Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis says she struggles with 'impostor syndrome'

The Oscar-winning actress shared how sometimes she felt she was not good enough.

ByABC News
February 28, 2017, 7:56 AM

— -- Oscar winner Viola Davis, who has also won an Emmy award and a Tony award, told ABC News' Amy Robach that she sometimes feels like she has "impostor syndrome."

"It feels like my hard work has paid off, but at the same time I still have the impostor, you know, syndrome," Davis said in an interview with ABC News backstage at this year's Academy Awards. "I still feel like I'm going to wake up and everybody's going to see me for the hack I am.

"I still feel like when I walk on the set, I'm starting from scratch, until I realize, 'OK, I do know what I'm doing, I'm human,'" Davis added.

The "impostor phenomenon," often referred to as "impostor syndrome," is a term psychologists use to describe when people feel their achievements are undeserved or worry they may be exposed as a fraud, according to a study on the phenomenon published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.

An estimated 70 percent of people will experience at least one episode of impostor phenomenon in their lives, according to the same study.

The syndrome was initially believed to affect only professional women, but research has revealed that people of both genders and from a wide range of backgrounds can suffer from it.

Another study, published in the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, suggested that certain ethnic or minority groups, including Asian Americans, may be more likely to feel like an "impostor."

Actress Emma Watson spoke out about "impostor syndrome" in an interview with Vogue UK in 2015. "When I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable," the actress told the magazine. "I tend to turn in on myself, I feel like an impostor."

Davis told Robach that she is beginning to find peace, taking pride in her work and realizing that "self-deprecation is not the answer to humility."

"I know I'm not the best but I'm proud of myself," Davis said. "This is the first year I've allowed myself just a little bit, to see that, to realize that, self-deprecation is not the answer to humility.

"Sometimes you can say, I deserve it, that I'm proud of myself, and move on," Davis said.

Individuals like Davis who suffer from "impostor syndrome" may suffer from symptoms including depression, despair and anxiety, according to Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist.

"Remember when you feel like you’re going to get caught then you’re always looking behind your shoulder," Taylor said today on "Good Morning America." "You may be isolated so there’s this sense of nervousness and anxiety."

Taylor recommends using self-management tools in order to overcome self-doubt. One tip is to replace the negative voice in your head with the chorus of "yes I can."

"Never allow other people to validate you," Taylor said. "We should feel like if I’m there it’s because I ought to be."

Taylor also said to be mindful and to "claim that space" and "show up."

"When you notice that you’re nervous or anxious, take a deep breath and take in the moment and root yourself in reframing negative to positive," she said.

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