Impostor Syndrome: 7 Bad Habits That Slow Down Your Career

Impostor Syndrome: 7 Bad Habits That Slow Down Your Career

Whether you’re an intern or a president, impostor syndrome can affect you in various ways. According to psychologist Kévin Chassangre, it touches every level of the hierarchy, and 70% of high-potential people feel like frauds at some point in their lives. So, fear not! You’re not alone!

While soul-searching from time to time might be healthy, this syndrome is characterized by its persistence. The result? It damages your self-esteem and triggers anxiety. There’s nothing complicated about it: impostor syndrome plunges you into a vicious cycle where your behaviour reinforces your doubts and vice versa. Sound familiar?

Since it’s the syndrome that must be exposed, and not your inner impostor, see if these seven seemingly ordinary behaviours are part of your day to day.

1. You sell yourself short

You’re convinced that others overestimate your abilities.

Consequence: you’re stuck feeling like a fraud, struggling to accept and assume your rightful place. So, it’s hard for you to feel as satisfied as you should at work, or to thrive there. Such a shame!

During his TED talk, researcher David Dunning explains that no one is good at accurate self-assessment. Oddly enough, it seems that the least skilled people often display the most confidence, while those most competent tend to underestimate their abilities… Keep this in mind!

2. You don’t take risks

You dread success as much as failure.

Consequence: feeling like you’re not up to the task means that every win makes you worry you’ll have to take on an even bigger challenge. So stressful! The Harvard Business Review adds that failure, while frightening, sometimes proves to be a tempting exit strategy since it lowers expectations. You might prefer the status quo, but by staying in your comfort zone, you’re missing out on opportunities to show your strengths. So, you stagnate in your position.

3. You don’t speak up

You’re not keen on presenting or defending your ideas.

Consequence: not displaying your knowledge stops you from standing out on your team. In Why Capable People Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome, Dr. Valerie Young explains that even if impostor syndrome affects men as much as women, professional women are more likely to act on it by staying in the background and avoiding taking the floor.

4. You don’t negotiate your salary

Unconvinced of your own worth, you settle for what you think you deserve…

Consequence: you’ll miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. Between half a million and a million dollars, maintain Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don’t Ask. As part of the Défi 100 jours/Ambition Challenge of The A Effect, leader Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Hydro-Québec, reiterates this valuable advice to the participants of each cohort: “Don’t be afraid to negotiate. To negotiate is to create the conditions for your success!

5. You credit your success to luck, or to others

You don’t realize the impact that your ideas and involvement have in the accomplishment of your tasks or mandates.

Consequence: you’re so convinced that you pulled off project such-and-such thanks to others or to being under a lucky star, that you don’t own your success. So, it takes you ages to build up your credibility, and many opportunities pass you by.

6. You’re a bit of a major perfectionist!

Nothing you do seems good enough.

Consequence: your aims are so excessive that they undermine your self-esteem. However, to develop self-confidence, it’s important to recognize your strengths and accomplishments. In the Ambition Challenge, we focus on excellence, not perfection… Much more realistic!

7. You push yourself to the limit

You do a lot, yet you still worry it’s not enough.

Consequence: your fear of not being good enough leads you to believe – mistakenly – that you are never well-prepared enough. You have trouble taking a step back for perspective. Your actions are increasingly “emotional” and less and less “practical”. Yikes! Not only are you doing harm to your physical and mental health, you lack the time to complete vital job tasks, and your performance is suffering.

Do you recognize yourself in one or many of these statements?

No need to panic! We suggest that you complete our impostor syndrome quiz to learn more. Also, be aware that this infamous impostor syndrome can be beaten. The first step is acknowledging that it exists and then admitting that the habits that it’s driving you to adopt have damaging consequences for your career… Our tips for taming your impostor syndrome in 4 steps.

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auteure Marie-Ève gosemick souriante

Marie Eve Gosemick


At Valtech, Marie Eve Gosemick integrates CX to traditional PR principles. She is an instructor in marketing communication at Executive Education HEC Montréal, as well as a published novelist. Becoming mother to a daughter triggered the parity activist in her.