Impostor syndrome: strategies to boost your self-confidence

by | Glossary, HR Knowledge

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Have you ever had the feeling of being an imposter of your own success? Then you are not alone. Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor syndrome, is a phenomenon that affects many people. It describes the state in which those affected doubt their own professional achievements and mistakenly see themselves as impostors who are not entitled to success. In this article, I would like to share with you some effective strategies for boosting self-confidence and overcoming Impostor Syndrome. Let’s find out together how you can free yourself from these self-doubts and develop your full potential.

Definition: Impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome, also known as imposter syndrome, impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological pattern in which people doubt their abilities, talents or achievements and have a constant internalized fear of being exposed as impostors. Despite external evidence of their competence, those affected do not believe that they have earned their success or happiness. They mistakenly attribute their achievements to factors such as the Matthew effect or the Dunning-Kruger effect, or feel that they are deceiving others because they are not as intelligent as they seem. Impostor syndrome can have a negative impact on personal relationships and prevent people from reaching their full potential in their chosen field.

The main features of impostor syndrome include

  • Doubts about your own abilities and the feeling of being a fraud, even though you are demonstrably competent.
  • Persistent fear of being exposed as an impostor.
  • Difficulties in internalizing achievements and attributing them to external factors.
  • Strained personal relationships and stunted professional growth.

It is important to note that impostor syndrome is different from the Dunning-Kruger effect. While the Dunning-Kruger effect involves overestimating one’s own abilities despite limited competence, the impostor syndrome involves underestimating one’s own abilities despite proven competence.

Am I an impostor?

Person with impostor syndrome

Are you affected by impostor syndrome or not? I have listed the most common signs and symptoms of impostor syndrome for you:

  • Extreme lack of self-confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Constant comparison with others
  • Fears
  • Self-doubt
  • Distrust of one’s own abilities
  • Difficulties in internalizing successes
  • Fear of being exposed as a fraudster
  • Dependence on external confirmation
  • Excessive demands on oneself and striving for overfulfillment
  • Self-sabotage before new attempts
  • Fear of not living up to your own and others’ expectations
  • Depression
  • high hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Inappropriate behavior

These symptoms can vary depending on a person’s experiences, circumstances, background and personality traits. Impostor syndrome can have a significant impact on personal and professional life, such as feeling inadequate in a relationship or as a partner, which can lead to ongoing relationship conflict. It can also manifest itself in the inability to accept personal praise or in being overwhelmed by demanding, often ambitious goals.

Practical examples of impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome is a widespread phenomenon that affects people of all ages and professions. It manifests itself in self-doubt and the persistent feeling of being a fraud, even though, objectively speaking, one’s own achievements and competencies are perfectly valid. Three practical examples are presented below that illustrate the impostor syndrome in professional life:

Example 1: The successful entrepreneur

A successful businesswoman who has founded her own company seems to be at the height of her success. Nevertheless, she struggles with constant self-doubt and the irrational fear that her employees could expose her as a fraud. Although she works hard to hide her insecurity, her lack of self-confidence affects her ability to make clear decisions and run her business effectively. Constant self-criticism and the feeling that they are not good enough prevent them from properly appreciating their own successes.

Example 2: The insecure young professional

A young man has just started his career as a lawyer, but instead of focusing on his strengths, he feels uncomfortable in his role and constantly doubts his abilities. Afraid of not being good enough to adequately represent his clients, he spends countless hours preparing for each case. Nevertheless, his self-doubt persists and affects his ability to perform confidently and do his job effectively. Impostor syndrome is a constant obstacle that prevents him from realizing his full potential.

Example 3: The doctor with many years of professional experience

A successful doctor who has worked in her profession for many years is valued by colleagues and patients alike. Despite her extensive knowledge and skills, she always has the feeling that she doesn’t know enough and is letting her patients down. She spends countless hours preparing intensively for each case, but the impostor syndrome makes her doubt her own abilities. The constant uncertainty undermines their self-confidence and prevents them from doing their work with the necessary certainty and confidence.

These practical examples show that impostor syndrome is not a question of professional success. It can affect people from any background and is a real challenge to overcome self-doubt and boost self-confidence. But there are strategies to counteract impostor syndrome and boost your own self-confidence.

Consequences of impostor syndrome

High-staff syndrome can not only put a strain on everyday working life, but can also have serious effects on health. Studies have shown that this syndrome can lead to an impairment of work performance and job satisfaction and at the same time increase the risk of burnout. It is also thought to be a potential trigger for anxiety disorders and depression. The feelings associated with impostor syndrome can lead to considerable suffering. In such cases, it may be advisable to seek professional help in the form of psychotherapy. Psychotherapeutic support can help to understand the causes of impostor syndrome and develop suitable coping strategies.

What impact can impostor syndrome have on a career?

Impostor syndrome can have a profound impact on careers and can significantly affect professional growth. I have listed some of them for you here.

Self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence:

Impostor syndrome can lead to constant self-doubt and to those affected feeling inadequate in their professional role. This can affect their self-confidence and prevent them from taking on new challenges or pursuing career opportunities.

Fear of failure and perfectionism:

The fear of being exposed as a fraud can lead people with impostor syndrome to set unrealistically high standards for themselves. They strive for perfection and avoid risks, which can limit their professional growth and hinder their ability to seize opportunities.

Undermining successes:

People with Impostor Syndrome often have difficulty recognizing their successes and attribute their success to external factors such as luck or timing. This can lead to them downplaying their achievements and feeling unworthy of praise or promotions.

Career stagnation:

The lack of self-confidence and the tendency to play down successes can lead to people with impostor syndrome remaining in their comfort zone and avoiding professional development. They may be reluctant to take on new responsibilities or seek challenging opportunities, which can lead to a stagnant career.

Increased stress and burnout:

The constant fear of being exposed as a fraud and the pressure to maintain a facade of competence can contribute to high levels of stress and burnout. Those affected may overwork themselves to compensate for their perceived inadequacy, which can lead to physical and mental exhaustion.

What are the causes of impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome can have various causes. People with low self-confidence may perceive themselves as frauds and believe that their successes are due to luck or chance. High expectations of themselves can also lead some people to see themselves as impostors if they feel that they cannot fulfill their own expectations. Another factor is growing up in an uneducated home. People who have had this experience can feel like imposters themselves, as they feel they do not have the same skills and knowledge as their colleagues. On the other hand, excessive support from parents can also lead to people seeing themselves as cheaters. They doubt their own success because they have the feeling that they have not achieved their achievements alone. Finally, personality also plays a role. Some people are more prone to insecurities and self-doubt than others due to their personality.

Distinguishing impostor syndrome from normal self-doubt

Impostor syndrome can be distinguished from normal self-doubt by paying attention to certain signs. Here are some distinguishing features:

  • Frequency: Self-doubt is normal and can occur occasionally, whereas Impostor Syndrome is a persistent pattern of self-doubt and insecurity. .
  • Effects: Self-doubt can lead to people being motivated to improve their skills, while Impostor Syndrome can lead to people withdrawing and not daring to take on new challenges.
  • Self-perception: People with normal self-doubt can realistically assess and recognize their achievements, while people with impostor syndrome often downplay their achievements and see themselves as frauds.
  • Excessive self-criticism: Individuals with Impostor Syndrome tend to criticize their own performance and self-sabotage, whereas individuals with normal self-doubt can realistically assess their performance and accept constructive criticism.

It is important to note that everyone’s experience is different and the distinction between normal self-doubt and impostor syndrome is not always clear.

Strategies against impostor syndrome

6 strategies against impostor syndrome
Strategies against impostor syndrome

Various strategies can be used to overcome the high-staff syndrome. These help to combat the negative self-image and self-doubt. Some tips and approaches that have been found to be effective in research and practice are presented below:

  1. Appreciation and acceptance: A supportive circle of friends and time with loved ones can be of great importance. By building up such a social network, you can experience support and encouragement. The appreciation and acceptance of friends and family can help to overcome impostor syndrome and boost self-confidence.
  2. Develop awareness: Awareness that Impostor Syndrome is common and that many people have similar feelings can help significantly. It is important to realize that you are not alone with your doubts and insecurities. Exchanges with other sufferers, whether in self-help groups or online communities, can help to deepen this awareness.
  3. Stay realistic: A realistic self-assessment and recognition of your own successes are important. People with Impostor Syndrome often tend to downplay their achievements or attribute them to external factors. It is important to realize that your skills and achievements are genuine and deserved.
  4. Appreciate small successes: Appreciating small successes and seeing them as confirmation of your own abilities can help. Impostor syndrome sufferers often only focus on big goals and neglect the small steps forward. Consciously noticing and appreciating small successes can boost self-confidence and remind you that you are capable of overcoming challenges.
  5. Positive view of failures: Looking at failures as learning opportunities and finding the positives in them can help. Instead of seeing failures as proof of your own inability, you can see them as an opportunity for personal development. Every setback offers the opportunity to learn from mistakes, improve and emerge stronger.
  6. Professional help: In some cases, it may be useful to seek professional therapeutic support in order to work on the causes of impostor syndrome in the long term. A qualified therapist can help to identify the underlying causes and develop suitable coping strategies. Professional support can boost self-confidence and help to overcome impostor syndrome in the long term.

These strategies against impostor syndrome can help to overcome the negative self-image and self-doubt. It is important to try out different approaches and find the ones that suit you best. By actively working to overcome impostor syndrome, you can achieve healthy self-confidence and a positive attitude towards your own abilities.

Conclusion: Defeat the Impostor and unleash your full potential

Impostor syndrome can affect us in many ways – it lowers our self-confidence, prevents us from reaching our full potential and can even hinder our career development. But there is hope. By addressing the effects of Impostor Syndrome and applying proven strategies, we can defeat the Impostor and free ourselves from the chains of self-doubt.

We have seen that appreciation and acceptance from a supportive social environment can make a big difference. By sharing with like-minded people and being aware that many people have similar experiences, we can feel empowered. A realistic self-assessment and the appreciation of small successes help us to strengthen our own self-confidence and free us from the idea of being an impostor.

Rethinking failure is also crucial. By viewing them as learning opportunities and seeing the positives in them, we can develop and grow personally. In some cases, it can be helpful to seek professional therapeutic support in order to delve deep into the roots of impostor syndrome and find long-term solutions.

The path to overcoming impostor syndrome requires time, patience and self-reflection. It is a journey in which we learn to accept ourselves and appreciate our own successes. By freeing ourselves from the shackles of Impostor Syndrome, we can develop our full potential and pursue our professional goals with confidence and authenticity. It is time to defeat the Impostor and recognize our true strength.

Books for managers and those who want to become one

You really do exist! Books that improve your leadership and delegation skills. In the course of my time as a founder and manager, I have read many books. Leadership books that helped me with my first steps and other books that helped me at an advanced stage. Here are my top 3 leadership books from which I still learn a lot today.

The boss I will never forget

A book about how to win the loyalty and respect of your employees.

Good bosses eat last

The book that every leader needs to know. One of the world’s best books on leadership.

Modern Leading

The practical handbook for managers – How to become an authentic and charismatic leader, inspire employees, lead teams and deliver results.

Frequently asked questions and answers about impostor syndrome

What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a phenomenon in which people, despite their successes and abilities, have the feeling that they are impostors and have not earned their success. They doubt themselves and are afraid of being exposed as impostors by others.

Is impostor syndrome a mental disorder?

Impostor syndrome is not considered a mental disorder in the strict sense, but rather a type of personality trait. However, it is widespread and affects around 70 percent of all people at least once in their lives.

How can I overcome impostor syndrome?

There are various strategies for boosting self-confidence and overcoming impostor syndrome. Here are some tips:
Self-knowledge: Recognize that you are not alone and that many successful people have similar doubts.
Set yourself realistic goals: Set achievable goals and celebrate your successes to boost your self-confidence.
Have positive self-talks: Replace negative self-doubt with positive self-talk and remind yourself of your successes and strengths.
Seek support: Talk to people you trust about your feelings and, if necessary, seek professional help, for example from a therapist.
Accept yourself: Accept that no one is perfect and that mistakes and setbacks are part of the learning process. .

How can impostor syndrome affect self-confidence in private life?

Impostor syndrome can also manifest itself in private life by feeling an aversion to oneself or one’s own body. It can lead to insecurity in interpersonal relationships and a feeling of inadequacy.

How can impostor syndrome affect professional life?

In professional life, impostor syndrome can lead to people not recognizing their own successes and living in constant fear of being exposed as an impostor. This can lead to stress, anxiety and even burnout.

How can I help others who suffer from impostor syndrome?

If you know someone who suffers from Impostor Syndrome, you can help them by showing your support and encouragement. Listen to him actively, recognize his successes and encourage him to accept himself and recognize his strengths.

What is the opposite of impostor syndrome?

The opposite of the impostor syndrome is the Dunning-Kruger effect. In the Dunning-Kruger effect, those affected suffer from a distorted self-perception in which they overestimate their own abilities and belittle the abilities of those around them. People with the Dunning-Kruger effect pretend to be extremely talented or skillful.


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