In this article, you will:

  • Understand what is the Impostor Syndrome;
  • See examples of phrases of those who sabotage themselves at work;
  • Identify 4 signs that you may be your own impostor.

Impostor Syndrome is an expression that has been spreading in the corporate world. It is the action of women and men who fear and retreat in the face of new experiences and challenges. Sometimes, these limiting thoughts that we impose on ourselves are unconscious, but they have harmful effects on our short and long term careers.

Today, in this first article on Impostor Syndrome, we will explore its concept and talk about how to identify the signs that we are deliberately harming our own professional lives. The awareness that this phenomenon exists is a kick-start to avoid such behaviors that prevent promotions, salary increases, career transitions or new jobs for women from all over the world.

But, what is Impostor Syndrome?

Many articles on business and behavior related to the female work world have already addressed the term Impostor Syndrome. For those who are not yet familiar with it, here we use the definition by Johanna Rozemblum, a clinical psychologist in Paris:

“This syndrome expresses an unpleasant feeling of permanent doubt that consists in not feeling legitimate in your current situation and having difficulties in appropriating your own success.”

(Free translation of the article “Imposteur’s syndrome: is it quoi, test, en souffrez-vous?” at Le Journal des Femmes – France – 15/06/20)

Although the Impostor Syndrome is a psychological state that can affect both men and women, women are the ones that manifest it most pronouncedly. It is also women who suffer most from its effects.

According to psychotherapist Anne de Montarlot and journalist Élisabeth Cadoche, who published the book “The Impostor Syndrome” in Spain, “the feeling of perpetual inadequacy, of feeling unprepared to take on any responsibility whatsoever, is feminine and transversal”. In a report for El País, Cadoche reinforces saying that “men externalize failure and women externalize success“.

Whether for cultural, social or economic reasons, many women tend to be self-deprecating, diminishing their qualities. That is, many women believe that their achievements and successes are the result of external factors such as luck or chance. When involved in a mistake, a woman is more prone to take responsibility and punish herself in an intense and, often, destructive way.

Common phrases of impostor syndrome sufferers

In some way or another, we have all found ourselves thinking or saying:

  • Gosh, I need to take another course, I’m not fully prepared for this task;
  • This position requires much more than my work experience;
  • This recruiter ended up making a mistake and will soon realize that he hired someone without the necessary competence for the vacancy;
  • If I say anything at this meeting, they will think that I am too junior to be here;
  • No worrries, this activity was quiet easy, not a big deal for me;
  • Wow, how lucky I was, my boss loved the presentation!
  • Aff, this job requires too many skills, I will not even try to apply for it;
  • When will my team realize that I am a terrible manager?
  • I won’t even try a promotion. If my boss had already thought about this hypothesis, he would have made a proposal for me.

Eventually, there are no problems in feeling and experiencing moments of fragility, for fear of change or rejection. However, there are some behaviors that may indicate that the Impostor Syndrome is impeding your success and the realization of your dreams.

Check out the 4 warning signs in the next section that point out that you may be sabotaging your own career.

The 4 Signs of Impostor Syndrome

There are some attitudes that, because they are so well performed by us, we consider them to be part of ourselves or characteristics of our own personality. However, they can hide traces of lack of confidence and low self-esteem, which inhibits the complete expression of ourselves in the workplace.

4 signs of career self-sabotage:


Nobody can stand being next to someone who keeps praising themselves all the time. Vanity and arrogance can be real annihilators of image and connection in the workplace. However, decreasing the impact of your efforts or even reducing your merits on projects to which you really dedicated yourself can have a reverse effect, making people believe that there was no dedication and talent in your deliveries.

Another side of modesty is that women do not want to make a significant effort as a means of not drawing attention to themselves, while remaining in an area of ​​mediocrity. That way, there are no risks; neither great achievements.


Fear of failure or lack of prominence, characteristics of the Imposter Syndrome, can trigger a feeling of denial when performing challenging activities, causing it to be postponed to the maximum.

In extreme cases, procrastination hinders the completion of work and the evaluation of the professional among bosses and colleagues.


Excessive thinking can be a form of self-preservation. It is thought that, when all variables and scenarios are considered, the likelihood of avoiding exposure, frustration and fear is less.

It is natural that the greater the training of professionals, the less likely it is that mistakes or omissions will be incurred. However, this behavior can lead to stress and mental fatigue, which tends to deplete the energy for the creation and elaboration of projects.

The eternal apprentice

The feeling that you are never technically prepared can be a factor of concern for many women. With this, many see themselves in an infinite spiral of new courses, postgraduate diplomas and coaching sessions as a way of having an external validation for their professional and managerial qualification.

This behavior, although beneficial for making the professional more up-to-date and ready for professional challenges, can denote a tendency to avoid confrontation with the new and the different, essential elements for the development of careers.

The conversation continues …

In the next article on Impostor Syndrome, we’ll talk about how to get rid of that feeling of inferiority that still plagues women around the world and assess when sabotage comes from outside. Don’t miss out!

And what about you? Have you found yourself feeling like this? How did you feel? What self-limiting phrases came to mind? Share with us in the comments. Talking more about it is one of the ways to bring awareness to the topic and start to break free!


Co-authored with Sandra Milena Acosta

Sandra has worked for more than 12 years in the strategic planning and risk management of global financial institutions. Master in Economics from UFPR, graduated in Economics from UNICAMP and post-graduated in Digital Marketing from Kellogg Executive Education, she recently went through a career transition and is now a Writer of Chronicles, Children’s Literature and Poems. All of her work is available on her Instagram page (@sandramtca) and on Medium.


  • Tatiane Vita

    CMO • Board Member • Startup Mentor • TEDx Speaker • #LinkedinForCreators • +100,000 Digital Influencer

    Women Emerging Leaders 2021 by Santander & The London School of Economics

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    On Thrive Global, I contributed from June, 2020 to July, 2021 with weekly articles covering mental health and leadership for women.
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    Marketing & Business Development professional with +13 years experience in management in 9 countries (Brazil, the US, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Portugal, Kuwait & Thailand). My background is mostly in Retail +20 years working in this sector, 10 of which in franchising.
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