18 Famous “Imposters”

The Imposter Syndrome is the belief shared by many successful people that they are not really capable of doing the job they are in, and they feel like a fraud and are thus afraid they will be found to be an “imposter.”

One study found that 84% of executives have this unconscious view of themselves… after coaching thousands of managers over the past 30 years, we would say that it is closer to 100%. Including each of us.

And if you find yourself feeling like an imposter, you’re not alone…. Millions of people have similar feelings.

Don’t take our word for it. Here are some insights from 18 famous people who’ve acknowledged they have had, or still do, suffer from Impostor Syndrome. From Nobel Prize winning Albert Einstein to Serena Williams, this list will likely surprise you.

Albert Einstein

“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”

Maya Angelou

Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou often felt like a fraud, "I have written 11 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.'"

Michelle Obama

“I still have a little impostor syndrome… It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”

Howard Schultz

The famous CEO of Starbucks said, “Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.”

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, Harvard grad and Facebook COO, wrote in her book Lean In: “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.”

Dr. Margaret Chan

Dr. Margaret Chan, ranked by Forbes as the 13th most powerful woman in the world, 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.”

Natalie Portman

Academy Award winning actress Natalie Portman, who graduated from Harvard, said in her 2015 Harvard commencement speech, “Today, I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999. 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.”

Tom Hanks

"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?'”

Arianna Huffington

“I’d been obsessed with going to Cambridge even before I’d learned English, and my mother had somehow helped make it happen from our one-bedroom apartment in Athens. I felt like there I finally was, but the min