Split Tech City is a community composed of well-intentioned and progressive companies, startups, associations, initiatives, institutions and individuals. Together we encourage and develop the IT sector of Split and the surrounding region.

Support our community

Is It Self-Doubt or Impostor Syndrome?

Split Tech City

Split Tech City


“What am I even doing in this meeting, these people are smarter than me. As soon as they see my project, they are going to realize I am a disappointment.”

If these thoughts are a usual pattern in your self-talk sessions, you might find this article insightful.

Many people at some point experience feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt regarding their achievements. However, when these individuals are objectively high-performing and quite successful most of the time, how do these thoughts occur and what is the name of this phenomenon?

Understanding Impostor Syndrome (IS)

The term impostor syndrome (or phenomenon) was coined in the 1970s by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. People who suffer from IS cannot internalize their success and subsequently experience pervasive feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, depression, or apprehension of being exposed as a fraud in their work, despite verifiable and objective evidence of their success.

A PubMed article from 2020 defines impostor syndrome as a behavioral health phenomenon described as self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals.

It is characterized by persistent feelings of diffidence and inadequacy despite evidence of success and competence.

Even though Clance and Imes originally described the condition they observed in professional women, both men and women on different levels of the business hierarchy can be affected by it.

This syndrome is not included in the DSM, but many health professionals advocate for its inclusion. It is therefore important to stress that a healthy dose of self-criticism and humility is entirely different from an unreasonable sense of inadequacy despite the obvious competencies.

What Causes the Impostor Syndrome?

Early childhood experiences and upbringing shape our adult life, and a child who grew up in an environment with high expectations from parents, teachers, or peers may insist on the belief that they must constantly prove their worth.

Lack of recognition – celebrating or recognizing a person’s success – during formative years can also be a contributing factor to the development of IS.

Some individuals are more prone to IS due to certain personality traits, such as perfectionism, self-criticism, and conscientiousness.

People who set excessively high standards for themselves and struggle with accepting imperfections may be more susceptible to feelings of inadequacy. Perfectionists also tend to accomplish goals, but still convince themselves that they haven’t truly earned their success.

Equating mistakes with personal failure and therefore going to great lengths to avoid potential errors, can lead to overwork and burnout.

Fear of failure combined with comparison to seemingly successful trajectories of their peers can exacerbate imposter feelings.

Telltale Signs of an “Impostor”

Responding negatively to positive feedback – Dismissing compliments and praise is an impostor’s modus operandi. Whenever a task is completed, any form of compliment is disregarded, which not only contributes to a sense of incompetency but also hurts close and work relationships.

Attributing your success to external factors – Despite accumulating a track record of accomplishments, attributing success to luck, coincidence, timing, or the help of others rather than acknowledging your capabilities is one of the key elements of IS.

Persistently indulging in self-doubt – If you diligently doubt your abilities, question whether you deserve your success, and live in fear of being exposed, you might want to self-reflect and find the underlying cause.

Being a perfectionist – Another indication is an unrelenting pursuit of perfection, fearing that any deviation from it will expose you. Setting goals feels like a burden instead of an exciting challenge to overcome.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Overcoming and fighting imposter syndrome requires a combination of self-awareness, practical strategies, and a shift in mindset.

The first step is acknowledging its existence. Be aware of the thoughts and feelings associated with self-doubt and accept them.

The next step is practicing self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend facing similar challenges.

It is crucial to understand that making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growth.

Negative self-talk and thoughts should be replaced by positive affirmations or visualization techniques. Also, managing the roots of impostor syndrome through individual or group therapy can help change deep-rooted beliefs.

Surrounding oneself with a supportive network of colleagues, friends, and family who offer encouragement and reassurance is key to staying grounded. Reflect on your successes regularly by documenting and celebrating your achievements in a journal.

Remember that healing is a gradual process, and it’s okay to seek help along the way, both from your loved ones and therapists.

Embrace the challenges and seek out opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone.

Even though these feelings and thoughts are often deeply ingrained, it is quite possible to change and overcome them!

The article was written by: Ana Knezović


About author:

Split Tech City

We are the first formal association of Split’s tech community which includes companies, associations, institutions, meetups, and individuals.

Subscribe Subscribe

Related News