Buying Luxury Goods Can Lead to Impostor Syndrome, Research Confirms


If you thought spending hundreds of thousands on designer bags and driving around in sports cars will instantly give you a confidence boost, then you could be wrong. A new study conducted by the Boston College Carroll School of Management and published by the Journal of Consumer Research has found that indulging in high-end goods may do the opposite for some luxury shoppers and make them feel like they have impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is the psychological phenomenon that occurs when one feels inadequate or has a strong feeling of doubt in themselves despite any praises or accomplishments they may already hold.

The study finds that one’s possession of luxury goods may lead to feelings of inauthenticity that arise from one’s own perception that luxury is an “undue privilege.”

Instead of feeling self-assured while decked in designer products, as is sometimes the intention of the purchases, the consumers actually feel less confident. There was one participant who said she “felt very shy” when she sported a gold necklace with diamonds, even if she was able to afford such a purchase. She reasoned that it “is not in her character” to wear such jewelry.

The feeling of inauthenticity is less prevalent among those who have displayed a high sense of psychological entitlement, while the same feelings are decreased when the “sense of entitlement is temporarily boosted.”

For this study, the researchers observed consumers at the Metropolitan Opera, Martha’s Vineyard, and New York’s famed Upper East Side.

If luxury shoppers and marketers are aware of this, however, it can be avoided. Businesses can use marketing strategies to boost their customers’ feelings of adequacy. “In today’s age that prioritizes authenticity and authentic living, creating experiences and narratives that boost people’s personal connection with products and possessions can yield lasting benefits for consumers and marketers alike,” says Boston College associate professor Nailya Ordabayeva.

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