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What is imposter syndrome, and how to overcome it


No matter who you are, what you do, and how good you are at it, imposter syndrome strikes everyone at some time. It is more than just a lack of confidence. It is more than overcoming fears. But just like fear can stop you from doing things, fear can also save your life. So, in that sense, imposter syndrome can be both a good and a bad thing.

It is a complex problem that has a different solution for everyone. Although increasing knowledge can actually make it worse, to explain why it is a problem and develop solutions we first need to define the problems. For that, we use different interrelated theories.

With the hope of creating self-awareness, more so than trying to explain time travel, in this article, we will talk about how the different theories work together so that you can create your own solutions, or at least ask for help with that.

The dunning-Kruger effect

Dunning-Kruger effect
Dunning-Kruger effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias that refers to the tendency of individuals with low ability or knowledge in a particular domain to overestimate their own competence and expertise in that domain. In other words, people who are less skilled or knowledgeable in a certain area are more likely to overestimate their abilities in that area, while those who are more skilled or knowledgeable are more likely to accurately assess their abilities.

The effect is named after social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who first described it in a 1999 paper. They found that people who scored in the lowest quartile on a test of humor, grammar, or logic tended to significantly overestimate their scores, while those who scored in the highest quartile tended to slightly underestimate their scores.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is often associated with the phrase “ignorance is bliss” because those who are less skilled or knowledgeable may be more confident and optimistic than those who are more skilled or knowledgeable, even if their confidence is unwarranted. The effect can be particularly problematic in domains where decisions have important consequences, such as medicine, finance, or politics, where overconfident individuals may make costly mistakes.

The Peter Principle

This is the opposite to imposter syndrome on the Dunning-Kruger effect. Basically they have confidence in their own abilities to do or learn a job, even if they don’t have the skills and knowledge to do it. It manifests as a “fake it till you make it attitude”, and generally don’t go through the dip in confidence on the curve above thanks to positive affirmation through awards as a fast learner. Technically skilled people who are promoted to management positions without training often fall into this too.

The Peter Principle is a management theory that suggests that people in a hierarchical organization tend to be promoted to their level of incompetence. In other words, employees in an organization will be promoted based on their performance in their current role until they reach a position where they are no longer effective, at which point they will remain in that position.

The theory is named after Canadian psychologist Laurence J. Peter, who first proposed it in his 1969 book, “The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong”. According to Peter, organizations promote employees based on their performance in their current role, assuming that success in that role indicates that the employee has the potential to be successful at the next level. However, as employees are promoted, they may reach a level where they no longer have the skills, knowledge, or abilities to perform effectively, leading to a decline in their performance and productivity.

The Peter Principle can have negative consequences for organizations, as incompetent employees in key positions can lead to a decrease in productivity, morale, and profits. To mitigate the effects of the Peter Principle, organizations can provide additional training and development opportunities for employees who are promoted to new roles, as well as regularly evaluating and re-evaluating their performance to ensure that they are still effective in their roles. Additionally, organizations can consider non-promotion-based career advancement paths, such as lateral moves or increased responsibilities within the same role.

What is imposter syndrome?

We said what it is not above, but If you look back at the chart above, imposter syndrome effect people who miss the first 2 steps when learning new things and tend to go straight to the “I’m never going to understand this” step. Some people may take years in their field to recover from this, and the likely triggering of a separation sensitivity generally cause business to fail due to cashflow issues (as we spoke about in this article here)

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon characterized by persistent feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of competence and success. People experiencing imposter syndrome often feel like they have deceived others into believing they are more capable or talented than they actually are and fear being exposed as a fraud.

In the workplace, imposter syndrome can limit the earning capacity of skilled workers in several ways. First, people with imposter syndrome may hesitate to negotiate their salaries or ask for a raise, even if they have the skills and qualifications to justify higher compensation. They may fear being perceived as arrogant or being found out as a fraud, which can prevent them from advocating for themselves and their worth.

Second, people with imposter syndrome may hold back from pursuing new opportunities or taking on leadership roles because they feel they are not qualified or deserving enough. This can limit their career advancement and earning potential in the long term.

Finally, people with imposter syndrome may be more likely to accept lower-paying jobs or projects that do not match their skills and experience because they feel they are not good enough for higher-paying roles. This can result in underemployment and lower earnings overall.

To overcome imposter syndrome and increase their earning capacity, skilled workers can seek support from mentors or coaches, challenge their negative self-talk and beliefs, and focus on their accomplishments and strengths rather than their perceived shortcomings. They can also practice advocating for themselves and setting boundaries, such as negotiating their salaries and taking on roles that match their skills and expertise.

That is what you can do, which leads to the next question. How do you do that?…

How do you overcome Imposter Syndrome?


It’s simple, but by no means easy. And you are unlikely to be able to do it without support.

It basically requires you to develop a secure attachment strategy, which again every person in the world will do differently. You will need support. We all need a little help from our friends every now and then, right?

Attachment matrix

A secure attachment strategy refers to a healthy and secure emotional bond that individuals have with their attachment figures, such as parents or caregivers. Individuals with a secure attachment strategy tend to have positive and trusting relationships with others, feel comfortable seeking help and support when needed, and have a positive sense of self-worth.

Behaviours of people that have a secure attachment strategy may include:

1.    Seeking help and support:

Individuals with a secure attachment strategy tend to feel comfortable seeking help and support from others when needed, as they trust that others will be responsive and helpful. It’s not a sign of weakness, and I’ve found this is a surefire indicator that a person has a weakness in one or all of their 4 Ps if they struggle to ask for help or can’t delegate tasks when they do get help.

2.   Feeling comfortable with intimacy:

Individuals with a secure attachment strategy tend to feel comfortable with intimacy and closeness with others, as they trust that their emotional needs will be met in relationships. In a business sense, this relates to having complimenting skills. You can’t do everything (see point 1), and people with a secure attachment strategy know if they have Action, Thinking, or Personal skills as their strengths. They generally seek out 2 other people to collaborate with to fill in the gaps.

3.   Being independent:

Individuals with a secure attachment strategy tend to feel confident and secure in their ability to be independent, while also valuing and maintaining close relationships with others. Doing everything yourself does not make you independent, in fact, this can project your own insecurities and break the cycle of trust. Again, see point 1.

4.   Feeling comfortable with the emotional expression:

Individuals with a secure attachment strategy tend to feel comfortable expressing their emotions, as they trust that others will be accepting and supportive. Not showing emotion is a sign of low emotional intelligence in business. Fear can prevent you from doing things, but it can also save your life. If you are not comfortable in expressing your emotions, both positive and negative, look into help to overcome executive dysfunction.

5.   Developing positive self-worth:

Individuals with a secure attachment strategy tend to have a positive sense of self-worth, as they have received consistent and positive feedback from attachment figures throughout their lives.

Overall, individuals with a secure attachment strategy tend to have healthy and positive relationships with others, feel comfortable seeking help and support when needed, and have a positive sense of self-worth. These behaviours reflect a healthy and secure emotional bond with attachment figures and the ability to form positive relationships with others throughout life. If this blog resonates with you, and you want help or just want to chat, book a call through our website HERE.