Researchers say doing this regularly can cause another form of imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a rampant issue in the workplace. Research shows that 70% of the population has experienced impostor syndrome at one point. But most people probably don’t expect to have to worry about this when they are participating in a little retail therapy but according to a surprising new study, they would be wrong.

Splurging on finery has all the markers of expiation without much of the grunt work..which may be why it doesn’t always yield the intended effect. New research published in the journal Faculty and Research posits an interesting take on the age-old pick me up. For many, a trip to the tailor actually reinforces feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. The study’s abstract explains:

“The present research proposes that luxury consumption can be a double-edged sword: while luxury consumption yields status benefits, it can also make consumers feel inauthentic because consumers perceive it as an undue privilege. As a result, paradoxically, luxury consumption may backfire and lead consumers to behave less confidently due to their undermined feelings of self-authenticity.”

Imposter’s syndrome and psychological entitlement

The authors from  Boston College and Harvard Business School make a point to stress the kind of mindset that bears the very worst of the unfavorable and the very mildest of the favorable outcomes associated with luxury consumption.

Initially, everyone experiences a provisional boost in confidence, self-esteem, and satisfaction after purchasing bold items. However, those with “high-levels of psychological entitlement” are less likely to experience robust feelings of in-authenticity thereafter. For the rest of us, splurging on ostentatious articles of dress gives us a high at first, but soon after reminds us just how un-us splash and splendor makes us feel.

“Studies show that consumers are particularly attracted to luxury when they feel less confident and less powerful compared to others, and they anticipate to experience a boost in confidence and power by buying and consuming luxury,” Nailya Ordabayeva, study author and associate professor of marketing at Boston College Carroll School of Management, explained to CNBC Make it. “Some people act less confidently when they have a luxury item simply because they don’t feel like themselves. So, in the end, luxury may end up inadvertently backfiring on consumers and undermining their confidence and power, counter to what consumers expect.”

Although this lift and liability effect was found to be the most profound throughout preceding meta-analysis as well as field settings including the Metropolitan Opera, Martha’s Vineyard, luxury shopping centers, and the Upper East Side in New York, the finds were equally prevalent among middle-class consumers as they were in the luxury target groups.

Thirty percent of the individuals queried in the new report felt no shame about expending on extravagant attire because they either felt entitled to such luxuries or they were purchasing them in service of a particular occasion that called for formal wear.

On some level, we have a Pavlovian devotion to costumes of various forms. Determining who we are, ethically, civilly, existentially, etc. is difficult work. Even more tricky though is conveying these carefully procured elements to others as lyrically and digestibility as possible. This is where our wardrobes become the most useful; colorful bylines meant to express our interests and tastes via literal stitches and patterns — a fabric synopsis that we get to edit day to day to best reflect our mood and even social developments.

So long as you know which bell you’re barking at, you’ll hold that the following chime is little more than a pretty sound. Sadly, it’s very easy to mistake that fabric synopsis for the entire book. Of course, that’s sort of by design, as the authors point out. The more passionately we believe that substance can be bought off of a rack, the better as far as merchants are concerned. Ordabayeva concludes,

“This aspirational image of consuming luxury may not materialize and yield the psychological benefits that consumers think it will bring. ″[I]t is important for consumers to honestly reflect on whether the item will represent who they truly are. If not, the item will end up in unused, in the back of one’s closet or garage, because it feels inauthentic and untrue.”