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7 high-profile women talk about their experience of imposter syndrome

‘I still think someone is going to rumble me.’

IMPOSTER SYNDROME HAS been steadily gaining more and more coverage in recent years.

But if you are unfamiliar with the term, let’s catch you up.

shutterstock_1189124443 Source: Shutterstock/airdone


The syndrome is a psychological pattern in which the individual doubts their accomplishments, and harbours a fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.

Seen more frequently among high-achieving women than men, the syndrome weakens a person’s sense of self-worth, and causes them to question their place in the professional arena.

Here we take a look at just some of the world’s most high-profile women and the various ways imposter syndrome affected them.

Emma Willis

The Voice Live Auditions - Manchester Source: Peter Byrne

Former Big Brother presenter, Emma Willis, is no stranger to imposter syndrome. 

Speaking to Red magazine, the popular broadcaster revealed that she constantly feels like she’s on borrowed time.

I always worry that there’s not going to be another job. My little period of doing well is going to dwindle. I still have imposter syndrome.

Unsurprisingly, validation from employers helps Emma to cope with the negative thought pattern.

I still think someone is going to rumble me. Only when I get asked back for another series do I know I’ve done a good job.

Laura Whitmore

MTV Europe Music Awards 2018 - Arrivals - Bilbao Source: Doug Peters

Like Emma, Laura battles an inner dialogue which makes her question her accomplishments.

Speaking to Irish Tatler, the Wicklow-native showed she’s familiar with the syndrome, and regularly fears having her place in the entertainment industry questioned.

I’m constantly feeling like I’m out of my depth. Like someone’s going to come in and say, ‘Well you shouldn’t be on stage here’, or ‘What are you doing with your own radio show?’ Constantly.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence Attends Awards in the Arts Ceremony - Louisville Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Speaking on the Awards Chatter podcast, Jennifer Lawrence recalled the transition from jobbing actress to Hollywood elite.

I kind of struggled with impostor syndrome a little bit, ’cause people were just so, you know…I don’t know, just ah, la la’.

Jennifer revealed that she struggled to find her place, and as a result felt like she didn’t belong in the industry.

You’re like ‘I don’t belong here and everybody’s lying to me,’ and you feel like you’ve put the wool over everyone’s eyes, and then everyone’s going to find out you’re a huge hack.

Charlize Theron

2018 IndieWire Honors Source: Jordan Strauss

Speaking to Elle magazine, Charlize Theron says she experiences imposter syndrome every single time she faces into a new role.

Despite having an Oscar, the actress said she constantly questions her ability and fears being fired every time she participates in a production.

Every single time I start a job, I still have the fear, “I’m gonna get fired. They’re gonna find out I’m a terrible actor. This is gonna be where they find out that I’m just a total lie.”

Viola Davis

British Academy Britannia Awards 2018 Source: SIPA USA/PA Images


Viola Davis is the first black woman to have earned an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony, and yet the actress has yet to feel likes she’s ‘made it’.

Speaking to ABC, the Widows star says she’s able to acknowledge the strides she has made in her career, but struggles to quash the negative thoughts which creep in at the beginning of every new project.

It feels like my hard work has paid off, but at the same time I still have the impostor, you know, syndrome. I still feel like I’m going to wake up and everybody’s going to see me for the hack I am. I still feel like when I walk on the set, I’m starting from scratch.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson attends The Circle Premiere in Paris Source: Hahn Lionel/ABACA

Despite having achieved critical acclaim at a very young age, Emma Watson has struggled with imposter syndrome at many points in her career.

The British actress says that the more successful she becomes, the more fearful she is of being ‘exposed’.

Speaking to Rookie, she said:

It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going “Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are”. 

Highlighting the inconsistencies at play with those who are affected, she added:

Sometimes [success] can be incredibly validating, but sometimes it can be incredibly unnerving and throw your balance off a bit, because you’re trying to reconcile how you feel about yourself with how the rest of the world perceives you.

Lupita Nyong’o

WSJ Magazine Innovator Awards - New York Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Like Emma, Lupita Nyong’o believes previous success paves the way for a more intense experience of imposter syndrome.

Fortunately, Lupita keeps hers in check by reminding herself why she entered the entertainment industry in the first place.

Speaking to Time Out, she explained:

I go through acute imposter syndrome with every role. I think winning an Oscar may in fact have made it worse. Now I’ve achieved this, what am I going to do next? What do I strive for? Then I remember that I didn’t get into acting for the accolades, I got into it for the joy of telling stories.

If these experiences sound familiar, here are a few tips on overcoming this particular thought pattern.

  • Verbalise your concerns to someone you trust, so that they can help you separate your perception of the situation from the reality of the situation.
  • Make note of your many accomplishments, and refer to them before entering into a situation which may trigger a negative thought process.
  • Remember that everyone has moments of self-doubt, and no one is sailing through life, no matter how it might look.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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