25 Stars Who Suffer from Imposter Syndrome
Stars, they're just like us.
While they may be dressed to the nines and live downright glamorous lives, deep down, celebrities feel the same pressures that we all do. From doubting their own talent to feeling uninformed about politics, many famous stars have struggled to build self-confidence at one point or another in their careers and personal lives. Despite their vast and impressive achievements, they've suffered from imposter syndrome: the fear of ultimately being revealed as a fraud.
Turns out, no one is safe from feeling inadequate now and again. And plenty of stars, from Tina Fey and Meryl Streep to Ryan Reynolds and Tom Hanks, have spoken out on the matter. Below, 25 celebrities sound off on their perceived shortcomings.
"Over the years, the stakes have become higher for me. Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud,’" Winslet told The Mirror in 2009, adding, “What people really think of me is something I remain blissfully unaware of most of the time. I love acting and all I ever try to do is my best. But even now I always dread those emotional scenes. I’m there thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m rubbish and everyone is going to see it. They’ve cast the wrong person.’ But I have come to realize that those nerves are all part of the process for me.”
“Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999,” Portman said in her 2015 Harvard commencement speech. “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”
“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved,’” Watson told Rookie magazine in 2013.
"I go through [acute imposter syndrome] with every role," Nyong'o told Time Out in 2016. "I think winning an Oscar may in fact have made it worse. Now I’ve achieved this, what am I going to do next? What do I strive for? Then I remember that I didn’t get into acting for the accolades, I got into it for the joy of telling stories.”
"I went to a lot of events this year because of Deadpool, so you get into the tux and try and look like a grown-up,” Reynolds told Men’s Health in August. “But to be honest, I still feel like a freckle-faced kid, faking it until I make it."
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Foster said she thought winning an Oscar was "a fluke" similar to her first day of college. "[It was] the same way when I walked on the campus at Yale. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, 'Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.' "
"You think, 'Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?' " Streep told Ken Burns in a 2002 interview for USA Weekend.
“I’m a harsh critic of myself,” Adams told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “I see when I stopped needing to be perfect. I stopped carrying the weight of criticism. I really was so tired of giving a [expletive] cause I just gave so many all the time.”
"I have this constant fear that I’m a fraud and that I’m going to be found out," Pfeiffer told Interview magazine in 2017. "It’s true. I just got this e-mail from Steve Kloves who wrote and directed The Fabulous Baker Boys , and he said, “How’s it going on Murder on the Orient Express?” which I just finished with Kenneth Branagh. And I said, “Oh, you know me. I feel like I’m ruining his movie.” Because the first week into shooting Baker Boys, I said the same thing to Steve: “I think I’m doing a terrible job in this ... I think that’s because I started working fairly quickly and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have any formal training. I didn’t come from Juilliard. I was just getting by and learning in front of the world. So I’ve always had this feeling that one day they’re going to find out that I’m really a fraud, that I really don’t know what I’m doing."
“Ah, the impostor syndrome!? The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: 'I'm a fraud! Oh god, they're on to me! I'm a fraud!’” Fey told The Independent in 2010. “So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud. Seriously, I've just realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”
"I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need for me to be," she said in the 2011 HBO concert documentary Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden.
"No matter what we've done, there comes a point where you think, 'How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?'" Hanks said on the podcast Fresh Air in 2016.
"It's always a little scary," Zellweger told E! News of returning to set for Bridget Jones's Baby in 2016. "You know, Imposter Syndrome—[you're] certain that this is the time you're going to be figured out. This is the time you're going to get fired, for sure. They're going to know this time."
"I'm very insecure about my voice," Lopez said during an interview on Good Morning Britain in 2015. "After being told for so many years that you're not as good as this person or that person, it beats away on your insecurities ... I always wanted to be a singer and a dancer but when they start dissecting you like that, it does work away at your insecurities. You know? I'm like, 'Wow, I thought I was good at this.' It does get to you. I'm only human."
Tracee Ellis Ross
“I remember when I was dropped by my agents early, early on in my career," Tracee Ellis Ross told Vibe in 2015. "They said I didn’t pop when I walked into a room. At the time, maybe I didn’t pop when I walked into a room or maybe I didn’t know who I was but it was one of those moments in my life and in my career where I remember crying to my sister and thinking, ‘I don’t know that I can do this as a career. This is too hard.’ And if [doing this] means that people get to make a comment on who I am, I took it very personally and it was the beginning of a lot of growth of me. A lot of what people think of me is none of my business. It kinda doesn’t matter to me. I get to follow my own bliss. I unconsciously set a really clear intention of what I wanted my job and career to be. It was the beginning of who I wanted to be and I made the choice in that moment that I was only going to continue doing acting if it was fun. It has done that.”
“When you do everything you can to make people happy with your work but there are still people who aren’t happy, you start to think, ‘Well, I’ve worked my a— off. I’ve done everything. I’ve pushed myself into the ground.’ You just feel like you’re constantly disappointing others, and there’s this moment when you’re like, ‘Wait, what am I trying to do? Who am I doing this for?’ " Delevingne wrote in an essay for Motto in 2016. "Over time, I came to realize that work and getting others’ approval isn’t the most important thing. Yes, your career is very important—but it’s not the most important. Of course I was proud of my accomplishments, but I wasn’t genuinely happy.”
“You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, 'I made it!'” Poehler writes in her 2015 book, Yes Please. You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other."
"In a lot of ways, I’m quite proud that I’m still getting jobs," Pattinson told The Observer in 2015. "Because of falling into a job, you always feel like you’re a fraud, that you’re going to be thrown out at any second."
“I feel every time I’m making a movie, I feel like [it’s] my first movie," Cruz said during an interview with CBS in 2009. "Every time I have the same fear that I’m gonna be fired. And I’m not joking. Every movie, the first week, I always feel that they could fire me!”
“I feel like a tourist in Hollywood," Schumer said during her speech at Elle's Women in Hollywood event in 2015. "The truth is, I make a lot of jokes about myself, and I have the same moments where I lose all self-esteem and cannot believe anyone has managed to get an erection at my expense ... [I've] thought, Why is Hollywood playing this big trick on me? When are they going to realize that I’m disgusting and that I have no right to be in a movie and that I should be doing the Funny Bone and begging for half-off wings, which I’d been doing for ten years, happily?"
"It's OK for me to say 'I don’t know,' " Dunham said during an "Ask Lena" talk at the 2014 Chicago Humanities Festival. I think a lot of people and young women have that strong sense of imposter syndrome and, as young women, you feel like you haven’t paid your due or you aren’t in a position to assert yourself or express yourself. And so, I spent a lot of time being afraid that I would falter and pretending that I knew things that I didn’t. Now, I'm just getting to a comfortable place of saying, 'I don’t know and that’s OK because there are other things I do know.’ So, that’s one that stuck with me.”
“I always think I’m going to get fired," Chastain told E! News in 2012. "Everyone keeps telling me you get fired from at least one set in your life, and I haven’t been fired yet. I’ve been fired on little things, but nothing big. So now every time I’m on a set, I’m like, ‘This could be the one.’”
“We follow U.S. politics quite closely in Canada," Bee told Mother Jones in 2016. "It was definitely something I was interested and motivated to follow. It was a part of my life keeping up with international stuff and keeping up with what was happening in the United States. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t know anything about American history, really. [Laughs.] I mean, not in an immersive way. So in no way did I feel prepared for how it would be. It’s that impostor syndrome when you sit around thinking, ‘Why would they hire me? Oh my God, when are they going to figure out that I shouldn’t be here?’ I guess that they never figured it out. I got pretty lucky.”
"There were two Venus Williamses in our family—it was crazy," Williams told Oprah Winfrey about trying to be her older sister when she was a child. "[At restaurants] my parents would make me order first, but once she ordered, I’d change my mind. It was tough for me to stop being Venus and become the person I am ... One day I just said to myself, I'm not Venus. I'm Serena ... I still copy Venus in many ways, but it's not as bad. I sound like I've been through some kind of 12-step program."
"On the first season of Top Chef, I suffered from … impostor syndrome," Lakshmi said at Cherry Bombe’s Jubilee Conference in 2015. "I didn’t have [restaurant cooking experience] … I thought, I’ll just be a really good host. Somewhere along there, and he probably doesn’t even know it and we’re friends, I heard Éric Ripert say to another chef, 'No, Padma has a really sensitive palate, like one of the most sensitive palates of anyone I’ve ever met.' I held on to that. Any time I felt insecure or insufficient—which I did a lot on that set—all I had to do was rely on what I did know rather than what I didn’t know."