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10 Successful Leaders with Impostor Syndrome and How to Overcome It

  • 18th Jun'21

Impostor syndrome can't be whisked away by the click of a button or a skim through of a column. I came to realize that it's also not binary- it's a spectrum - Jonna Chen '23. 

A feeling of deceit, inadequacy and consistent disbelief in the efforts towards success earned by high achievers describes Impostor Syndrome. It has nothing to do with a person's physicality; instead, it attacks mental well-being. As you move on in life with your successful endeavors, scoring, achieving your targets, and meeting your goals repeatedly, you face the same question. 

Is this my luck? 

Could I have done better? 

I am a lie; I don't deserve the success that's awarded to me! 

As a result of these nagging thoughts of self-doubt, Impostors can get into serious mental health issues. Procrastination, detachment, frustration, stress, being reserved are some of the evils that get dragged along when the Impostor syndrome gets bigger in you. But, it is not only you who is fighting this vice. Impostor Syndrome is real. In the world of judgment and competition, research reveals that about 70% of people experience it. 

Can't believe it? Let's look at some of the successful leaders with Impostor Syndrome and the measures they took to work around it.


High Achievers with Impostor Syndrome


Mikaela Kiner (Reverb CEO)

In the wake of her successful career, a journalist approached her for an interview; she questioned her accomplishments. As a result, she walked to meetings with feelings of inferiority.

Her advice to manage better even with the syndrome includes no ignorance of the problem, constant self-motivation, maintaining a journal to jot down negative feelings, confiding in someone, and accepting help.


Kim Perell (Author, CEO, and Angel Investor)

An attractive personality, Kim too doubted her capabilities as she started her own company. The risks associated with and the constant bickering of people around made her feel what if she can't get through it?

She talks about the ways to fight impostor syndrome and set focus on excellence. Working on relationships to see the good in you and others reduces self-doubt by knowing that emotions should not have the power to overtake our senses, and the proper focus on goals can also help keep the mind sane.


Natalie Portman (Actress)

She revealed how her success and the prestigious Oscar award made her check the authenticity of her achievements. She felt like a fraud every time.

Opposing what people think, feel or say about her did not let her conquer dreams and move ahead with confidence. She still feels insecure but reminds herself that it's not easy to impress all and the people who like it like it. Accepting yourself goes a long way, as per her.


Ricky Joshi (CEO of Saatva Company)

Well-versed in business and an icon for many, Ricky Joshi knew he was competent but still felt clueless at points. Impostor syndrome had hit him hard.

He worked through it with perseverance and belief. He kept his expectations realistic, asked for assistance when he was down, broke his work into minor parts, and accepted his mistakes as a part of the overcoming process.


David Metzler (CEO of CBD Capital Group)

Having tasted success young, he was an achiever in the group of high-level executives. That intimidated him.

However, he created an expert team and had a chat where he discussed every issue as it occurred. Brave, isn't it? He accepted the ways of taking the strength in his stride and working through his shortcomings. He believes, surround yourself with successful people who push you to never give up on yourself.


Emma Watson (Actress)

Even with all the fame and awards, she still feels undeserving.

However, putting in constant work, accentuating positivity, and saying no to inferior thoughts makes her address her feelings every time.


Mike Hondorp (CMO, Whalar)

A shift from a normal corporate job to a high-end job in Facebook, Mike met marketing heads of global giants and worked among the highly qualified lots. But, with his little experience, he thought he never deserved it at all.

He still fights negative thoughts and focuses more on preparation, being vulnerable, accepting his imperfections, and transforming his anxiety into motivation.


Michelle Obama (Former First Lady of US, Author, and Attorney)

Known to have inspired many females through her books and speeches, Michelle wasn't spared from the syndrome. She mentions how she feels she isn't worth being taken seriously with her meager point of view.

She makes it a point to speak more about it, as impostor syndrome affects your work. She focuses on creating more awareness in the crowd through constant work.


Mary Rinaldi (Cofounder, Simone)

Her reluctance to take up a wonderful job offer because she felt she isn't the correct part, and there were highly successful people around her who would get rid of her in no time.

She fights the syndrome by owning her problems, taking her time to understand what comforts her, and disciplines herself as she proceeds to her goals.


Lupita Nyong'o (Actress)

Awarded with the Oscar got into questioning herself what better she can do after that.

She put those thoughts aside and cleared her mind with the initial vision to tell stories and not be blinded by the recognitions and fame.



A clear mind, owning up to the problems, and accepting the broken self helped these achievers to manage their impostor syndromes. In addition, meditation and yoga can help you cure it and bring inner peace. So what is your takeaway?

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