The flip side of success: winning everything, but still facing the imposter syndrome

Bradley Wiggins (Picture: Instagram Wiggins)

Winning everything there is to win, but still thinking that you are not good enough. That you don’t deserve your success and that you don’t matter. It’s the imposter syndrome in a nutshell, and it happened to former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, among others. He is certainly not the only top athlete struggling with these problems, but he now does give a fierce insight into the impact of the syndrome.

It became evident thanks to a documentary on the BBC, in which Wiggins tells, among other things, that at his lowest point he smashed trophies or hid them somewhere far away in the house, simply so he wouldn’t have to think about them. Wiggins attributes his problems in part to a difficult childhood and the absence of a father figure. His father – Gary Wiggins – was also a pro cyclist, but paid little attention to the home front. When young Wiggins encountered his father after years of absence and at the age of 19, the father is said to have said that his son would never become as good as he himself.

Because father Wiggins died in 2008, however, he never got to see his son Bradley, later, become the first Briton to win the Tour de France, nor was Wiggins able to show his father his eight Olympic Medals (London and Rio, ed.). Also when Wiggins was knighted by the British Queen in 2023, his father was no longer there to witness it.

At the same time, this was the day Bradley Wiggins says imposter syndrome struck mercilessly. “My knighthood didn’t coincide with other athletes, I was there mostly among military personnel. Standing in line with them was a lesson in humility. I felt absolutely no hero that day. That while military personnel who were missing limbs asked me to be photographed. On that day, I felt of myself that I was not worthy of being knighted.”