Conquering Impostor Syndrome As A CPA Exam Candidate


Have you ever had the fear you’d be “found out” as a fraud?

If you have ever had the fear that you are not as smart or talented as other people think you are, then you are certainly not alone. Despite being highly motivated to achieve, some have feelings of phoniness and not being competent regardless of a successful track record. Because of this, many live in constant fear of being discovered as a “fraud”–also known as Impostor Syndrome. 

Those who experience Impostor Syndrome typically are unable to internalize and accept their success and attribute their accomplishments to external factors such as luck. The pressure to achieve can be especially felt when starting a new career when it is normal to wrestle with feelings such as self-doubt and inadequacy, such as passing the CPA Exam and obtaining licensure. 

If you’ve ever felt this way, especially as you’re studying for the CPA Exam, you’re not alone.

This phenomenon is so common, in fact, that the term “Impostor Syndrome” was coined in 1978 by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. When this phenomenon was first uncovered, Clance and Imes thought it was unique to women. However, research since then has shown that men are susceptible to Impostor Syndrome as well. Even though this is not an official diagnosis in the DSM, many psychological professionals recognize it as a very real condition. 

To illustrate how common it can be, researchers believe that up to 70 percent of people have suffered from Impostor Syndrome at some point. This includes famous, high-achieving people like Kate Winslet, Tina Fey, Chris Martin, Jodie Foster, Denzel Washington, Maya Angelou and Don Cheadle. Excluding narcissists and absolutely crazy people, no one is immune from the nagging self-doubt that can come from Impostor Syndrome. 

Strategies to Overcome Impostor Feelings

Experiencing fears of inadequacy is a normal part of success. One of the worst consequences of succumbing to this complex is not having the courage to take on new challenges. Rather than be stuck in fear, recognize that it is normal to feel insecure when you’re embarking on a new endeavor, such as spending hours, weeks, and months to pass the CPA Exam.

Kirsten Weir, writing for the American Psychological Association, offers the following helpful tips to conquer self-doubt:

•    Talk to your mentors
•    Recognize your expertise
•    Remember what you do well
•    Realize no one is perfect
•    Change your thinking
•    Talk to someone who can help

Ease into self-acceptance as a new CPA

No one is born a CPA. We all need to study the intricacies of public accounting in order to find our success. Feelings of self-doubt will be eroded by experience, hard work, avoiding the urge to compare yourself to others, brushing off failures along the way, recognizing your value, and talking to close peers and mentors.

You’re working really hard to get your license, so never forget that your success was created by you! Don’t let the CPA Exam intimidate you. Don’t fall victim to Impostor Syndrome–you are smart, capable, ambitious, and motivated. Otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten to where you are today! Have confidence in yourself and what you’re doing, because anything is within your reach as long as you put your heart, mind, and body into it! 

–Shannon Neumeyer, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review 

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