Imposter syndrome can stem from societal and cultural pressure that stresses the importance of success and achievements. Coined by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, the concept of imposter syndrome, or imposter phenomenon, states that those with this experience often feel like a phony or imposter. They believe that they do not belong and that all their successes are achieved through luck and not skill. This can stem early on in childhood if family pressure was prevalent, and can increase in adulthood due to external factors from society and one’s cultural beliefs.
Cultural imposter syndrome can be characterized as a mixture of self-doubt with the fear that one will not be able to meet the standards of one’s own cultural and racial identity (Le, 2019). Asian Americans are often stereotyped as the model minority and are believed to be intelligent, diligent, and hard-working, and are seen to be free from any emotional or adaptive issues. Although these stereotypes are perceived to be positive, they place a great deal of pressure on Asian Americans to excel in work and school, which can lead to increased anxiety and distress. Researchers looking at the relationship between imposter syndrome and mental health among student populations have found it to be a predictor of mental health issues - it has been found to be positively correlated with anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and student stress (Le, 2019).
BIPOC are often underrepresented in academic and workplace environments in comparison to their white counterparts. For ethnic minorities, imposter syndrome is not just a voice inside their heads. In society, there are many messages that make it clear that certain groups do not belong. Microaggressions are often internalized so that feelings of otherness and lack of belonging are common in spaces that do not include people of color. This leads to self-doubt, fear of being exposed as a fraud, and an inability to internalize success when opportunities in these spaces arise (Ahmed et al., 2020).
Some tips on overcoming imposter syndrome: