Is Your Imposter Syndrome Costing You Money?

This nagging critic could be holding you back quite a lot financially

WORDS BY
Maria Collinge
Published
January 19, 2024
Imposter syndrome not only affects your health. but your wallet too (Photo: Molly Blackbird/Unsplash)
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Imposter syndrome, and the spiralling effect it can have on your self-worth and career progression, has come into sharp focus in recent years. But nobody talks about the impact it has on your financial trajectory too. Because according to research, it hurts your wallet just as much as your health.

What is imposter syndrome?

Have you ever found yourself doubting your accomplishments, feeling like you're not good enough, or fearing that you're going to be exposed as a fraud? Don’t worry, 70% of the millennial generation alone feel exactly the same. This is imposter syndrome. Most people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives, and it’s the high achievers out there who are most prone to it. It's like a nagging voice in your head telling you that you're not qualified or deserving of your success. But here's the thing: imposter syndrome is nothing more than self-doubt, and you have the power to overcome it. 

The constant fear of being caught out, of not being good enough, can really mess with your head and cause you to hit a brick wall on your progression (Image: Female Invest)

Imposter syndrome and career progression

Feeling like a fraud can be debilitating, especially when it comes to your career. The constant fear of being caught out, of not being good enough, can really mess with your head and cause you to hit a brick wall on your progression - whether it be on your skills, expertise, but more importantly, your salary. That’s because it holds you back from going after that promotion, asking for that salary raise or taking on new challenges that could propel your career. This, in turn, can hinder your earning potential in the long-term. So it’s safe to say that imposter syndrome should be tackled head on.

How does imposter syndrome impact money?

According to countless sources, imposter syndrome costs us our hard-earned cash. There are countless ways in which it can do this, from not applying for the higher education which could propel your career trajectory, applying for the job with more responsibilities, preventing people from taking up the business idea due to fear of failure. You might even lack the energy to start the side hustle that could potentially maximise your income or pay off debt – even if it's a smart idea.

1. Downplaying successes

Think about it: why would anyone who feels undeserving put themselves forward for a promotion or raise? By downplaying your successes and wins, then you’re not going to see the potential to drive yourself forward. So if there’s one thing that imposter syndrome is costing you, it’s your earning potential. This manifests into a problem of underpaid staff coupled with unreasonable expectations from those above you.

Imposter syndrome can steal away your career and wages.

2. Imposter syndrome leads to low productivity

There’s no doubt that imposter syndrome can lead to the mental strain of striving for perfection and feeding into the ‘always on' culture. It’s ok to want to be successful. Even the most laid-back individuals relish in the feeling of accomplishment. Whether it's completing mundane tasks or securing a big deal for your team, we all crave that sense of productivity and being useful. But this comes with a downside – the downside of low productivity. Before you know it, you’re on the treadmill in the pursuit of success only to end up with dampened spirits and lowered productivity, quickly spiralling into a full-blown case of imposter syndrome and worst of all, burnout. 

Unfortunately, the pressure to constantly produce results can exacerbate stress levels to the point where they become debilitating, causing the opposite effect of what we want to achieve. Whether it's underperforming, or worse, crashing and burning, the consequences of unchecked stress can be devastating. The problem is, supervisors aren't always there to see the process, and often focus on the end product. This can be detrimental to performance reviews and inevitably affect chances for bonuses and promotions. Don't let stress hold you back, find ways to manage it. 

3. Undervaluing your worth in interviews

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, especially when recruiters ask what we can bring to the table. But with imposter syndrome knocking on your doors, it can make you feel like you're not good enough for the job. While employers are looking for that extra edge and flair that you can provide, self-doubt can make us feel inadequate. Palms sweat, the lump in the throat – this is all too common. As a result, this could lead many of us for not rightfully going for jobs that we’re more than capable of and can therefore hinder peoples’ progression in their career. 

It's not a lack of skills, but rather a fear of scale that holds people back from seizing new opportunities that could elevate their career (Photo: Nick Fancher/Death to Stock)

3. Rejecting opportunities for the wrong reasons

Since imposter syndrome is deeply rooted in the fear of failure, people often reject projects without even considering their ability to complete them. It's not a lack of skills, but rather a fear of scale that holds them back. The daunting thought of taking on a project that appears larger than life can be paralysing. But let's face it, we all have moments where we feel like the mountain is too high to climb. That's when you need to remind yourself that despite the feeling of overwhelm, you do in fact have the talent and ability to get the job done. 

4. Playing it safe and not starting that business 

It's no secret that there’s been a wave of entrepreneurship in recent years post-pandemic, many people taking the leap and become their own bosses. But let's be real: imposter syndrome is a real buzzkill. It can make you feel like we'll never be as successful as the people around you, or that you don't deserve to be at the top. And when we doubt ourselves, we tend to half-heartedly pursue our goals or give up altogether. That kind of thinking will prevent you from pursuing something that could be something hugely successful.

Starting a new business can be a daunting prospect, but having a good mentor by your side can make all the difference. A mentor is worth their weight in gold, offering the essential guidance you need to navigate the ups and downs of starting up. Their wealth of knowledge and experience can help you push past any self-doubt and help you develop a solid plan for success. With their support, you'll be empowered to take on even the toughest challenges, and their wit and wisdom will give you the confidence you need to succeed. So if you're thinking of starting up a new business, remember: a great mentor is your secret weapon for success.

Unhealthy work habits can discourage healthy work boundaries, leading to burnout and potentially stagnating your career growth (Image: Female Invest)


5. Overworking and not setting healthy boundaries

Are you a perfectionist at work? While it's admirable to aim for expert-level work, it's important to be aware of the risks that come with it. Imposter syndrome can drive us to strive for impossible standards, putting us under immense pressure to overwork ourselves and sacrifice our personal lives. Moreover, these unhealthy work habits can discourage healthy work boundaries, leading to burnout and potentially stagnating your career growth and potentially missing out on that pay rise.

That said, it's crucial to prioritise our well-being and strike a balance between hard work and self-care. By doing so, you'll be able to excel at work while also feeling fulfilled and satisfied in your personal life. Remember, your success doesn't depend on working yourself to the bone – it's a matter of finding the right approach and working smarter, not harder.


6. Ignoring financial advice

It's no secret that imposter syndrome can make us doubt our abilities. It can lead to avoiding responsibility and not taking on the big life admin tasks that we need to get on top of our finances. However, neglecting your finances only leads to missed opportunities and a lack of control over our money – which has the potential to spiral into some not-so-nice consequences. Taking control of your finances can be daunting, but it's empowering to know where your money is going and to seize financial opportunities rather than relying on others. So it's up to you to take control of your money and secure your financial future.


The bottom line

Imposter syndrome is a thief that can steal away your career and wages. It is the feeling that you're not good enough or that you don't not deserve your success, despite having the qualifications and experience to back it up. This limiting belief can hold many of us back from pursuing opportunities and negotiating for better pay. It can make you feel like an outsider in your own profession, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. But it doesn't have to be this way. By recognising and challenging your imposter syndrome, you can take control of your career and your earning potential. Acknowledge your accomplishments and be confident in your abilities, and this will pave the way for greater success and financial rewards - trust that.

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