If left unchecked, your Imposter Syndrome can cause you more than just mental anguish, missed opportunities, chronic self doubt, excessive ruminating and high stress.
Imposter Syndrome can cost you money too.
Cold hard cash. And compounded over a lifetime it can add up to A LOT.
Imposter Syndrome or (Impostor Phenomenon as it was originally named) is a persistent and internalized fear that makes an individual doubt their skills, talent and accomplishments despite evidence of their competence.
They constantly feel like they’re not worthy of their success and that one day they will be exposed as an intellectual fake, phony or FRAUD.
This feeling, or this phenomenon, is real.
It impacts many high performing and capable individuals around the world and it does not discriminate. Younger, older, location, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity – you can’t outrun Imposter Syndrome if you experience it, so the key is understanding what it is and it’s true impact on your ‘bottom line’ (as well as your mental and physical state).
Until now, maybe you’ve been dismissing Imposter Syndrome as “not that bad” or something you “just need to get over”.
Perhaps you’ve been hiding your feelings out of fear of sounding ‘silly’ or exposing yourself as an actual fraud (that’s just the imposter voice talking, it’s not true). Or maybe you never knew these feelings you’ve been experiencing for so long actually have a name and impact many people around the world. You are certainly not alone in experiencing this phenomenon of feelings.
But here’s something you might not have thought deeply about and that’s:
What is Imposter Syndrome actually costing you in financial terms?
Imposter Syndrome can cost you money by blocking you from:
Negotiating your worth in your salary review or job interview
Putting your hand up for an internal promotion or with a new company
Launching your own business
Increasing your existing rates/fees
Investing your money and/or creating financial independence
In all these financial situations, the common thread is that Imposter Syndrome stops you from taking confident action.
Your negative self talk takes over and you are plagued by the same series of thoughts:
> I am not good enough
> I’ve just been lucky
> If I say yes, everyone will know I am a fraud
This negative cycle of thinking causes people who experience Imposter Syndrome to get ‘stuck’.
We don’t act towards what we want, then we risk missing the opportunity (and often do), and then we feel even worse.
It’s an AVOIDANCE tactic we take because the Imposter fear has taken over our brains and bodies.
How Imposter Syndrome impacts your Money Mindset
Your Money Mindset is your personal set of beliefs and behaviours about money. Much of your Money Mindset is subconscious, and many beliefs will come from childhood or significant moments in your life.
For example, if you grew up in a household where money was tight, “Money doesn’t grow on trees” or “We can’t afford that” might have been common phrases for your family. As a result, your Money Mindset might focus on scarcity or lack.
In another case, a woman may talk about her parents fighting over child support money, where her father didn’t want to pay more, so she has the feeling that she isn’t ‘worth’ more money in her later life and career.
These are complex issues.
Many of these memories will be buried deep, and come out in spending behaviour, saving or hoarding behaviour, and negative thoughts about the value of your work.
It can even impact your own feelings of self worth.
To make things even more challenging, when you add Imposter Syndrome into the mix, it can further impact your Money Mindset.
In fact, the negative thoughts that come with Imposter Syndrome can cost you more than you realise. Maybe even tens of thousands of dollars – or more – over your lifetime as the missed opportunities compound.
Here are some of the common ways Imposter Syndrome costs you money.
1. Imposter Syndrome stops you applying for a promotion
A manager has left and there’s an opportunity for an internal promotion. The thought briefly crosses your mind that you might apply, until your Imposter Syndrome pipes up to say:
“You’re not qualified for it.“
“You only meet 7 out of 10 of the selection criteria.”
“You’re not ready.”
So you don’t apply.
Similarly, you see an advertisement for a new job that would be a step up in income or status. But you don’t apply, because your Imposter Syndrome flares up and tells you that if you join a new company, everyone there will know that you’re a fraud. “Stay put,” it says, “where no one has noticed yet.”
Imposter Syndrome is holding you back from job opportunities. But the missed opportunity is not just about the work, it’s also about the money and the confidence hit. Because you didn’t apply, you didn’t receive the pay rise that comes with the extra responsibilities and growth.
Year on year, even that one lost opportunity adds up.
$5K pay rise x 5 years = $25K
Plus 9.5% superannuation on the extra income over 5 years = $2375 (plus compounding gains on that super over your working life)
Total loss: in excess of $27,375
Think back to the last time you didn’t apply for a promotion, and work out what it may have cost you in the intervening time. The figure might surprise you.
2. Imposter Syndrome stops you negotiating your salary
Let’s say you did apply for a new job, and you’re the preferred candidate. Hooray!
Cutting through the high of getting the offer, the hiring manager asks you about your salary expectations. You remember the job ad listed a range of $110-130K.
Your Imposter Syndrome rears its head: “You got lucky. You can’t ask for that much. Your current salary is only $95K, you’re not worth $110K. Everyone earning that much is smarter than you.”
So you stumble over the question and say “I guess $110 is OK”. It’s still a big pay rise, right? So you should be grateful?
But what if you were significantly underpaid at your current job, so your current salary doesn’t reflect the value you provide to the company. After all, as in story 1 above, you haven’t been applying for internal promotions or pay rises for a while.
Salary negotiations are often tied in with our “worth” as a human.
Imposter Syndrome makes you feel like you’re not valuable; that you’re not worthy of the number on the job offer.
When Imposter Syndrome comes into play, it can poison your thoughts about money and salary.
That’s why, before a salary negotiation, you need to work on building your Confidence and reframing your Imposter thoughts. That way, you can confidently say “I’m looking for $125K” (or whatever is the magic number for you) and be able to articulate the value and experience you bring to the position.
3. Imposter Syndrome stops you from launching your business
There is a lot of “new” that comes with launching a business. And stepping out of your comfort zone is the most common trigger for Imposter Syndrome. As a result, Imposter Syndrome tends to pop up a lot for business owners.
As is being the first, or the only, person like you in your field. Perhaps you’re the only person of your age, gender, family history, ethnicity or sexual orientation/identity to start this type of business.
If your Imposter Syndrome is triggered, it tells you things like:
“You can’t do it.”
“You’ll look stupid if you try.”
“You’ll be exposed.”
“You will fail.”
“Every step will need to be perfect.”
and the list goes on.
This inner voice can become so consuming, you won’t launch the business, you won’t change careers, and your idea will sit in a cycle of procrastination, chronic self-doubt and fear.
In other words, you self sabotage (over and over).
And alongside all those emotions, you’re not pursuing what you really want and you’re missing the chance of earning the new income from the business.
4. Imposter Syndrome stops you raising your rates
On the flip side, if Imposter Syndrome doesn’t get in your way at the launch stage, Money Mindset comes into play big time when you’re running and growing a business.
The common limiting Money Mindsets in this stage are:
“My business is too new. I don’t have the experience to charge more.”
“I’m already under-booked at low prices. If I raise my prices, I won’t have any clients.”
“My current clients won’t pay any more.”
and so many more.
Most importantly, if you’re a service provider, selling your time and expertise can feel like putting a number on your worth as a human.
Every time you write a proposal for your service, you multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours you think the project will take. Then you look at the project total at the bottom and it’s a big number.
You start to feel clammy and your ‘inner critic’ says “Your client will never pay that much for your service.” So you shave a bit off. Maybe you take some time out of the research phase, or cut $10 off your hourly rate. The result is a lower cost proposal, which the client accepts (because they got a bargain, after all).
But you resent the project when you realise that it actually took a lot longer than you expected, and you start to doubt your ability as a business owner. After all, you’re not making enough income for your business to be sustainable.
Instead of pricing based on time, consider the value of the solution you provide. If your service helps another business increase their sales by $10,000+ that’s enormously valuable and you can charge premium rates.
But the trap here is that Imposter Syndrome gets in the way.
Even if – on paper – you can see the dollar value of the service, Imposter Syndrome says “Just because you did it for someone else, doesn’t mean it’ll produce those results again – last time was a fluke.”
Your inner critic makes you not feel valuable, and it gets you stuck in a cycle of charging low rates.
5. Imposter Syndrome stops you creating financial independence
While it’s uncomfortable to think about, you just never know what could happen to your partner or to your relationship. For this reason, women need to create financial independence.
Imposter Syndrome can stop you from creating an income stream that’s independent of your partner, such as your own investment property, share portfolio, or profitable side hustle that one day you might want to turn into a business.
The thing is, women generally earn less than men (the pay gap was 13.4% in Australia in 2020), and approximately 48% of women aged 45-64 have less than $40,000 in superannuation – or none at all. What’s worse is that women aged 55 and over are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia.
The key reason for this difference in income and superannuation savings is that many women take time out of the workforce to raise children.
When they return to work, they often return part time while their kids are small, or take lower paying jobs in exchange for flexibility. This has a huge impact on women’s income during working years and women’s financial security in retirement.
Women need a level of financial independence, but Imposter Syndrome can tell you:
“You’re not good with numbers.”
“You have no idea how to invest or buy property.”
“You’ll make a terrible choice.”
and the outcome is that you do nothing to create a separate income stream.
How to stop Imposter Syndrome from costing you more money
Now you have insight into how Imposter Syndrome can directly impact your income and your Money Mindset, so your next question is probably – how do I fix it?
The first step is to own it.
In order to combat Imposter Syndrome we need to lean into it, not run away from it.
Examine Imposter Syndrome in yourself:
> In which area is Imposter Syndrome holding you back?
> What kind of help do you need?
> And who can help you?
You might not have all the answers right now, but grab a pen and paper, do some research, ask your network and make some enquiries.
The financial services industry is full of incredibly skilled and experienced individuals who can give you wonderful advice and support. Many offer free or well priced initial consultations, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
These discussions are confidential, so don’t be frightened to express your true feelings. Your fears, your worries and more importantly your true desires around money.
Wanting more money is not greedy.
Money gives you freedom, flexibility, and a better future for yourself and your family.
When it comes to battling Imposter Syndrome we need to get out of our heads and into conversations and practical actions.
You don’t have to do it alone, nobody does. The most successful, secure or wealthy people don’t do it alone so nor should you.
Ask for the help you need to create a secure financial future.
Stop Imposter Syndrome from derailing your next job interview or salary review
If you’re preparing for a salary discussion, and you’re worried that Imposter Syndrome will cost you money, please get in touch with me. I offer coaching to help you overcome your Imposter thoughts and give you the tools to confidently negotiate your salary.