility and maybe because I had to find my technique as I went along. That I didn’t sort of start from a real secure place.”

Michelle Pfieffer, speaking to Entertainment Tonight on becoming famous, having imposter syndrome and feeling out of place in the acting industry, especially at the beginning of her career.

Mauro Ranallo

I’ve been struggling mightily this year. I feel like every day is going to be my last. The mania,depression, anxiety , imposter syndrome et al is overwhelming but I keep going the best I can. If I can help save one life by sharing information then my battle was worth it.”

Mauro Ranallo on Twitter

 Ready to stop the Imposter Syndrome?

Nicola Sturgeon

“Even though I have been in politics for a long time, I have been First Minister for four years, there will be days when I think ‘should I even be here? Is somebody about to find me out?’” she told show host Anne Hughes.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader on community radio station Sunny Govan Radio as reported in The Independent

Renée Zellweger

“Oh, damn! Here we go again! What were they thinking? They gave me this role; don’t they know I’m faking it?”

Renée Zellweger, Oscar winning actress

Olive Cabana

“Every year, about 2/3 of new Stanford Business School students raise their hands to the question ‘How many of you in here feel that you are the one mistake that the admissions committee made?’”

Olive Cabana, author of The Charisma Myth

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James Watson

If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

James Watson, on the opposite to Imposter Syndrome

Candice Carty-Williams

(On imposter syndrome) “It happens a lot and it makes me really sad. I say to these women you are absolutely amazing. Look, you’re here and you’re doing it. The work starts within us.”

“I didn’t really see anyone who looks like me doing what I did, and this whole imposter syndrome thing, it’s a real thing. Especially when I’ve come from rooms that are filled with just white people and me.”

“While I know that I’ve worked hard, I’m still working out that this is all still real, like all the time. I have this conversation with my friends, and I think there’s this problem with identity in phrasing like ‘boys will be boys’. We’ve grown up with that phrase and it makes it okay that boys will just be boys, but we don’t have an equivalent. So we’re always trying to be something different and slot into an identity that has been given to us. So from the beginning, boys just do what they do, because that’s innately in there. But for us, I think we need to learn that we are enough and actively put ourselves into spaces.”

Candice Carty-Williams, author of the best-selling novel Queenie, speaking at Stylist Live LUXE

Emma Willis

“I’ve got a lot of imposter syndrome,” Willis told Stylist. “I think that I’m not good enough, and that everyone is going to find out one day. As I get older, I go ‘fuck it, I’m alright. And even if I’m blagging it, I’m going to keep blagging it.’

“Let’s make sure the younger generation don’t feel that way and that they feel empowered and confident,” the actor and presenter added. “And that will happen when they have women around them to support each other.”

Emma Willis, television presenter and former model as told to Stylist – another famous person in the public eye with imposter syndrome

Kamala Harris

(On imposter syndrome) “You never have to ask anyone permission to lead.”

Kamala Harris, American lawyer and politician, speaking to a young woman at a rally she hosted in Iowa, recounted in Stylist

Zoe Sugg

“I’m constantly doubting everything I’ve achieved, everything I’m working on business wise and everything I’m working on in my personal life.”

“I have major imposter syndrome at the moment!” she wrote. “I’m constantly doubting everything I’ve achieved, everything I’m working on business wise & everything I’m working on in my personal life! (Even down to second guessing if I should have said certain things, or ‘did I do that properly’…it’s bloody annoying haha).

“It’s such a peculiar feeling and nothing I do seems to make it ‘less so’.”

Zoe Sugg, vlogger, businesswoman and author, recounted in Stylist showing how becoming being famous on the internet doesn’t stop one from having imposter syndrome

 Ready to stop the Imposter Syndrome?

Olivia Colman

“It’s genuinely quite stressful. This is hilarious. I got an Oscar!” she said as she took to the stage.

“Any little girl who’s practicing her speech on the telly, you never know. I used to work as a cleaner and I loved that job but I did spend quite a lot of my time imagining this.”

Olivia Colman, when receiving her Oscar showing being famous and having imposter syndrome are compatible

Stephanie Yeboah

“I started this earlier this year and it’s been absolutely amazing,” she says. “Anytime I get a lovely comment on my social media channels or my blog, I store it away by putting it in a file on my laptop. So that any time impostor syndrome starts to creep in and I feel like a fraud, I just go into that folder and read all of the lovely comments that people have said about me.”

“The term ‘impostor syndrome’ was frequently mentioned by my therapist when I described my feelings of inadequacy in the work I did. I see it as a feeling that links itself to insecurity and self-doubt around our own abilities, to the point where we feel that we do not deserve any of the nice things we have worked hard for.”

“I tend not to accept compliments or positive comments about my work. I feel like all my achievements and work will be criticised or picked apart by my peers for not being ‘genuine’ or original. I often feel like my writing is not worthy of being read.

“However, when I’m overwhelmed by these feelings, I sometimes go through old blog posts and re-read them as if I were reading them for the first time. I’ve found that I actually enjoy reading them back. I’ve also created a folder containing compliments that I’ve received on my content so when I’m having a particularly bad day, I can read them back and know that others have enjoyed my work.”

“Competence bears little resemblance to confidence. It’s only when you’re aware of how good you are that you become more confident,” Yeboah explains.

“My favourite tip for increasing that awareness is to create a success log on a daily basis – preferably at the end of the day. Simply write down everything that you’ve been proud of that day, and all of the situations that you’ve handled well.

“You’ll soon see how even small successes, when recorded and reviewed, begin to change your mind-set regarding positive thoughts.”

Stephanie Yeboah, 29, plus-size style blogger and freelance writer recounted in Stylist

Julie Andrews

l kept the Oscar in the attic for a very long time because I thought I’d been given it as a ‘Welcome to Hollywood’ and I didn’t feel worthy of it.

So much early success sent me into therapy and analysis. I learnt you have to do it right and honour the films you are making. It’s a huge gift, but a lot of obligation.

Julie Andrews, on The Graham Norton Show talking about what happened after she won an Oscar in 1966 for her role as Mary Poppins.

Ebony Rainford-Brent

“Suddenly I started getting these nightmares that when I was on air someone was going to come and drag me off every time I was on the mic and say you’re not good enough.

“I’ve been doing broadcasting for seven years and these nightmares plagued me for three of those years. So when I was supposed to be broadcasting to how ever many people, I couldn’t get my words out because I was constantly thinking ‘is someone going to come and drag me off at any moment?’.

“I think that’s what imposter syndrome is, whether you’re in a boardroom or doing a pitch, you think somebody is going to tell you you’ve got to go. You think you’re going to get found out. It’s not great to be plagued for that long, but that’s imposter syndrome, it’s the chip away.”

Ebony Rainford-Brent, World Cup winningcricketer and first black women to play for the England cricket team
overcome imposter phenomenon famous people celebrities

Michelle Kennedy

“It’s that thing where you’re half expecting someone to tap you on the shoulder and say you’re going to be caught out now, this is not for you, move along. There’s something right at the back of your head and then there might be just one comment in a meeting or a pitch and it opens the door and allows that voice to come in.

“It’s then that I start to get sweaty, prickly heat and it’s really held me back from going to some meetings. That’s why you need a community of other women around you that will say, ‘what’s the worst thing that will happen?’

“Eventually you start to believe, what is that worst thing that will happen.”

Michelle Kennedy, Entrepreneur, launched Peanut for like-minded mums.

Recommended further reading

If you’re interested in dealing with Imposter Syndrome then these additional articles will be helpful for you.

Sophie Walkler

I was invited recently to speak at an event on the grounds that I was a “strong woman.” The organiser explained this would attract people and sell tickets. I said I’d be really happy to do the event, but asked her not to describe me so. Partly because I’m not. But mainly because giving top billing to “strong” women does none of us any favours.”

“Strong woman.” Was there ever anything so stifling?

At this point I must say that I too have bluffed and blushed my way through life. I am well acquainted with Imposter Syndrome. As a child, I was too tall, too serious, too plain. At school I practised surviving, not thriving. I worked hard to get away from the bullies, to mixed results: lots of As but no place at Oxford, from which I was rejected along with the only other woman to apply to the same course at the same college as I.

After university I wanted to be a reporter. I got a temporary contract at a news agency among many men whose wives and children followed them on international assignments. When I was taken on as a full-time member of staff, the boss asked to see me. I walked into his office – quaking – and he told me he was interested in meeting people who “got in by the back door.”

Recently a friend told me about a group of young professionals she was training. “The boys are so confident and the girls are so in awe of their confidence,” she told me sadly. “One of the girls said to me: ‘How do they do it? I wish I’d been born like that.’ I wanted to tell her: ‘You were. You just had it taken away from you.’”

“Confidence comes from knowing what is right and true to you – and for me that’s calling bullshit the idea that everything is mine if only I can train myself to be different.”

“I don’t want to learn to be brave. I want to live in an environment where I and my daughters and my sisters can flourish as we are. I joined, built and lead the Women’s Equality Party to create that kind of environment. You are all welcome. No weight-lifting required.”

Sophie Walker, feminist & speaker and leader of the Women’s Equality Party

Tolani Shoneye

“For me, impostor syndrome is the inability to enjoy your success. It is an awful feeling that arises within me every time I have a big moment; a feeling that says, ‘don’t enjoy this because it will be taken away, and it will be taken away because you don’t deserve it’. The biggest effect this has on me is that I find myself unable to really enjoy or celebrate my wins. I have a bottle of Moet that was given to me by a friend, to pop open when I’ve done something worth celebrating. I was given this bottle in June 2017 and I still haven’t opened it, despite having reasons to do so. But I don’t credit my success to hard work, I just think it’s luck, or in my case, God.”

“I’m working on combating these feelings. I started writing down a list of things I have achieved, because reading them on paper makes them seem much more impressive and allows me to really take them in. I also reassure myself that yes, God is answering my prayers and making things happen, but I am the one physically doing these things. I am the one making them happen.”

Tolani Shoneye, writer and podcaster

Nicole Crentsil

“After university, I realised that I wanted to explore new skills and talents, and with that exploration came imposter syndrome. I think that constant self-doubt makes me feel like I’m not worthy of being in certain spaces. I have always tied my work and value to my knowledge, and whenever I’m in a space where I may not have the most knowledge, I instantly feel like I’m an imposter – like I don’t deserve to be there.”

“I try to surround myself with people who encourage me to learn and explore new spaces, while removing myself from those who make feel like an impostor. I always find that learning a new craft comes with a lot of reading and research, so I try and spend as much time as possible in that stage of the process before initiating any projects. I often ask myself, ‘How will you know what you’re capable of, if you don’t take the leap to try it?’”

Nicole Crentsil, curator, public speaker and director of Black Girl Festival

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Liv Little

“I think it was Charlie (gal-dem’s deputy editor) who introduced me to impostor syndrome as a concept. When I first heard the term I was somewhat defensive, thinking, ‘no, that’s not me, I’m fine’. But the more I looked into what the term meant, and the more that aligned with my anxieties and insecurities (particularly when operating in white workspaces), I realised that yes, this is definitely real and something we should be talking about.”

“At times, I felt guilty for feeling like I was an impostor, because I’m supposed to be all about empowerment and standing in your power and truth – but the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

We’re all human, and within that is layer upon layer of complexity. We live in a structurally racist society in which black women are forever told that they must remain at the bottom of the pile, so it’s no wonder that despite how brilliant you are, self-doubt can kick in.”

“I was recently made digital exec at a major broadcaster and I’ve had moments of thinking, ‘how did I get here? I’m not worthy, it’s all a fluke’. But you have to remember that nothing in life is down to chance. You are where you are because you’ve worked bloody hard to get there.”

“I see it in my counterparts (all women), who undersell themselves or doubt their abilities in a way that men do not. I think men are less afraid to fail. It’s something that we all have to work through but I certainly haven’t gotten there just yet. It’s also really easy to internalise the way people treat you, and see it as a reflection on you and your abilities, which isn’t the case.”

Liv Little, founder of gal-dem, writer and producer

Victoria Sanusi

“About four years ago I read a post on impostor syndrome. I was intrigued because I had never heard the term before and, after reading the post, I realised that I identified with the syndrome a lot. When I got my first job in the media, I often felt like I wasn’t worthy of it. I knew so many other young people had applied for it, so I kept telling myself there was no way I was the best candidate. I kept putting it down to luck, or the need to hit a diversity or class quota. I didn’t want to believe that I was capable of getting such a great job.”

“I write down all my achievements on notes on my phone just to remind myself that I didn’t get to where I am by luck. I work hard. I am talented. As a black woman, I have to work twice as hard just to achieve my goals. It’s taken me a while to get here, but now I celebrate my wins because it’s so important to.”

Victoria Sanusi, co-host of Black Gals Livin

Famous people with Imposter Syndrome

Amy Seales

“My undergraduate group was mostly guys,” she says. “I think that’s another reason why I really doubted myself when I first went to university – and even while getting my PhD – because you chat to people and see what the entry requirements are, and mine seemed to be so much lower than the ones for the men on my course. I started to think that universities didn’t make me offers because I was intelligent, but because I was a woman and they had a quota to fill.

“It made me feel rubbish, like I didn’t deserve my place. It was the same with my PhD: the year I joined there were eight or nine of us starting, and I was the only woman. I thought I was just the token woman, even though my research group was probably 30-40% women. We actually have the biggest female ratio of all the physics groups and my supervisor is a woman.

But there are some groups that don’t have any females at all.”

Amy Seales who’s currently researching space and atmospheric physics at Imperial College for a PhD, found out first hand that being in a male-dominated environment can affect the syndrome.

Kathryn Hahn

I never could imagine myself on a screen of any kind. I went to school for theater. I always somehow imagined acting — I just never could place myself in the same category as those titans I saw on those screens. … It’s almost like I was pretending to be an actor when I first came out [to L.A.].

Kathryn Hahn, actress

Hannah Beachler

“I knew if I got the nomination, it would be history-making, so I felt a sense of duty to do what I needed to do to go that far. But there’s no playbook for campaigning. Mentally, I can’t even describe it. It’s full-on and it’s a lot of work. I was stressed out. I lost a lot of weight. (Luckily,) I’m a people person, so it was easy for me to speak to people and I had a great time with that.”

“You kind of have impostor syndrome a little bit. Like, ‘Obviously the Oscar doesn’t mean that much if I get the nomination.'”

“I am a human being, so you better believe that I looked (at my odds) occasionally. I think when I got the ADGs (Art Directors Guild Award), that night was the first time I really thought to myself, like, I could actually get the nomination. This is real.”

“It was (also) sort of this bittersweet (experience). Like, I want to celebrate, but it’s also been 91 years (without an African American nominee in the category). Like, Ya’ll. There’s that thing that hangs over the Academy. How do you reconcile that?”

“I think I learned (through campaigning) that it was OK to recognize that I’m good at what I do. And that’s such a hard thing to say. I don’t know why. It’s like you go through the 12 Steps of Oscardom and I’m at, like, Step 9 where I’m like, “I deserved it, goddamn it.” I know I work hard. I broke ground.”

Hannah Beachler, won the Oscar for Best Production Design for Black Panther in 2019, making her the first African American to win in the category. She was also the first African American nominated in the category.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

“I was reading up on impostor syndrome the other day. My mum sent me an article on it because when she was a dancer she felt the same. “She continued: “I don’t know what it’ll take not to feel like that – I’ll just know when it happens. I know I’ve done good in the past couple of years and have turned a corner, but I still want more from myself. I want to reach my potential.”

Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Hepththelete and British record holder as recounted to The Guardian showing how being a famous and world-class athlete doesn’t keep imposter syndrome at bay

Howard Schultz

“Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.”

Howard Schultz the chair, president, and CEO of Starbucks – being a famous CEO doesn’t stop one from having imposter syndrome

Conclusion

There’s no shame in self-doubt – many people have it – and that crowd includes many famous people with Imposter Syndrome, including leaders across all industry types.

So, the next time yourself struggling with Imposter Syndrome in some area of your life, remember that you’re in excellent company – and you can overcome this.

You really are more capable and deserving than you believe.

There are many books and online courses that may help you to change how you think – so you may find making the changes you want can happen quickly.

If you’ve discovered some ways that help you to deal with Impostor Phenomenon comment below so others can benefit too.

And if you know someone who is affected by Imposter Syndrome then share this page with them.

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Recommended further reading

If you’re interested in dealing with Imposter Syndrome then these additional articles will be helpful for you.

An invitation

I work with clients to help them break free from the three linked issues of Imposter Syndrome, Underearning and the Fear of Failure and if you’d find it helpful I invite you to book a time in my online diary to discuss how I may be able to help you too.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Charles Stevenson

    Do you have a particular quote or thought that helps you to push back those Imposter Syndrome feelings? If you do, post it below so others can try it on for size too.

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