Eine Katze trägt eine Löwenmähne. Sie verkörpert das Hochstapler-Syndrom

Impostor Syndrome: what is it and how to recognise it


The Impostor Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon. Those affected do not believe in their own achievements and successes. Instead of attributing their accomplishments to their own skills, they assume that everything they have achieved in life is only due to chance.
This constant self-doubt leads to impostor feelings and is accompanied by a great fear: “What will happen if someone discovers that I am not good enough?”.
The constant, unfounded worry could severely affect a person’s life, leading to stress and mental distress.

Do I suffer from Impostor Syndrome?

Do you think you are a failure? Are you afraid of it being “discovered,” even though you are a true achiever? You may suffer from Impostor Syndrome. Common indicators are:

  • You do not value your own successes.
  • You are constantly afraid that you could be exposed.
  • You show a strong motivation, which can easily lead to burnout.
  • You suffer from depressive moods.

Common causes for Impostor Syndrome

Ein Kind sitzt auf dem Rücken von seinem Vater. Das Hochstapler-Syndrom kann durch Kindheitserfahrungen entstehen.
father spending time with son and working with laptop

Self-doubt is human, and Impostor Syndrome is more common than we think. It is essential to question and reflect on yourself from time to time. But this questioning should not exceed: Ultimately, it could block you in life.
The reason some people suffer from this syndrome is not yet fully understood. Psychologists suspect that childhood experiences play a major role in it. A low self-esteem inducement can be one of the causes that drive children to think they need to perform better in order to be loved.

Sometimes it is just the other way round: people overwhelmed with approval as a child also could end up having low self-esteem. At a later stage, for example, they find out that some of their classmates or fellow colleagues perform better than them, starting a term of comparison that can lead to depression.

How to fight Impostor Syndrome

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome is possible. This won’t happen overnight but it takes discipline and patience. First, it is necessary to build up new thinking patterns. Here are some tips to help you fight Impostor Syndrome:

1. Identify destructive behaviours

Eine Frau macht einen Plan für das Hochstapler-Syndrom.
Smiling young woman wearing spectacles and writing on book with pencil. Beautiful girl taking notes on agenda. University student sitting on table and writing an idea.

Recognise your own achievements, and become aware of your problem. Then look for the cause. Why is it so difficult for you to accept appreciation? Why do you have such extreme self-doubt? What are you compensating for by being overly ambitious?
Finding answers to these questions is the first step in fighting Impostor Syndrome. Once you acknowledge it, your anxiety will decrease.

2. Be realistic

Try to work on your negative thoughts. Avoid putting yourself under too much pressure: Expecting too much of yourself will automatically lead to disappointment. Once you think in a realistic way, you will be able to appreciate your own achievements. At the same time, if you realise your expectations are too high and can not be fulfilled, you will no longer be able to feed your negative self-image. You are not perfect: No one is it. And that’s alright.

3. Relish small wins

Eine Frau feiert tanzend ihren Erfolg, um das Hochstapler-Syndrom zu vermeiden.
Positive young lady in wireless headphones and casual clothes listening to music with pleasure and dancing of sofa in light modern living room

Appreciate great achievements, but don’t forget to cherish the little ones too. Become aware of them and celebrate: Every day is a new challenge. Feel proud about your daily accomplishments in taking countless decisions. Milestones are the basis for your success. Set your goals and write them down to become aware of them.
Be enthusiastic about yourself!

4. See the positive in failures

We all make mistakes, and those who act are more likely to make errors than those who don’t. Failure is disappointing, of course, but don’t define yourself by your mistakes. Do not let anything affect your self-worth, but deal with defeat in a constructive way. You can see your mistakes as a new opportunity for growth: Errors show you what went wrong and teach you what can be changed to do better next time.

5. Enjoy compliments

Accepting compliments and praise can be difficult. There may be a charming modesty behind it. Yet

Accepting compliments and praise can be difficult. There may be a charming modesty behind it, yet often just hides considerable self-doubt: “I can’t accept the compliment because I don’t deserve it.”
The Impostor Syndrome can prevent you from recognising your achievement by making it difficult to accept compliments.
Make a change. Use the approval of others to increase your self-worth.

6. Get help

Ein Mann sitzt einem Paar gegenüber und schreibt sich Notizen über das Hochstapler-Syndrom auf.
Smiling african american psychiatrist talking to young couple

All of us have doubts and sometimes low self-esteem: someone more, other less. When distrust weighs down your existence and strongly determines your behaviour, you should work on your self-perception.
If you cannot do this on your own, consider consulting a therapist. They will help you work out strategies to increase your self-worth.

Know your worth and show yourself that you are not an impostor! You deserve this.

Your Humanoo Team