Understand Yourself: Feeling like a fraud?

You probably know quite a bit about what it’s like to feel-like-a-fraud ; after all you’re reading about it hoping maybe, that you will get some relief from knowing that you are not the only one who feels this way and maybe trying to figure out some ways to just “stop it”.

Feeling-like-a-fraud  is a shared sentiment amongst most people. We all, at one point or another, feel like we’re not really all that we are trying to portray. As if the person that you are out there in the world is a much better, smarter, funnier, prettier, etc version of who you believe you are at the core. Sure, the opposite is true as well for some, who you show the world you are does not do real justice to who you truly are or believe you are. This however is a topic I will cover at a different time since the feelings ensued from such a situation are nowhere near fraud-like feelings and more about feeling misunderstood.

Feeling-like-a-fraud involves a deep sense of guilt associated with it. We feel like a fraud because we believe ourselves to be much less than we are portraying, undeserving of our lives and the positive things that happen to us.

For the longest time up until my mid 20’s I was convinced that I was a fraud by telling myself that I am not really a smart person, rather someone who tricks people into believing that she is smart. I thought these things because at my core, I felt and believed that I was not the brightest person around. As a result of my beliefs, I would explain my successes and accomplishments as “tricks” (really, that’s what I called it): creative ways to shape people’s perception of who I wanted to be. As a way of further feeding into this belief, I also convinced myself –without even realizing- that I had the “power” to effect all this change in others (tricking them).

I remember talking to my shrink about it at the time and telling her my whole “scheme” and admitting to myself in front of her that everything is just a sham. How my therapist responded shocked me; she said “You would really need to be smart to trick your professors and all the adults in your life to believe that you are smart, when in fact you say you aren’t”. Eventually, I realized that I might not be as intellectually challenged as I thought I was, after all. It was a hard to come to terms with kind of realization because I had to reconsider all of what that meant.


  • All the negative and sometimes traumatic experiences that led me to that belief in the first place
  • having to sift through I believed versus what others told me to believe.
  • I had to look at my childhood –which is never all that easy to do- and find hard evidence to prove to myself that my belief was just that rather than something based in reality.
  • This soul searching phase of my life also gave me a lot of perspective about how I view the world, my place in it, my relationships, and more.

I have worked through most of my feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety that feeling-like-a-fraud entails, and there are times when I still experience it. It creeps up at times when I feel vulnerable and insecure and have come to accept this fleeting emotion as it comes and goes; I don’t push it away, rather let it do its’ thing while I focus on my emotions behind feeling-like-a-fraud . Doing so helps me maintain perspective over the entire situation, over my abilities and confidence, over my life; it puts me in control.

Feeling-like-a-fraud  is common and most people are able to work through it on their own, however, there are more complex situations that will require the unbiased attention of a good depth psychotherapist. If this is you, make sure to ask for help. Places like Psychology Today or Theravive offer listings of therapists in your area. If you are in Denver ask me for a referral to one of the many wonderful Denver therapists or alternatively you can see me.