What Is Imposter Syndrome, And Why Do So Many Successful Women Suffer From It

From CEO's to actresses, women across the world can't seem to shake this feeling

‘Fake it till you make it’. Its the phrase we’ve all thought to ourselves at least once. What we’re less known to have thought to ourselves at least once is ‘I’m in this room for a reason’. In recent years, the rise of Imposter Syndrome has seeped into our global narrative with celebrities (and high-achievers) such as Kate Winslet, Emma Watson, Tina Fey and Meryl Streep all feeling they have made their careers out of luck, rather than sheer talent. 

Impostor syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence; one that can stubbornly persist despite much evidence to the contrary. It’s the kind of internal monologue that tells us at any moment someone will tap us on the shoulder and tell us that we are a fraud, or just not cut out for our chosen vocation.

Speaking to Lysn psychologist Breanna Jayne Sada, we get the lowdown what the impostor phenomenon is and why successful women tend to feel it. 

imposter sydnrome

These days it’s hard to come across a successful person that hasn’t experienced imposter syndrome at least once in their career. Those doubtful thoughts, feelings of inferiority and incessant second-guessing, all like niggling thieves, stealing a person’s right to feel successful. 

Ask a successful person how they felt when they finally ‘made it’ and invariably they’ll tell you that they haven’t yet. Or better yet, they’ll respond with a nervous laugh that seems almost confused or scared. A lot of the time we’ll pass this off as humility, or at the very least a false sense, but there’s a certain truth in those reactions. The funny thing with imposter syndrome is that the person experiencing it, usually doesn’t realise it’s happening. That tiny little voice inside their head that tells them (no matter how successful they are) that it was all ‘just a fluke’, ‘lucky’ and soon enough people will realise that they’re not actually that smart and that they’ve just fooled everyone.

Some people experiencing imposter syndrome might mistake it as their own ambitious drive telling them they need to forge ahead. Others think if they dare admit that success might actually be attributed to something they’ve done, then maybe then everyone will figure it out and feel like they’ve been duped. Then there’s those that swear they were just ‘in the right place, in the right time’ and that Anyone could have achieved what they did. But the truth is, imposter syndrome has long been stealing the thunder and it’s time we all gave ourselves a little pat on the back. It’s time we all took back the glory and celebrate our own right to success.

If you think you might be experiencing imposter syndrome, Lysn psychologist Breanna Jayne Sada explains to marie claire just how you can work towards drowning out those feelings of doubt.



it might sound simple, but write down a list of all your perceived achievements. You might start by mentally shrugging them off or saying ‘so what’ as you write them, but you’ll find as you go on and read them back you will be reminded of all the things you did to achieve your successes and might even find you are impressed with yourself. 


Sometimes it takes a bit of reminiscing to really consider just how far you’ve come. You might think being a boss and running a team of 3 is no big deal, but perhaps you started off working for yourself in your lounge room? Managing one person is an incredible achievement, let alone 3, and things like having your own office space should also be celebrated. Go back to the beginning and remember the little things which can sometimes help you to appreciate that all that hard work let you to the success you should be feeling today. 


We are often our harshest critic and dismiss or discount all the positive things that people around us say about us and our achievements and attributes. No one is forced to say nice things about others if they are saying it, it is because they mean it. When someone compliments you instead of shrugging it off or ignoring it say thank-you and instead of discounting it, own it!


Imposter Syndrome can often stem from being in a situation where you feel inept – perhaps you’ve just received a promotion or a new job and literally have no idea what you’re doing. Remember that everyone starts somewhere and you got the job for a good reason. Remind yourself that you’re only human and enjoy the process of learning new things, rather than beating yourself up for not knowing everything right away.


Below, some stars who have admitted to suffering from imposter syndrome.

Kate Winslet 

“Over the years, the stakes have become higher for me. 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,’” Winslet told The Mirror in 2009, adding, “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 come to realize that those nerves are all part of the process for me.”

kate winslet

Natalie Portman

“Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999,” Portman said in her 2015 Harvard commencement speech. “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 that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”


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,’” Watson told Rookie magazine in 2013.

emma watson

Lupita Nyong’o

“I go through [acute imposter syndrome] with every role,” Nyong’o told Time Out in 2016. “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.”


Meryl Streep

“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?’ “Streep told Ken Burns in a 2002 interview for USA Weekend.

meryl streep

Tina Fey

“Ah, the impostor syndrome!? 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 on to me! I’m a fraud!’” Fey told The Independent in 2010. “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

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