Fraudulence to Fortune: The Hidden Force of Imposter Syndrome

Do you often feel inadequate, like a fraud, experience self-doubt, are dubious of your accomplishments, or fear failure?
What imposter thoughts do you experience? 
Do you have an inner critic that holds you back?

Imposter Syndrome evokes a haunting feeling that achievements are undeserved and that we are imposters in our roles. Sadly, it is a common experience that diminishes self-esteem and amplifies feelings of inadequacy. But what if we can flip this narrative from fraudulence to fortune?  In the blog, Fraudulence to Fortune: The Hidden Force of Imposter Syndrome, we will reveal the eight common traits described by Lisa Orbé-Austin, Ph.D.  and a more balanced way of viewing Imposter Syndrome with the five advantages and benefits according to Basima A. Tewfik from MIT.  

In her book “Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life” (Ulysses Press, 2020), Lisa Orbé-Austin, Ph.D., describes 8 common traits of Imposter Syndrome:

What are 8 common traits?

  1. Denial of Ability: Attributing success to luck, mistakes, overwork, or relationships.
  2. Discounting Praise: Feeling fear and guilt about receiving compliments.
  3. Fear of Failure: Dreading failure, mistakes, errors, and risk of exposure as a fraud.
  4. Perfectionism: Setting unrealistic high standards and fearing imperfections and flaws. 
  5. Idealizing and Overestimating Others: Believing others are more capable and talented. 
  6. Difficulty Internalizing SuccessStruggling to embrace and embody achievements.
  7. Overworking or Self-Sabotage: Using excessive work to cover feelings of inadequacy.
  8. Downplaying Success: Diminishing or discounting accomplishments. Attributing Accomplishments to External Factors

Fraudulence to Fortune: The Hidden Force of Imposter Syndrome

However, the research conducted by Basima A. Tewfik at MIT highlights a more balanced way of viewing Imposter Syndrome in that it can have advantages. Individuals with imposter thoughts tend to adopt a more other-focused orientation in their social interactions, making them more interpersonally effective.


These benefits include increased interpersonal and people skills, empathy, better listeners, more engaging questions, and seeking relevant information and motivation to bring out the best work. 


Fortunes: Five Advantages and Benefits of Imposter Syndrome


1. Motivation and Drive to Bring Out the Best Work

The fear of being exposed as an imposter can be a catalyst for motivation to work harder and excel in tasks.  This drive leads to a dedication to producing high-quality work and seeking professional development.  This innate quest can inspire individuals to learn, grow, strengthen, and improve their skills.


2. Empathy

Going through imposter syndrome can make individuals more empathetic toward others experiencing similar self-doubt or inadequacy. They often offer support and understanding to their colleagues and friends facing challenges or self-esteem issues.


3. Active Listeners

Those experiencing imposter syndrome often seek external validation and feedback to alleviate their uncertainties. Consequently, they become more attentive listeners, paying close heed to others’ feedback, ideas, and perspectives.


4. Proactive Inquiry and Engaging Questions

To map the gap between perceived knowledge or skills, imposters may ask more engaging, curious, and insightful questions, actively seeking clarification—this eagerness to learn and grow leads to enriching conversations.


5. Humility and Openness to Learning


Embracing imposter thoughts fosters humility, as individuals recognize that they don’t know everything. This humility leads to a willingness to learn from others, accept constructive feedback, and embody a growth-learner mindset. Typically, individuals are more willing to recognize a skill or knowledge deficit and are motivated to close the gap through personal and professional development endeavors, like coaching.



Individuals can harness its surprising advantages by flipping and reframing the narrative of Imposter Syndrome from Fraudulence to Fortune.

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Source/Recommended Reading

Orbé-Austin, Lisa. Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life. Ulysses Press, 2020.

Tewfik, B. A. (2022). The Impostor Phenomenon Revisited: Examining the Relationship between Workplace Impostor Thoughts and Interpersonal Effectiveness at Work. Academy of Management Journal, 65(3).

Impostor Syndrome Has Its Advantages

Harvard Business Review


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