depressed business man

Sales are up. You just landed a big investor. And instead of giving yourself a pat on the back, you feel like you don’t deserve all this success. If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re not alone. Even startup rock stars like Luke Kanies suffers from what’s called the imposter syndrome.

Kanies is CEO of the tech firm Puppet Labs, which has raised more than $84 million and more than doubled its employees since 2005. And even he wrestles with the syndrome.

“In nearly all of my career as CEO, I’ve had a high correlation of doing very well and feeling like I’m doing poorly. I had just closed the largest funding ever [with good revenue, big clients and partnerships] and I was in the doldrums,” he said in this article from Business Insider.

You deserve your accomplishments

This article on describes impostor syndrome as “a psychological phenomenon where people feel like they don’t deserve their accomplishments. Internally they feel like a fraud, or they worry that one day someone will find out that they are not good enough,” writes Vanessa Van Edwards, a lead investigator at the research lab Science of People.

Entrepreneurs are one of the largest groups to wrestle with feelings of worth, achievement and self-esteem, Van Edwards writes.

Studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another, according to Van Edwards. She adds that many successful people have admitted to having bouts of impostor syndrome, including Sheryl Sandberg, Meryl Streep, Tina Fey, and Denzel Washington.

But despite the prevalence of “imposter syndrome,” few talk about it, making people feel even more alone.

Advice for eliminating imposter syndrome

Feeling like we don’t deserve our success can lead to depression, inadequacy, difficulty in relationships, and low self-esteem, Van Edwards writes. Here’s her advice for eliminating your imposter syndrome.

  • Recognize the signs. Do you ever feel that you don’t deserve your achievements? Do you ever worry that people will find out you are secretly not worthy? After a success, have you dismissed it as luck or timing? Do you think you have tricked others into thinking you are more successful than you actually are? Do you think others over-value your success?
  • Understand that imposter syndrome is not a defect. It’s a reaction to certain situations and it can be controlled and addressed.
  • Tame it. Get in the habit of hearing your self-doubts. If you hear yourself say, “I don’t deserve this,” or “It was just luck,” pause and note that you are having impostor syndrome thoughts.
  • Keep reminders of success handy: Emails, letters, pictures or even calling a friend.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write down what you are grateful for.

You’re not alone

For Kanies, it’s important for people facing imposter syndrome to realize that this feeling is common.

“Everyone thinks they suck at their job. Everyone has Impostor Syndrome. Humility is one of things we hire pretty effectively for here. That encourages Impostor Syndrome,” he told Business Insider.

But at Puppet Labs, employees don’t have to face imposter syndrome alone.

“Nearly everyone around you goes … ‘you too?’ Literally, part of our onboarding is, ‘Here’s how to learn about Impostor Syndrome and here’s how to help manage it.”