Their findings have veered well away from the original conception of impostorism as a reflection of an anxious personality or a cultural stereotype. Feelings of phoniness appear to alter people’s goals in unexpected ways and may also protect them against subconscious self-delusions.
In mild doses, feeling like a fraud also tempers the natural instinct to define one’s own competence in self-serving ways. Researchers have shown in careful studies that people tend to be poor judges of their own performance and often to overrate their abilities. Their opinions about how well they’ve done on a test, or at a job, or in a class are often way off others’ evaluations. They’re confident that they can detect liars (they can’t) and forecast grades (not so well).
At those times feeling like a fraud amounts to more than the stirrings of an anxious temperament or the desire to project a protective humility. It reflects a respect for the limits of one’s own abilities, and an intuition that only a true impostor would be afraid to ask for help.