You have finally gotten that promotion you sweated blood, sweat and tears for. But suddenly you don’t feel good enough for it. The late nights and working over weekends are forgotten when you start questioning whether you deserve the job or not. If you can relate to the above scenario in any aspect of your life – from parenting to business – you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome.

The Harvard Business Review defines Imposter Syndrome as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. “Imposters” suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence, it says.

Siphokazi Kwekweni, a Cape Town-based life coach says although anyone can feel as though they are not good enough, the feeling is most prevalent among people who are hard on themselves or those who may have suffered a lot of criticism growing up.

READ MORE: Take back your confidence in the boardroom

“Self-doubt is caused by lack of self-confidence and self-acceptance. Usually people who doubt themselves and their capabilities are hard on themselves. They engage in negative self-talk and give a lot of attention to their inner critic. They also have self-limiting beliefs and a low self-esteem,” she says.

Often, people who are not confident in themselves will not be able to see the work they do as worthy and will attribute their success to things like luck or see their achievements as a fluke says The Harvard Business Review. This way of thinking often holds people back from trying new things and living full lives, says Kwekweni. This can lead to a myriad of other emotional disorders.

“The Impostor Syndrome or self-doubt causes anxiety, stress, depression. These disorders can be barriers to someone who wants to live a full life. It creates a fear of failure and an inability to express the desired self. One is hesitant to take risks and limits themselves from exploring new experiences. When people do not experience new things and explore alternatives, they do not grow and this can have an impact on confidence and self-esteem,” she says.

READ MORE: How your self-esteem affects your relationship

Kwekweni says although anyone can experience feelings of inadequacy it is mostly women who suffer from Imposter Syndrome. This is backed up by a study done by researchers at Georgia State University. The study titled The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention  says that women, unlike men, are more likely to feel as though they do not deserve their success and are less likely to equate it with inherent ability.

“Since success for women is contraindicated by societal expectations and their own internalized self-evaluations, it is not surprising that women in our sample need to find explanation for their accomplishments other than their own intelligence – such as fooling other people,” says the study.

Kwekweni says most people who are not confident in themselves have negative internal dialogue and tell themselves that they are not good enough to achieve their goals. Because people who are not happy with their achievements tend to have negative internal dialogue, changing the way you talk to yourself can go a long way to gaining self-confidence.

In a previous article for DESTINY, Dr John Demartini, a human behaviour specialist, said self-confidence can be awakened.  This is done by setting your goals in line with your highest values or priorities,  which will increase your confidence  and build its momentum.

Here is a list of other suggestions Kwekweni makes to help you overcome feelings of inadequacy: 

  • Counting your blessings and listing  your  accomplishments
  • Spending time thinking about your success stories and remembering positive feedback received
  • Setting goals and pursing them
  • Working on a vision journal
  • Writing in a gratitude journal
  • Becoming aware of any negative self-talk and switching to positive self-talk
  • Reading and saying positive affirmations and mantras
  • Improving self-awareness by getting to know your strengths and values, working towards continuous personal development
  • Celebrating your successes
  • Not comparing your life (or achievements) to that of others – we are all on individual journeys
  • Using self-doubt to motivate yourself