12 Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Celebrities Who Have Struggled With Imposter Syndrome
It’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up or deserve some of the praise we receive for our successes, even when we’ve worked hard to achieve them. Some of the most successful people today often feel like frauds in light of their own achievements. And there’s a name for this phenomenon: imposter syndrome.
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From self-doubt to simply feeling like you don’t belong, most people have experienced a sense of “imposter syndrome” at one point or another. Research shows that nearly 70 percent of people are plagued with it.
Here are 12 prominent entrepreneurs, leaders and celebrities who have shared their experiences with imposter syndrome.
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has often admitted to feeling like an imposter at times. In her book, Lean In, she shares that when she was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society at Harvard, she didn’t feel like she deserved to be there. She wrote in her book: “Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself -- or even excelled -- I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”
In another interview about her book, Sandberg shared, “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”
As kids, it’s natural to copy what an older brother or sister is doing. And that was the case for tennis star Serena Williams. Williams admitted to always copying her older sister Venus. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Williams shared, “There were two Venus Williamses in our family -- it was crazy. … [At restaurants] my parents would make me order first, but once she ordered, I’d change my mind. It was tough for me to stop being Venus and become the person I am.”
With the term “fake it 'til you make” becoming so widespread, it’s easy to get into your head that your accomplishments don’t deserve the praise they get. Even comedian, actress and author Tina Fey feels that way sometimes. While she initially imagined herself in a position behind the scenes, Fey has become a Hollywood star.
During an earlier interview, she admitted that she’s often felt like a “fraud.” However, “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!' So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.”
Arianna Huffington has also admitted to feelings of self-doubt. In an interview, Huffington shared: “The greatest obstacle for me has been the voice in my head that I call my obnoxious roommate. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. We would realize how important it is to stop this negative self-talk. It means pushing back against our obnoxious roommate with a dose of wisdom.”
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After playing a middle-aged American businessman who was sent on a business trip to Saudi Arabia in the 2016 film A Hologram for the King, Tom Hanks admitted in an interview that he related to the character’s sense of self-doubt. "No matter what we've done, there comes a point where you think, 'How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?'”