Sincerely confident and effective – for academics

  • You are a professional with an interesting job, perhaps as a researcher, university lecturer, psychologist, judge, or in IT.
  • You are positively evaluated by your supervisors and colleagues and have already made significant strides in your career.
  • You might even have become a professor or chief technology officer (yes, they also experience this).
  • And yet… you often suffer from an unhealthy dose of self-doubt.

Imposter Syndrome: Am I good enough?

Did I handle this correctly? Won’t they discover that I’m not as good as they think I am? These are typical thoughts associated with Imposter Syndrome. If you experience this, you often feel insecure and fear that you will fail, be rejected, or be exposed. In short, you fear that others will realize you are not as competent as they think or as your position demands.

Imposter Syndrome makes work more energy-draining than necessary and causes you to feel insecure about yourself and your performance. When you take a moment to reflect, you notice a busy mind and a tense body. You see others and think it’s much easier for them. You secretly feel ashamed of your thoughts and feelings. As a professional, shouldn’t you just be able to handle this? You wish you could feel more confident, but everyone doubts themselves from time to time, right?

I didn’t expect this person to have Imposter Syndrome.

In my practice, I see many people whom others would never expect to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. They are highly educated, hold prestigious positions, and even serve as role models for others. Yet, they still question whether they truly measure up. It’s also quite vulnerable to share what you genuinely find challenging, and in many professional environments, it is not considered acceptable to take off your mask and show where you struggle.

It often feels lonely to wrestle with Imposter Syndrome, but know that you are not alone.

Even Oscar, an associate professor respected in his field, continues to struggle with persistent doubts. Despite having more than 21 first-author papers to his name, every time he starts a new article, he hesitates whether it will be accepted by a journal. This doubt leads to procrastination and takes a lot of joy out of the writing process. [2]

Managers also struggle with Imposter Syndrome

It’s not just researchers, policy officers, or IT professionals who deal with imposter feelings. Research from Heriot Watt University shows that more than a third (36%) of managers often experience imposter feelings.

This not only affects them but can also cause their teams to be more reluctant to share knowledge, missing out on good ideas and opportunities for grants.

In short, if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, you are in good company, and it’s more likely that you have more potential than you think, rather than actually being exposed as inadequate.

Two coping mechanisms to deal with Imposter Syndrome: Underperformance or Overcompensation

1 Underperformance as a mechanism to deal with Imposter Syndrome

Imposter feelings and thoughts can lead to procrastination and/or missing opportunities. A few examples:

  • You discuss an exciting new idea for an article with a colleague but then keep postponing writing it at your desk. Six months later, you see on LinkedIn that your colleague has written the article, and you feel disappointed in yourself. As a result of procrastination, someone else may claim your idea, you may have fewer publications to show in your performance review, affecting your career opportunities, and you are less visible with your expertise, meaning you might not be asked to speak at events.
  • You pass up a senior task because you are too busy with existing work. Though you are genuinely busy, you secretly find it a fun challenge. And no matter how happy you are for others, you feel a pang of jealousy when others advance to more senior roles while you remain in a mid-level position.
  • You doubt whether you qualify for a job and therefore apply at the last minute, leaving you short of time to write a good cover letter. Later, you hear that the person who got the job had fewer qualifications than you. One missed opportunity might not matter much, but accumulating them can hinder your progress. This is not only a loss for yourself but also means the world benefits less from your knowledge and experience.
  • As a manager, you tend to doubt yourself, making it difficult to make decisions and set boundaries. Problems can drag on, such as an underperforming employee frustrating the team, affecting performance and morale. You stay in the background during management meetings, leading to feedback that you are not visible enough, and your team feels you do not advocate for them, despite your hard work.

2. Overcompensation as a way to deal with Imposter Syndrome

On the other hand, imposter feelings and thoughts can lead to overcompensation. You work extra hard and long. For example:

  • You regularly work overtime to perfect a presentation, sacrificing your free time, leaving you with little time to recharge. This affects relationships with friends, a partner, and/or family, and stress builds up, potentially leading to physical complaints or even burnout.
  • You think your paper needs to be perfect before sending it to collaborators, so you keep working on it alone without feedback. The night before the deadline, you work all evening, only to hear a few days later that you were on the wrong track, and your article needs significant adjustments. If you had known earlier, it would have saved you a lot of work.
  • You are in bed at night, thinking about how you could have handled a difficult conversation differently, making it hard to fall asleep, leaving you tired the next morning. Despite extensive thinking, you gain no new insights, and you end up exhausted from overthinking, hindering your ability to do the work you want to do.
  • As a manager, you want everything to be perfectly arranged, so you often take tasks away from colleagues. While doing it yourself ensures it is done right, leveraging everyone’s strengths brings you further. When professionals in your team lack freedom within clear boundaries, their engagement often decreases, leading to lower performance and job satisfaction.

What´s the impact on your organisation, department and discipline when people like you lose so much energy doubting themselves?

In my practice, I see that those who struggle with Imposter Syndrome often are quite skilled and have valuable contributions to make. They have knowledge and a desire to solve societal problems, such as sustainability, healthcare innovation, or mental well-being. It’s a shame if their knowledge and experience go untapped because their ideas are stifled, and their achievements go unnoticed because they credit others (or luck) instead of themselves. It’s frustrating when more outspoken individuals run away with their ideas. Original thinkers often bring more depth, and it feels unfair when someone else takes credit for your idea.

Thought experiment: a life without Imposter Syndrome

Take a moment and imagine you have a magic wand. Close your eyes or look out the window and suppose we could magically eliminate Imposter Syndrome. What would change for you? How would you feel if you no longer doubted yourself? How would you approach your work? Are there opportunities you would want to seize or tasks you would like to start?

Some people think doubts, high standards, and perfectionism are necessary to advance in fields like science, but I have seen in my practice that it can be different: less doubt, genuine self-confidence, and focusing on the work that truly matters to you.

For example, communication advisor Emilia was asked to handle crisis communication on a politically sensitive topic. The kind of challenge that helps her reach her goal of more senior work. Yet, she almost said no because her schedule was already full and she feared failing. After our coaching session, she decided to go for it. She negotiated with her supervisor to offload some boring administrative tasks and found the courage to take on the challenge. Although it involved some overtime and occasional headaches, she felt proud afterward and even received compliments from the director, who rarely gives them. This milestone contributed to her feeling much more confident after coaching. [2]

It’s possible to have genuine self-confidence—not that you never doubt yourself or aren’t affected by criticism, but that you can quickly put doubts in perspective and process your feelings more easily.

Take Henk, a team leader of psychologists in youth care. Previously, he spent extra time double-checking his and his colleagues' work, fearing mistakes. He also lay awake at night thinking about difficult conversations he had during the day. After coaching, he remained careful and thoughtful, but the work took much less energy. He now has the mental space to play with his two boys when he gets home. [2]

In short, it’s possible to have genuine self-confidence. You won’t be a superhero who never doubts or gets hurt by criticism, but you will be able to quickly put doubts in perspective and process your feelings more easily.

Why can’t I get rid of Imposter Syndrome?

It’s a nice picture you paint, Linda, but why is it so hard to overcome Imposter Syndrome?

 It seems easy to overcome, but it isn’t. If it were easy, you would have solved it yourself long ago because you are motivated and not deliberately talking yourself into insecurity. But some problems require a different perspective. It’s hard to see your own thinking errors clearly enough to change them. Sometimes, you just need someone else, like how doctors don’t operate on themselves.

You know how it works but can’t translate that into different feelings. I often see people who could give a presentation about Imposter Syndrome, but the imposter feelings still hinder them. Knowledge is useful, but what counts is whether you have techniques that help you feel stronger and dare to do things differently, such as not procrastinating, not over-preparing, or taking on that challenging task.

Shame to speak out or ask for help. For many people, it feels like a weakness to admit they are struggling. Especially in high positions, people find it difficult to admit they have vulnerabilities, as if it undermines their position. They push their feelings away and keep going in survival mode. It’s often not until they are severely hindered in their work that they reach out for help. But having imposter feelings doesn’t make you weak. Knowing where you can improve, recognizing it, and taking action is true strength.

Procrastinating on taking action. Addressing Imposter Syndrome is rarely very urgent because, overall, I function just fine. That’s why it’s easy to prioritize other matters and not take action. Maybe you do some things, like reading an article, googling, or listening to a podcast, but it doesn’t translate into concrete actions that truly help you change.

Will this work for me? You might be thinking, “Nice example/story, but it’s uncertain whether it will work for me.” That’s a logical thought. It’s good to remain critical about what others (including me) advise you. At the same time, this is also a thought that holds you back from taking steps. It’s like standing at the edge of a swimming pool, afraid to jump in because the water might be cold.

Of course, I can’t predict the future and promise that you will be magically freed from your Imposter Syndrome within a few months. What I can promise you is that I will stand by your side and look at your situation with my expertise and years of experience. I have a vast arsenal of scientifically-backed knowledge and techniques, and if one approach doesn’t work, we’ll try an alternative. Just like with medicine, you can’t always predict in advance which method will be effective.

In 20 years of coaching and training, I’ve seen almost everybody make progress. I encountered only a few situations where individuals were seriously committed and didn’t make progress they were looking for. Together with them I found alternative routes to get to their goals.

In my experience you are most likely to benefit from evidence based techniques like the ones I use in coaching.

Find your recipe for relaxed and genuine self-confidence

To overcome Imposter Syndrome, you need several key ingredients.

  1. Insight and Knowledge: Understanding how Imposter Syndrome works is crucial. It’s often a relief for many people to grasp how certain factors, such as a performance-driven culture within their organization, influence their experience. Moreover, while part of the cause might be ‘nature,’ research [2] indicates that thought patterns can be changed, and there’s evidence supporting this.
  2. Self-Assessment: This helps you quickly identify your specific challenges and what could be your leverage point towards genuine self-confidence. General knowledge is useless if you can’t apply it to your specific situation. By the end of this self-assessment, you’ll understand how Imposter Syndrome manifests in you, what you can and cannot influence, which thought patterns dominate your mindset, and where your primary focus should be to make progress. This allows you to strategically work on breaking your patterns in a smart way.
  3. Techniques to Overcome Imposter Syndrome: To achieve real change, you need not just insights but also practical tools that you can apply in real life. There are several approaches you can take, such as addressing thought patterns and self-image, regulating your nervous system, and breaking behavioral patterns. These techniques shouldn’t be mere ’tricks’ but should provide a genuinely different felt experience. In short, exercises that truly make you feel less insecure and more self-confident.
  4. Creating Success Experiences: This involves seeing real results regarding your goals, whether it’s having more energy, giving your team more space, or taking on a cool new project. The crux of overcoming Imposter Syndrome lies in owning your successes and not attributing them to circumstances or luck. This helps you feel increasingly in control.
  5. No One-Size-Fits-All Solution: Everyone has different experiences and backgrounds. Based on your needs and my professional judgment, we can together find the ingredients that will help you achieve your goals.

Do you want to tackle Imposter Syndrome?

The solution can take many forms. For example:

  1. A tailor-made coaching program, where you and I quickly make significant progress together
  2. Empowerment teamday to discuss Imposter Syndrome in a safe environment within your group and explore various ways to tackle these thoughts and feelings.
  3. In-company training: breakthrough Imposter Syndrome for employees from your organisation.

Option 1: Personal coaching

A coaching program is a highly effective way to achieve quick results. [3]

I work in periods of 3 to 6 months, and you’ll notice real effects from your efforts and the techniques you learn within just a few months. This program can help you tackle your own Imposter Syndrome, but it’s also useful for enhancing your leadership skills if you work with many professionals who secretly underestimate themselves.

For example, my coachee Elsa used to fear being exposed every time she had to present. After just two sessions, she told me that after her most recent presentation, her manager had said it was her best presentation ever. She also felt much less nervous. [2]

During a coaching program, we not only have scheduled sessions, but I am also available between sessions via app, email, and phone. This way, you can ask for help during difficult moments, ensuring you’re never alone and can quickly master new skills. Additionally, you have access to expert talks, worksheets, and the Imposter Syndrome self-assessment to gain deeper insight into how this phenomenon affects you.

Ingrid is an interim manager of a "challenging" team of technicians. While it's an exciting challenge, it also brings a lot of uncertainty and headaches. When she has to have a difficult conversation, she prepares for it herself but runs her approach by me first. Instead of being the sole problem-solver in the team, a different conversation approach ensures that team members propose and implement their own solutions. This way, she doesn’t feel responsible for everything and her self-confidence grows. [2]

Afterwards, you will have your own set of techniques (like a menu) that you have found helpful and can continue to develop to increase your self-confidence. Additionally, you will have gained successful experiences that will make you feel more assured.

The first step is a one-on-one intake session where we discuss the challenges you are facing and determine if I can assist you. Please feel free to reach out. Our conversation is confidential, and there are no costs involved.

Just for your information: coaching costs are typically covered by your employer, as they benefit from your enhanced performance. If you prefer not to disclose that you are dealing with Imposter Syndrome to your manager, there are usually discreet ways to handle this. Our conversations are always confidential.

Option 2: Empowerment Day for teams

I never thought about organizing a team day on Imposter Syndrome until I received the request from Wageningen University. Frankly, I find it quite admirable that Professor Dr. Frank van Langevelde, a professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, wanted to bring this topic to the forefront with his team. Read in this article about Frank’s considerations for taking on this initiative and how we successfully made it happen together.

A team day with me is always:

  • Tailored to your team, with a strong emphasis on creating a safe atmosphere.
  • Interactive, so no long lectures, but plenty of hands-on activities for everyone to engage in.
  • Highly practical: ensuring that by the end, you’ll have several tools to use tomorrow for more effective approaches.

What does a team day on Imposter Syndrome achieve?

  1. It makes the topic discussable in a safe manner.
  2. It strengthens relationships within the group and thereby contributes to social safety.
  3. It enables you to more easily discuss what is really going on among team members, instead of continuously grappling with issues like procrastination or perfectionism, which might cause a paper, for instance, to be continually submitted late.

Interested in learning more?

Read the interview with Frank about his motivation and experiences with the team day. Or, feel free to contact me directly to introduce yourself, so we can discuss what you envision for your team and whether I can assist in advancing your group further.

Tackling Imposter Syndrome with an Empowerment day – testimonial from LinkedIn by Prof. Frank van Langevelde

Option 3: In-company training Breakthrough Imposter Syndrome

During this training, you’ll engage practically with scientifically proven methods that help you master your inner critic. This empowers you to feel more confident and learn to be kinder to yourself. Not only is this beneficial for your personal well-being, but it also enhances productivity and promotes more effective collaboration.

"I really appreciated the depth of the training (exploring where your personality comes from) and that it wasn't just simple tips and tricks." - Participant feedback from the training evaluation


Less stress and more self-confidence

You are familiar with the basics of Rational Effectiveness Training, self-compassion, and tools from positive psychology

A personal toolbox of techniques that you have found to work for you

There is attention given to your personal situation

Practical information:

Duration: 1 kickoff day at a location from 10 AM to 4 PM.

3 theme sessions of 1 half-day each, conducted online. Each session includes approximately 30 minutes of preparation and reflection.

Language: Dutch/English

"I notice earlier when I´m struggling with something and can address it directly, which ultimately reduces the energy I expend." - Participant feedback from the training evaluation.

Curious if this training could benefit your organization?  Feel free to reach out for an introductory meeting where we can discuss what challenges your organization is facing and how I might be able to assist you.

What will it bring you?

It’s easy to continue on the familiar path. After all, things aren’t going badly, it’s a vulnerable topic for many, and who guarantees that it will really help? There are plenty of reasons to postpone seeking help for now.

On the other hand, taking the step can also yield a lot for you, for instance:

More relaxation, energy, and enjoyment in your work.

Approaching your work with more confidence, focusing on what truly matters to you, even when it involves challenging tasks.

Giving more space to your team, allowing you to better leverage their talents.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to still hesitate. Just know that you’re always welcome to join me for a virtual cup of tea, and we can discuss what suits you best in just half an hour.

John Verwoerd“During my leadershipcoaching with Linda, I found that she could empathize with my situation, address it without judgment, and provide a clear mirror for my self-reflection. She specifically taught me to trust myself and my intuition, which reduced my need to prove myself to others and allowed me to give my environment more space to excel.”

John Verwoerd, Chief Technology Officer - MYLAPS - Participant leadershipcoaching

About Linda van der Wal: Leadership over your inner team

Linda van der Wal specializes in coaching professors, researchers, policy makers, and other professionals in leadership skills that are critical to their success, even though these skills may not directly relate to their academic or professional expertise. With over 20 years of experience in this field, Linda understands that effective leadership goes beyond learning conflict resolution, influencing skills, and organizational dynamics with colleagues. She emphasizes that your effectiveness also hinges on managing the team within your own mind.

While Imposter Syndrome has been recognized since 1978, Linda has noticed a recent increase in clients struggling with it. Some clients are acutely aware of their Inner Imposter and seek her guidance to address it. Others may initially present with issues like lack of energy, borderline burnout, leadership challenges, procrastination, or excessive worrying, which often stem from underlying Imposter Syndrome. Naming these challenges can bring clarity and facilitate effective interventions.

Linda has assisted numerous clients in overcoming Imposter Syndrome through coaching sessions and Empowerment Days, including engagements at Wageningen University. She has observed that minor adjustments can lead to significant improvements in a short time. Linda’s expertise extends beyond Imposter Syndrome; she also helps clients navigate workplace dilemmas such as decision-making on projects and managing difficult colleagues or supervisors.

As a versatile trainer, coach, and advisor, Linda integrates her broad experience to provide tailored guidance that enhances her clients’ confidence and ensures meaningful work outcomes.

“Linda is an expert at uncovering patterns and providing practical tools to address them. I have learned a great deal from our sessions. I am now more aware of how I view situations and the influence I have in interactions. Enriching!”

Prof. dr. Esther Keymolen, participant leadershipcoaching

Book an intake session

Let’s discuss together whether my program fits you or your team/organization. Contact me to schedule an introductory meeting.

If you’re thinking ‘yes, this is for me’ or ‘I wonder if this could be right for me,’

Then I warmly invite you to have a (virtual) cup of tea with me and discuss together what you need to take a step forward. It will take you half an hour to three-quarters of your time, and afterward, you will have gained more insight into what is needed for you. If you decide not to proceed with me after that (now), we remain good friends. And if I believe something else might be better for you, you can count on me to say so. Your outcome is my priority.

Warm regards,

P.S.: An introductory meeting only takes half an hour of our time, is completely confidential, and you can decide afterward whether or not you want to proceed. So don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Vergauwe, J., Wille, B., Feys, M., De Fruyt, F., & Anseel, F. (2019). The Impostor Phenomenon: An Overview. Frontiers in Psychology.

[1] for instance research focussing on the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy and rational effectiveness training.

[2] The examples in the text are based on real people and their stories, anonymized to protect privacy.