Imposter Syndrome and High Achievers

Jun 04, 2022

Imposter Syndrome is that feeling you get  when you believe you are a total fraud, and that you're going to be found out. It can be completely debilitating and soul destroying. Around 70% of people get it at some point in their career - it’s very common. Though when we have it, we can feel like we’re totally alone.


The research into imposter syndrome was initially carried out on high performing academic women, and it was found that, despite evidence to the contrary (such as academic accolades, and general high performance) they felt that they didn’t belong and were somehow only there because of sheer luck.


While imposter syndrome is very common, it is even more common among high achievers (maybe take this as a hat tip - if you are reading this, and you can identify with imposter syndrome, you are likely a high achiever).


As a high achiever myself, I can totally relate! In gaining a better understanding of why this might be, I have outlined some of the reasons below.


I refer to some of the imposter syndrome types below, you can refer to the blog post about the different types here, or you can take the quiz to find out which one you are here.



It’s likely you have been a high achiever from a very young age. In school, we were ranked, which brings an element of competition. We tend to compare ourselves to others, whether it is favourably against those not as smart as we are, or less favourably against those who are smarter. This becomes more important in the fight for college places - we want to get into the best university.


Proving ourselves

Because of the competitive nature of our thinking and the experiences we have had, we always feel that there is something to prove. We feel we need to prove that we are worthy, that we are doing a great job, that we deserve a promotion. This can result in high levels of stress, cause us to take on more work than we can handle, and can even result in burnout. You can read more about that here.



As high achievers, we have always placed extraordinarily high expectations on ourselves. There are a lot of things that come quite easily and naturally to us (this can manifest as the Natural Genius imposter type).


With a little more effort, we know we can be truly exceptional. We like to deliver excellence, and sometimes this can result in perfectionism. (You can read more about the perfectionist imposter type here). But there is no such thing as perfect, and we can feel like a fraud if we don’t reach this out-of-reach standard.


We also have a tendency to place these high expectations on others as well - and get annoyed when they can live up to those expectations. Not to mention the frustration they feel of never being able to live up to our ‘perfect’ expectations.


Rising through the ranks

Because of the inner drive, the need to succeed, the constant competitiveness, we tend to also rise through the ranks quickly (or feel frustrated, and fraudulent if we don’t). And because we rise quickly, it’s more likely that we will be underrepresented in the room we find ourselves in. (You can read more about the impact of imposter syndrome from a ‘minority’ perspective here). There may be more pressure on us because we are presenting everyone who is to come after us - be that our race or gender. Imposter syndrome can also be triggered because there is a gap between where we are versus where our peers are, or where we feel we ‘should’ be.


Are you a high achiever? Does any of the above resonate? You can email me here: [email protected] 


Find out more about the Imposter to Empowered programme here.

Take the quiz

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