20 Percent of Us Fear That We’re Fakes

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Listen, here's the truth: "Fake it until you make it" can be a profound source of anxiety, even if it helps you get farther and farther in life. If you've ever struggled with imposter syndrome — the fear that you're not as good at your work or relationships as everyone seems to think you are — you know this intimately. It's always been hard to know how widespread this phenomenon is, until now.


Researchers at Brigham Young University have just released a study looking into how many of us deal with imposter syndrome on a day-to-day basis. The numbers may bring you some comfort: About 1 in 5 study participants "suffered from very strong feelings of impostorism," which means if you're reading this around other people, someone else in your line of sight worries about their standing at work too.

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Even more helpfully, the BYU team figured out something key about addressing imposter syndrome. You might be tempted to confess these feelings to someone you trust at work, for the solidarity, but study participants who did so reported feeling worse more often than they felt relieved. Instead, those who confided in family members or friends and authority figures with no connection to work or school felt better about their self-perceptions most often.


One way a workplace can soften the blow of imposter syndrome is actually to change company culture around failure. Messing up is not just part of every process, it's also a vulnerable look at who you really are in that moment. It's a key opportunity to show everyone that they're liked and valued for their real selves all along.