mposter syndrome is a prevalent phenomenon affecting professionals across various industries and can be a significant obstacle to personal and professional growth. This blog aims to explore how to deal with Imposter Syndrome in the workplace, empowering you to overcome self-doubt, enhance confidence, and achieve your true professional potential.

We will talk about:

  • What Imposter Syndrome Is
  • The Symptoms of Someone Who Has It
  • How You Can Battle Imposter Syndrome and Reach Your Full Professional Potential

What is Imposter Syndrome?

To effectively combat Imposter Syndrome, it's crucial to understand what it is. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where individuals doubt their own abilities and fear being exposed as frauds despite evidence of their competence. Some describe it as feeling anxious and not experiencing success internally, despite being high-performing externally. This condition often results in people feeling like "a fraud" or "a phony" and doubting their abilities.

Some common symptoms of Imposter Syndrome include:

  • Self-Doubt: Individuals experiencing imposter syndrome often doubt their own abilities and feel unworthy of their accomplishments. They attribute their successes to luck or external factors rather than acknowledging their skills and efforts.
  • Fear of Failure: People with imposter syndrome tend to have an intense fear of failure and believe that any mistake or setback will expose them as frauds. This fear can lead to perfectionism and an aversion to taking risks.
  • Overlooking Achievements: Individuals with imposter syndrome downplay their achievements, attributing them to external factors such as luck, timing, or help from others. They struggle to internalize their successes and feel that they don't deserve recognition or praise.
  • Overworking and Over Preparing: Those with imposter syndrome often engage in excessive work or preparation to compensate for their perceived inadequacies. They believe that if they work harder or longer, they can hide their perceived lack of competence.
  • Difficulty Accepting Feedback and Praise: Individuals with imposter syndrome may struggle to accept positive feedback or compliments. They may dismiss or downplay praise, believing that others are simply being kind or unaware of their supposed deficiencies.
  • Comparing Yourself to Others: People experiencing imposter syndrome frequently compare themselves unfavorably to others. They perceive their colleagues or peers as more competent, successful, or knowledgeable, reinforcing their own feelings of inadequacy.
  • Fear of Being Exposed: Imposter syndrome often manifests as a constant anxiety of being exposed as a fraud. Individuals worry that others will discover their supposed lack of expertise or qualifications, leading to feelings of anxiety and heightened self-doubt.
  • Relentless Self-Criticism: Those with imposter syndrome have a tendency to be overly self-critical. They focus on their mistakes and shortcomings, magnifying them while minimizing their achievements.

Remember that experiencing one or more of these signs does not automatically mean you have imposter syndrome. However, if these patterns impact your self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being in professional settings on a regular basis, it may be time to look into ways to help yourself.

Woman standing out from her collegues
It's difficult to stand out among peers and not feel the pressures of your success.

Lots of high achieving people have dealt with Imposter Syndrome:

Tom Hanks - “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point when you think; How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?”

Natalie Portman - “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”

Maya Angelou - “I have written 11 books, but each time I think: ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.’”

Lady Gaga - “I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school. I have to pick myself up and tell myself I’m a superstar every morning, so I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need me to be.”

Reshma Saujani, an American lawyer, politician, civil servant, and the founder of the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code, gave a commencement speech this year at Smith College speaking about Imposter Syndrome and had a very impactful and interesting take on it. 

Imposter Syndrome Is A Scheme: Reshma Saujani’s Smith College Commencement Address

Now, let’s look at 8 ways you can try to combat the feelings of Imposter Syndrome:

  1. Celebrate Your Accomplishments 

Imposter Syndrome often stems from a tendency of dismissing your own accomplishments. Take time to acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Create a success journal to maintain a list of your accomplishments to serve as a reminder of your capabilities and progress. It may sound silly but it really can help to have something physical to look at rather than ideas that can just be pushed down by your brain.

  1. Embrace Your Strengths

Identify and embrace your unique strengths and skills. Recognize that you bring valuable qualities to your workplace and that your contributions are essential. Reflect on instances where your skills have positively impacted projects or teams, reinforcing your belief in your abilities. You can even write these down to be able to look back on as reminders how great you are at what you do. 

  1. Challenge Negative Self-Talk 

Imposter Syndrome often thrives on negative self-talk and self-deprecating thoughts. Learn to recognize and challenge these thoughts by replacing them with positive affirmations. Some people even resort to snapping a rubber band on their wrist when they think bad thoughts, hey whatever works! Practicing self-compassion and reminding yourself that making mistakes and facing challenges are part of the learning process is very important in this journey.

  1. Set Realistic Goals 

Set clear, achievable goals that align with your strengths and aspirations. These goals are things that you don’t have to overwork yourself for or stress yourself out with. Just something reachable and fulfilling to you. 

  1. Embrace Failure 

View failure as a learning opportunity or stepping stone to success rather than confirmation of your inadequacy. Understand that setbacks are an integral part of professional growth. Analyze what went wrong, learn from the experience, and use it as an opportunity to improve and refine your skills.

  1. Practice Self-Care 

Prioritize self-care to gain a healthy work-life balance. Engage in activities that promote physical and mental well-being outside of work, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies. Taking care of yourself is always important, but it is especially important when you are trying to better yourself, so that you have a solid foundation to start with. If you are a mess mentally it is hard to get your thoughts clear enough to start working through Imposter Syndrome. 

  1. Continuing Your Education 

Invest in your personal and professional development to enhance your knowledge and skills. A lot of people who struggle with Imposter Syndrome convince themselves they are not knowledgeable enough and worry that others will discover their supposed lack of expertise or qualifications. However, if you seek opportunities for growth through training programs, workshops, or online courses, you can continuously expand your expertise and reinforce your value in the workplace.

  1. Seek Support 

Reach out to a trusted colleague, mentor, or friend who can provide objective feedback and support. Share your feelings of self-doubt and discuss your experiences with Imposter Syndrome. By engaging in open conversations, you may discover that others have experienced similar struggles, leading to a sense of camaraderie and shared growth. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with that, there is also always the option of therapy. Therapists that specialize in Imposter Syndrome exist, and you can even chat with one from the comfort of your home with websites like BetterHelp. Or you can seek out a local therapist that a simple Google search will point you towards. 

Man talking to a therapist
Talking about your problems with Imposter Syndrome is very important.

So What Now?

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is a process that requires a lot of self-reflection, resilience, and a supportive network of friends and family. However, by implementing the advice of how to deal with imposter syndrome outlined in this blog, you can gradually lessen the effect that Imposter Syndrome has on you and gain the confidence needed to excel in your professional life. 

Now you should be able to understand the nature of imposter syndrome, identify its signs, and implement practical coping mechanisms. Imposter syndrome may be a deeply ingrained feeling you have, but with some hard work mentally and the implementation of these 8 strategies, you can conquer Imposter Syndrome and thrive in the workplace. The most important thing to learn, though, is that you are deserving of your success!

Jun 29, 2023