Impostorism is Associated with Greater Psychological Distress and Lower Self-Esteem for African American Students

Bridgette J. Peteet, Carrie M. Brown, Quiera M. Lige, Danni A. Lanaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The impostor phenomenon (IP) is a feeling of incompetence and inadequacy despite evidence to the contrary. Feelings of impostorism are associated with poor psychological functioning, including psychological distress and low self-esteem. Though particularly salient in college students, samples of African American college students have rarely been studied. The present study seeks to address this gap by investigating impostorism’s associations with psychological distress and self-esteem in an African American college student sample. We hypothesized that higher impostorism predicts higher psychological distress, and that higher impostorism predicts lower self-esteem. One hundred and twelve participants completed online measures of impostorism, psychological distress, and self-esteem. Using simple linear regression analyses, the results supported both hypotheses – higher impostorism predicted higher psychological distress and higher impostorism predicted lower self-esteem. The findings may be useful for mental health professionals working with African American college students to decrease the impact of imposter feelings on self-esteem, psychological distress, and academic performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-163
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • African american
  • Impostor phenomenon
  • Psychological distress
  • Self-esteem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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