Impostor Syndrome

When Success Feels Stolen: The Battle Against Impostor Syndrome

“I’m not good enough for this.”
“What am I doing here?”
“I’ve got everything I have by luck.”
“What if they find out I’m not that good?”
“I’m a fraud. I don’t know how to do this.”

Have any of these thoughts ever crossed your mind? How many times? Having second thoughts or developing a certain amount of anxiety in the face of a challenge is natural, even expected on occasion. Yet, if you have these thoughts recurrently, you may be suffering from Impostor Syndrome.

That term only recently entered our lives, but it spread quickly. Many people can identify with it. It is estimated that around 70% of people have experienced it at least once in their lives.

Disclaimer: While it is a widely spread concept, Impostor Syndrome is not officially recognized as a disorder.

Impostor Syndrome – an unofficial diagnose

Impostor Syndrome refers to an internal experience – you believe that you are not as competent as others perceive you. A person suffering from this syndrome feels like a fraud. They believe that they only got the position they have now due to luck or other external factor, not controlled by them. It implies continual suffering, fearing that everyone else will discover they are an impostor.

This is a common situation, and the main culprit is insecurity. You don’t think you’re competent enough.

The more goals you reach, the more you feel like a fraud. Unfortunately, there is no external recognition that will break the cycle.

Why can’t you accept your success?

This idea of being a fraud or undeserved of what you accomplish reflects insecurity and low self-esteem. Research suggests three main factors that seem to trigger Impostor Syndrome.

Family Dynamics

Research suggests a great impact family dynamics when you’re growing up have in the way you see your success. Excessively controlling and overprotective parental styles seem to lead to a greater possibility of developing the Impostor Syndrome.

The lack of support and high level of conflict in the family while growing up also seems to increase the odds. It turns out to be about the messages you absorbed in your childhood, many times, without even noticing it.

New Job/New Role at Work

Having new work opportunities – such as a promotion or even a new job can trigger Impostor Syndrome, especially if they are unexpected.

Most people feel a lot of pressure to accomplish and succeed in a new role. This, as well as the insecurity and lack of experience, make you second guess yourself. Any difficulty you face, you’ll be questioning if you deserve to be there.


You may argue that not everyone who has a new role at work or a bad childhood develops Impostor Syndrome. And you’re right. Like many other psychological issues, it’s never one thing that triggers your brain. It is a series of combined factors.

A significant factor is your personality. There are three major traces in your personality that can trigger Impostor Syndrome:

  • Low self-efficacy – self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to succeed in any situation. A person with low self-efficacy has bigger doubts about themselves. They are more likely to believe that they’re not capable.
  • Perfectionism – Your perfectionism may be seen as a good thing by some, including yourself, but it can hold you back. A perfectionist tends to believe that there is a “perfect script” from which they can’t diverge. Otherwise, they are failing.
  • Neuroticism – is one of the primary personality dimensions. It is linked with high levels of anxiety, insecurity, tension, and guilt.

Imposter Syndrome harms your performance?

The key to an excellent speaking performance is confidence. If you cannot recognize your competence and skills, how would you be confident on the stage? When you attribute to external factors your accomplishments, your success depends on a series of happenings out of your control. This will raise your levels of anxiety.

Impostor Syndrome makes you excessively critical about yourself and your performance. 

From your audience’s point of view, you’ll look nervous, insecure, and… unreliable. Those self-doubts and fear that you won’t live up to their expectations will sabotage your success.

Recognizing the problem

]Do you feel agony over tiny mistakes in your work? Do you think you got where you are due to luck rather than your hard work? Are you excessively hurt when someone constructively criticizes you? Do you feel that no matter how much knowledge you have, other people always seem more skilled than you?

If you tend to answer most of these questions positively, you are indeed suffering from Impostor Syndrome. It is time to be truthful to yourself and find a way to deal with the problem.

Share your feelings with someone. When you say them out loud, usually, you can see how you are exaggerating. Objectively access your abilities, and question your thoughts. If you have a master’s degree in the topic, why wouldn’t you be qualified to talk about it? Stop comparing yourself with others and focus on your qualities. After a presentation, force yourself to write down at least three things you liked.

You’ll not get rid of that feeling overnight but these little steps can help you deal with the crippling anxiety Impostor Syndrome can make you feel.

I feel like an impostor

Impostor Syndrome tricks your mind into thinking you are not good enough. You are fooling everyone, and you fear that, eventually, someone will discover it.

This translates into a massive deal of anxiety and insecurity that will harm your performance as a speaker. Impostor Syndrome is preventing you from being who you are. Every time insecurity kicks in, remind yourself that you are worthy of being there.

Cátia is a psychologist who is passionate about helping children develop and train social skills.


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