(n.) a condition in which someone so doubts their abilities, they feel like an imposter; low self-esteem
Imposter syndrome is a condition in which a person so doubts their own abilities that—even when presented with evidence of their own achievements—they convince themselves that they’re not worthy of success, and will eventually be found to be a talentless fraud.
In some (often quite high profile) instances of course, high achieving people actually do turn out to talentless frauds. But for those suffering imposter syndrome, that’s by no means the case: they genuinely are talented, genuinely are worthy of all their success, but convince themselves otherwise.
Also known as imposterism or the imposter phenomenon, this condition was first identified in a study organised in 1978 as “an individual experience of self-perceived intellectual phoniness”, experienced in particular among high-achieving women. 150 women with noteworthy professional and academic successes were interviewed in the study, with many of those involved assigning their success to either good fortune, or to being overvalued or held in too high regard by their colleagues. This ultimately led to feelings of being a fake or a fraud, or an “imposter” in their workplace.
Alas—as a fair few of you pointed out on Twitter!—this feeling isn’t quite as rare as the dictionary definition would have us believe...