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Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

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PsychNotes Index

More PsychNotes: Emotions

When You Feel Like a Fraud
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

happy mask, uncertain mask
Many successful people have nagging doubts about their success:

“What if people really knew how insecure I am?”

“Will people see through my mask?”

“I've just been lucky—other people will soon see I'm not that talented.”

“I'm just a phony—people will think I'm deceiving them.”

“I'm not as successful as people think because I don't feel like a success.”

The problem with such thoughts is the underlying assumption that a person can “act” successful without “being” successful. This assumption is another example of emotional reasoning which is the belief that if you feel something it must be true. In this case, the person makes an assumption that because they feel like a fraud they must be a fraud. However, just because you feel something doesn't make it accurate. You need to examine emotions to determine their accuracy.

And if you really examine this assumption, how can it be possible? Success is the outcome of behavior. It is not a feeling—it is a tangible, observable outcome. So how can success be faked? It can't. It is possible to fake failure but not possible to fake success because you have to engage in the behaviors that create a successful outcome.

So if you have these types of doubts, you can change them:

“Insecurity is not a measure of success. What I do determines success, not how I feel.”

“If I act successful and I succeed, it is not an act. I am truly successful.”

“It's not luck, it is my hard work. As Thomas Edison said, 'Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.'”

"It is not possible to achieve what I have and be a fraud."

“I must be pretty good because I have all these negative thoughts and I do it anyway—and I'm succeeding!”

curved line