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Since Donald Trump, narcissism has been a well-known phenomenon among the public. Sometimes it seems that the world is full of self-promoters who think they are terrific.

The opposite is rarely discussed, perhaps because it is less noticeable. There are people unable to celebrate their successes. They are constantly insecure and doubt themselves, even though there is no reason. For example, objectively successful people often think they are not intelligent enough and that others overestimate their skills and achievements. They feel like impostors. Psychologists, therefore, speak of Impostor Syndrome.

Do you feel affected too, or do you know someone experiencing it?

But first of all, let’s have a closer look at it.

Five Characteristics Of Imposter Syndrome


People with a pronounced Impostor Syndrome assume that their skills are not sufficient to be able to pursue a certain job, for example. Frequent thoughts or questions are: “Am I good enough? Why should anyone listen to me? Everyone else knows / can do better than I do.”


Those affected often feel like fraudsters or impostors and are plagued by self-doubt. They constantly expect others to notice that they ‘don’t have it’. Harsh external criticism can make symptoms even worse.


In addition, affected persons are not able to appreciate personal successes. Rather, they think that their excellent performance was just a lucky coincidence. But success is certainly not based on one’s skills or competencies. Absurdly enough, those concerned frequently feel bad when they have done something great.


Very often the Imposter Syndrome is based on uncertainty. An exaggerated, idealized self-image can also trigger self-doubts. Whatever these persons are doing, they question themselves and their skills whether they are sufficient to achieve their high standard. The same applies to perfectionists who set themselves impossible or unrealistic goals.


Studies show that men and women are equally affected by Impostor Syndrome. However, this occurs less frequently with increasing age. There is also a connection with depression, low self-esteem, and problems in social interactions.

So How Do We Overcome Impostor Syndrome?

We can combat or reduce self-doubt and insecurity in a really helpful and effective way by reflecting on ourselves, i.e. checking our assumptions and attitudes and questioning our thoughts.


Here are a few tips:

    • Get optimistic by identifying your negative thoughts, consciously challenging them, and finally reformulating them positively.
    • Try to trigger positive emotions intentionally. If you doubt yourself, ask: “When have I feared the worst but still assumed something good would happen?” Write down these situations; they strengthen your self-confidence.
    • Change your behavior by replacing rigid, restrictive attitudes with growth-related ones.
      For example: I’m defensive and give up quickly → I’ll stick with it even if there are setbacks.
      Or: I ignore negative feedback → I use criticism to learn
    • In addition, positive self-talk will help you reduce or at least question the annoying self-doubts. Find your negative thoughts and replace them. How about if you swap ‘I can never do this’ with ‘I’ve done this successfully before and I will master it this time too’?
    • Appropriate body language will also support building up self-confidence. Instead of hanging your head and shoulders, stand up straight and raise your arms like Superman or Superwoman. How does that feel? Do you notice that those around you treat you differently? Be proud and strong.

Do you want to know more about it? Watch this short, very interesting video.

We all doubt our abilities from time to time and are hesitant whether we are ‘good enough’. At this point, my tips can be helpful.

But Imposter Syndrome can also be very severe and lead to considerable restrictions in everyday professional or private life. In this case, therapy can bring great relief and should be considered. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Take Away

  • Imposter Syndrome is accompanied by great self-doubt and the assumption that one’s abilities are inadequate.
  • Those affected often feel like fraudsters and expect other people to recognize it very soon.
  • Personal success is explained by happy circumstances or coincidences, but not by one’s competencies.
  • When dealing with Impostor Syndrome, question your thoughts and attitudes in order to change them. If it is very severe, therapy can be useful.

How do you deal with your self-doubts?

Do you need a little support? Maybe coaching might be the right thing to do.

Read More

Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Hagg, H. K. (2019). Prevalence, predictors, and treatment of impostor syndrome: A systematic review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35, 1252–1275.
Andrea Seekatz

I'm a trained & certified coach (ICF) and psychologist. Don't forget: Take Care of Your Self.

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