Even the most accomplished people feel insecure.
But if you’re discounting your accomplishments or feeling as though you’re not good enough, you might be experiencing imposter syndrome, which can lower your confidence, reduce productivity, and negatively affect your mental health.
Learning more about this common condition can help you recognize your emotions and get back to feeling confident about your work. Imposter syndrome books are an excellent place to start.
This reading list includes self-help guides, workbooks, and memoirs that can help you learn how to get over imposter syndrome. Start understanding your feelings and developing strategies to help overcome your fear of success.
Are you suffering from imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome, or impostor syndrome, is a form of anxiety that makes it difficult to acknowledge accomplishments. You might feel like a fraud or like you don’t deserve the job or responsibilities you have, even if you worked hard for them.
Instead of recognizing your merit and skills, you see your success as a fluke — but these feelings come from fear and anxiety, not fact.
Common signs of imposter syndrome include:
Rumination over past mistakes
A lack of self-confidence
Fear of the future
Feelings of inadequacy
Professionally, imposter syndrome can manifest in some of the following ways:
Working long hours and taking on extra projects to compensate
Dismissing your accolades and compliments that come your way
Passing on a job opportunity because you don’t feel good enough
Being too hard on yourself after making a mistake
9 books to help you overcome imposter syndrome
Up to 82% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives, and without care and attention, it can be hard to beat. Reading books on the subject is a first step to getting over imposter syndrome. Learn how to recognize your accomplishments and acknowledge that you deserve the job you have.
1. The Impostor Phenomenon, by Pauline Rose Clance
Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Immes were the first to define imposter syndrome in the late 1970s. Clance’s three-part book begins by examining the nature of the phenomenon and discusses how and why people develop imposter syndrome.
Finally, she follows up with guidance to help you overcome fear and anxiety. More textbook than a self-help book, it does include several practical exercises to reinforce the lessons and establish a positive connection with your successes.
2. The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown
Brené Brown’s TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” discusses how compassion and empathy develop a better human connection, and it has over 60 million views on the TED website alone.
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown discusses how courage, vulnerability, and connection can help overcome shame while combating the stigma that so often accompanies imposter syndrome.
Each chapter includes learning points and exercises that help you develop self-compassion, which Brown explains is a key practice against imposter syndrome.
3. Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover
Tara Westover has crafted a poignant memoir charting her journey from an isolated homestead in Idaho to Cambridge University’s high-pressure environment. Self-educated until she decided to leave home, Westover felt isolated and feared her peers would discover who she really was and judge her for her past.
This book encourages college students in particular, though it has the potential to inspire all. It tells the real story of someone who felt like an imposter and overcame their doubt to eventually find success and a new home.
4. Own Your Greatness, by Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin and Dr. Richard Orbé-Austin
Psychologists and leadership consultants Lisa and Richard Orbé-Austin wrote this research-backed workbook to help you understand and overcome imposter syndrome. Packed with exercises, journal prompts, and activities, this workbook will help you get to the source of your issues and learn what your real strengths are. You’ll even learn how to accept a compliment gracefully.
5. Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
In this book, television showrunner and director Shonda Rhimes writes an account of her struggles with insecurity. Challenging herself to be brave and say yes to things that scare her for one year, she confronted her feelings of self-doubt and proved them wrong.
Rhimes reminds you that even the most effective leaders can struggle with self-confidence and challenges readers to find validation within themselves.
6. The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, by Valerie Young
Imposter syndrome threatened to derail Valerie Young’s career. Instead of surrendering those feelings, she decided to study them and determine why feelings of fraudulence plague intelligent, capable people, particularly high-achieving women. A leading expert in imposter syndrome literature, Young combines analysis, advice, and anecdotes to help you quiet your inner critic.
7. The Imposter Cure, by Jessamy Hibberd
It takes ongoing work to overcome imposter syndrome, and this book leads the way. Psychologist Jessamy Hibberd explains how to break out of a fixed mindset and think differently about yourself. Case studies bring the concepts to life and provide concrete examples to help you develop coping strategies and tactics so you can embrace your success.
8. The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, by Seth Godin
Written with creatives in mind, marketing leader Seth Godin tackles the obsession with outcome instead of process, which can contribute to imposter syndrome. He suggests that creators focus on incremental improvement to drive artistic endeavors and emotional growth.
Godin also suggests that imposter syndrome is a sign that you’re doing important work, and that you can actually use those feelings to improve your process. The Practice may be the book for you if you want to recruit your inner critic to help you succeed instead of working against it.
9. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David D. Burns
Feeling Good illustrates the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques you can use to overcome the negative feelings that imposter syndrome brings. You’ll learn how to recognize and stop the automatic thoughts that lead you to dismiss your achievements. You’ll shift your mindset and develop the mental clarity you need to improve your self-esteem.
4 imposter syndrome books for entrepreneurs
Launching a business and putting your ideas out there requires confidence. But studies show that at least 84% of entrepreneurs suffer from imposter syndrome. As an entrepreneur, a certain amount of self-analysis and doubt can push you to work harder, which can be a good thing. But too much can lead to self-sabotage.
Curiosity and a willingness to try new things are some of the most important characteristics of an entrepreneur, and imposter syndrome can keep you from that openness. Here are four entrepreneur-specific books to help you become a better leader and make effective decisions.
1. The Middle Finger Project, by Ash Ambirge
In this book, entrepreneur Ash Ambridge delivers the pep talk you need to move on from imposter syndrome. With a witty (and occasionally explicit) writing style, The Middle Finger Project delivers practical advice on self-reliance, confidence, and authenticity to become a force in the workplace.
2. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
Around 75% of executive women have experienced imposter syndrome, and 74% doubt that men feel the same way. Cheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In tackles this phenomenon with an exploration of gender-specific imposter syndrome.
Her bestseller is brimming with real-life examples, encouraging you to lean into the opportunities and experiences that will help you excel as a leader. You’ll be able to draw inspiration from Sandberg’s story and find reassurance that even the most powerful people fake it until they make it.
3. The Impostor Syndrome, by Harold Hillman
Harold Hillman’s The Impostor Syndrome is a guide for anyone who wants to become a more confident leader. Discover how vulnerability can help reduce leadership anxiety and let you embrace your authentic self in the workplace. Filled with exercises and case studies, this self-help workbook will help you recognize and harness your best qualities.
4. The Diversity Advantage, by Ruchika Tulshyan
Imposter syndrome might seem like an individual phenomenon. Ruchika Tulshyan flips the switch and takes a different view by asking how business leaders can reduce imposter syndrome at an organizational level.
Other ways to combat imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome involves deep-seated feelings. Although reading a few books can help, developing self-confidence takes time and effort. Here are a few more things you can do to adjust your mindset and beat imposter syndrome:
Get the bigger picture: Sit down and make a list of your concrete accomplishments. You might be surprised at how much you’ve actually achieved and contributed to your company or organization. Use this list to remind yourself of the truth: that you’re a valuable, skilled person.
Use affirmations: Affirmations for imposter syndrome can help reassure your accomplishments. Find some that match your feelings and take a few minutes out of your day to repeat them. Remind yourself that you’re worthy of success, you work hard, and your mistakes don’t define you.
Be kind: Let perfectionism give way to self-compassion when you mess up or fail. Instead of allowing these negative experiences to reinforce your imposter syndrome, be mindful of how you’ve grown and how you can use this knowledge in the future.
You’re exactly where you need to be
Overcoming imposter syndrome might seem like an impossible task, but if you put in the work, it’s closer than you think. These imposter syndrome books can help you take the first step to improve your self-esteem, finding your strengths, and getting ready to achieve even more.