Reading lists

Best books to help you deal with imposter syndrome

If you’re struggling with self-doubt or fighting off your critical inner voice, these books might help.

Illustration: Nathalie Lees / Penguin

It is a rare – and fortunate – person who hasn’t felt the cold grip of panic that they are quite inexplicably out of their depth, whether that’s in the workplace or a swimming pool. ‘Imposter syndrome’ has become common parlance over the past decade, particularly with, but not unique to, the millennial condition.

In fact, it was first defined in 1978, by the psychologists Pauline Rose Clane and Suzanne Imes. They argued that women were unique in being affected by imposter syndrome, though more recent studies have shown that all sorts of people are capable of experiencing the tell-tale signs of feeling inadequate or like they might be found out at any moment: imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent among high achievers, creative people and students, which means that authors are all too familiar with it. In fact, renowned novelist Maya Angelou may have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize (and earned 50 honorary degrees), but it didn’t mean her immediate reaction to filing another manuscript wasn't, as she once said: “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody.” 

Our book list below aims to tackle the different ways imposter syndrome manifests itself, so read on for the ultimate fiction and non-fiction guide for surviving it.  

Books by successful women on dealing with imposter syndrome

Books on how to build confidence

Best memoirs to read on overcoming imposter syndrome

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