Robin Pollock Daniel, the highest-ranked female Scrabble player in the world in 2006, once told psychologist and author Susan Pinker “I care a lot about winning…that’s what distinguishes me from a lot of women. I hate to lose…still, I go into every game and there’s a small female voice that says, You don’t belong here. You’re fraudulent.” She went on to add, “it’s the female thing.” Although the phenomenon is by no means strictly experienced by women, it was initially noticed by women, about women, back in 1978.
The imposter syndrome was first documented by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in a study of 150 highly successful professional women in various fields. “Despite accolades, rank, and salary, these women felt like phonies,” they concluded. “They didn’t believe in their own accomplishments; they felt they were scamming everyone about their skills.”
You may have experienced these feelings of fraudulence at some point in your life. Most of us have.
1. Meryl Streep
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In a now-famous interview with filmmaker Ken Burns, the actress confessed she is plagued with self-doubt at the beginning of any new project. “You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?” Oh, keep in mind that she is the most Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated actor in history.
2. Emma Watson
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The Harry Potter star skyrocketed to fame when she was 14, but that hasn’t made her any more comfortable with it over a decade later. “Now when I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself. I feel like an imposter,” she admits in a 2015 interview with Vogue UK. In that same interview, she described how her role as a U.N. Women goodwill ambassador helped combat this feeling, acting as an outlet providing purpose and “a sense of peace.”
3. Maya Angelou
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Internationally acclaimed writer, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'” ELEVEN BOOKS.
4. Kate Winslet
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The incredibly talented Academy Award winner once told Interview magazine, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me.”
5. Tina Fey
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Producer, actress, writer, comic, Tina Fey once gave author Valerie Young a fairly accurate description of the wildly fluctuating proverbial other side of the imposter syndrome coin— “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.” She then went on to add, “I’ve realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”
6. Jodie Foster
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In a 1999 interview with 60 Minutes, the Academy Award winner said she thought her Oscar win for The Accused was some sort of mistake. “I thought it was a big fluke. The same way when I walked on the campus at Yale, I thought everybody would find out, and then they’d take the Oscar back.” She went on to win her second Oscar for her next screen role as Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs.
7. Natalie Portman
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The actress and Harvard alumni recalled in last year’s Harvard Commencement Speech how she didn’t think she was smart enough to go to the university. “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”
8. Renee Zellweger
Getty Images – Mike Windle
Academy Award winner Renee Zellweger is returning to the big screen after a six-year hiatus from acting, and she’s only recently opened up about how scary that transition is. “I have imposter syndrome. Every day I’d be certain that this is the time you’re going to be figured out. This is the time you’re going to get fired, for sure. They’re going to know this time.” It probably doesn’t help that all these idiots are ragging about her physical appearance. Shut up, idiots.
9. Michelle Pfeiffer
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The actress was once quoted as saying, “I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m really not very good. It’s all been a big sham.” Lady, have you even watched Scarface?
10. Dr. Margaret Chan
Getty Images – Larry Busacca
World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan once said, “There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.” A woman who single-handedly helped contain the Bird Flu epidemic thinks she’s not expert enough to do her job.
11. Diablo Cody
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The screenwriter achieved enormous success with her first screenplay (Juno) and has publicly spoken about how her achievements- even six years later- did absolutely nothing to help squash her feelings of fraudulence. “Oh my God, it’s worse than ever!” she said in a 2013 interview with Vulture. “The only thing that makes me feel better is the realization that I’m surrounded by lots of other imposters.”