About the impostor syndrome

What is The Impostor Syndrome?


The expression first appeared in 1978, in the United States. It was then described as a special form of insecurity that affects ‘successful’ women in particular. ‘Normal’ insecurity occurs when you have to do something that you have never done before, for example, negotiating a contract for your first job or taking your driving test. Or when you have a date with an unknown but probably very nice person. Then, it is pretty natural to feel a bit insecure.

The impostor syndrome is a type of insecurity that makes you feel enormously insecure while rationally knowing at the same time that you can perform the task that you have to do. It is about insecurity when you have every reason to be proud of yourself, of who you are and of what you have achieved, but you still think that you are not good enough. You honestly believe that you fall short in comparison with your peers. You think that your success was caused by all kinds of external factors, instead of claiming this success as your own. You feel as if you don’t really fit into the culture and the organization of your place of work. In the worst case, it makes you feel incredibly unhappy. You are so insecure that you don’t really know what your abilities are anymore.
There are many definitions for the expression ‘impostor syndrome’.
This is the way I would like to describe it: the impostor syndrome refers to a feeling of cheating, whereby a person feels like a fraud and considers themselves incompetent, despite the fact that there is objective proof of their competencies, for example in the shape of diplomas or personal achievements. Rationally, you know that you can do it, you even have firm proof of it, but it feels as if you are deceiving everyone.


For the sake of clarity: it doesn’t concern people who are pretending. It doesn’t concern real cheats. It concerns people who are successful but who think that they are pretending. They are successful, but they don’t feel it.
American research shows that about 70 percent of women suffer from the impostor syndrome, as do 35 percent of men. SheConsult has done research among 600 Dutch men and women. From this, it emerged that half of the men recognize these impostor feelings, against three-quarters of the women.
Now, if you have the feeling that this not about you, because you are not successful, then be sure to read on. It has been written especially for people like you. People who have received a good education and work or have worked in an environment where they function (or functioned) properly. In short, people who don’t consider themselves successful but who are just that!
As you become more successful and thus have more to lose, the impostor syndrome becomes stronger. It interferes with your career but also your private life. It can even cause a burnout because it can completely overwhelm you.

Vreneli Stadelmaier

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“One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.”
J.A. Konrath