Impostor Syndrome


What is it?

Imposter syndrome, also called perceived fraudulence, involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. To counter these feelings, you might end up working harder and holding yourself to ever higher standards. This pressure can eventually take a toll on your emotional well-being and your performance.

I recently joined a SignLive webinar lead by Jules Dickinson, Jill Henshaw and Brett Best. They presented research results along with a questionnaire summary and anecdotal evidence about impostor syndrome. This webinar focused on the cycle that can occur of anxiety, depression, guilt and impostor syndrome.


The perfectionist

The Perfectionist

You focus primarily on how you do things, often to the point where you demand perfection of yourself in every aspect of life.

Yet, since perfection isn’t always a realistic goal, you can’t meet these standards. Instead of acknowledging the hard work you’ve put in after completing a task, you might criticize yourself for small mistakes and feel ashamed of your “failure.”

You might even avoid trying new things if you believe you can’t do them perfectly the first time.

The natural genius

The natural genius

You’ve spent your life picking up new skills with little effort and believe you should understand new material and processes right away.

Your belief that competent people can handle anything with little difficulty leads you to feel like a fraud when you have a hard time.

If something doesn’t come easily to you, or you fail to succeed on your first try, you might feel ashamed and embarrassed.

The rugged individualist

The rugged individualist

You believe you should be able to handle everything solo. If you can’t achieve success independently, you consider yourself unworthy. 

Asking someone for help, or accepting support when it’s offered, doesn’t just mean failing your own high standards. It also means admitting your inadequacies and showing yourself as a failure.

The expert

The expert

Before you can consider your work a success, you want to learn everything there is to know on the topic. You might spend so much time pursuing your quest for more information that you end up having to devote more time to your main task. 

Since you believe you should have all the answers, you might consider yourself a fraud or failure when you can’t answer a question or encounter some knowledge you previously missed.

The superhero

The superhero

You link competence to your ability to succeed in every role you hold: student, friend, employee, or parent. Failing to successfully navigate the demands of these roles simply proves, in your opinion, your inadequacy. 

To succeed, then, you push yourself to the limit, expending as much energy as possible in every role. 

Still, even this maximum effort may not resolve your imposter feelings. You might think, “I should be able to do more,” or “This should be easier.”

You are not a fraud!

Imposter feelings represent a conflict between your own self-perception and the way others perceive you. 

Even as others praise your talents, you write off your successes to timing and good luck. You don’t believe you earned them on your own merits, and you fear others will eventually realize the same thing.

Consequently, you pressure yourself to work harder in order to:

  • keep others from recognizing your shortcomings or failures
  • become worthy of roles you believe you don’t deserve
  • make up for what you consider your lack of intelligence
  • ease feelings of guilt over “tricking” people 
You are not a fraud!

The work you put in can keep the cycle going. Your further accomplishments don’t reassure you — you consider them nothing more than the product of your efforts to maintain the “illusion” of your success.

Any recognition you earn? You call it sympathy or pity. And despite linking your accomplishments to chance, you take on all the blame for any mistakes you make. Even minor errors reinforce your belief in your lack of intelligence and ability.

Over time, this can fuel a cycle of anxietydepression, and guilt.

Living in constant fear of discovery, you strive for perfection in everything you do. You might feel guilty or worthless when you can’t achieve it, not to mention burned out and overwhelmed by your continued efforts.


As a professional interpreter, it’s important to continually reflect on your practise to help gain insight into and analytically think about your work.

Supervision can help you develop insight and help maintain and refine your good practice. It can help you learn from mistakes, put things right and avoid repeating them again in the future, which can in turn help build your confidence and lead to improvements in service provision.

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