Michaela Muthig in conversation with Christian Rabhansl

A lot of feelings are old feelings. (Unsplash / Engin Akyurt)

The feeling of not having deserved success: it is a constant companion for people with impostor syndrome. Therapist Michaela Muthig says you can take action against this – you can influence feelings with thoughts.

The feeling of being an impostor – some of you may know this from time to time. For some people, however, this feeling is very dominant. Michaela Muthig, a behavioral therapy physician, wrote a book about it: “And tomorrow I’ll be blown up. Feeling like I didn’t deserve success.”

Self-criticism is a good thing, says Muthig. It has a lot to do with self-reflection. If we didn’t have self-criticism, we would be pretty lonely at some point.

“But here, too, the dose makes the poison,” so over-self-criticism becomes a problem: “When we spend the long day trying to put ourselves down and spoil every little bit of success by telling us why we actually do it was good. “

The difference from “normal” self-doubt is that for people with impostor syndrome, success does not have a positive effect, but also triggers stress. Whenever we do something new, we always have doubts about ourselves, explains Muthig. If we are successful it will be a little easier next time.

“When it comes to impostors, if we are successful, we destroy it.” Success is not attributed to one’s own skill, but to other circumstances such as luck or chance.

Perfectionism of erroneous thought patterns

Hence, success triggers stress in such people. Because they think that now other people think they can do it, but they are convinced that they cannot do it at all. From there arises the fear: “Next time, it will come out.

In the so-called impostor phenomenon, flawed thought patterns such as perfectionism played a role; or feelings like fear or shame. How can you deal with it?

We couldn’t control our feelings directly, but we could certainly influence them through our thoughts, points out Michaela Muthig:

“If we think all the time about how bad we are and that others can do this and that much better, and what bad things could happen if we dare to challenge this and that, it increases our fear of failure and our doubts. . “

A lot of feelings are feelings from the past

Today in particular, many believe that feelings are the only real thing. In her coaching sessions, says Muthig, she advises “to listen to your own intuition – but that intuition is again more than a trained sense of fear.” If you look closely, many feelings are old feelings. They would come from situations like when you were standing in front of the class with a red head and being laughed at.

“That’s old shit from the days.” These feelings would be washed from the subconscious again. She thinks it’s important to know that “feelings don’t have to be right,” but also that we don’t have to believe our inner critic. It’s “that little voice in your head that says: you can’t do this, you can’t do it”.


Michaela Muthig: “And tomorrow I’m going to explode. The feeling of not having deserved success. Recognize and overcome the impostor syndrome”
dtv premium, Munich 2021
235 pages, 16.90 euros