Do you ever have the overwhelming feeling that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing at work? Maybe you find yourself ruminating over whether you deserve your job, can’t shake the feeling that you’re a total fraud, or have fears that you’re inevitably going to let your team down.
We’re here to tell you right now – you’re not a fake! Imposter syndrome sneaks in, convincing self-doubts, which majorly stress out your work life and actually end up sabotaging your performance. And if this is all sounding too familiar, you are not alone in dealing with this feeling. 65% of professionals experience imposter syndrome, a majority (53%) of these being young, high-achieving women.
So if imposter syndrome has been getting you down at work – let us show you how you can turn it around. In this blog post, we’re going to cover signs, causes, and share 5 practical tips to overcome imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
One revealing study found that while a majority of people related to the symptoms associated with imposter syndrome, many didn’t actually know the label for these feelings. So what exactly is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is an internal experience where individuals often doubt their capabilities and feel like a fraud. Also known as ‘imposter phenomenon’ – this psychological affliction ironically often affects professionals who actually are successful by many measures but feel they don’t deserve their successes.
The good news is nobody’s perfect, despite what imposter syndrome might tell you. And of course, every job has learning involved! You were brought on because you have the smarts and skills to become a critical player on the team. But often, imposter syndrome persists irrationally, even if no one’s indicated that you’re underperforming or failing. There are several telltale signs of imposter syndrome to look out for in yourself.
Signs of imposter syndrome
- You overwork to compensate for feeling like you’re never doing enough.
- You are a perfectionist and beat yourself up for any perceived mistake.
- You feel unworthy of your position, or that you don’t deserve your success.
- You believe others are more successful than you, or that they have it all together.
- You struggle to accept praise or reward for your efforts.
- You sacrifice self-care because you’re overrun or feel you don’t deserve to rest.
- You attach your self-worth to your success (or failure) at work.
So why do these nagging feelings show up at work for some people? Imposter syndrome can be brought up by a variety of causes.
Causes of imposter syndrome
- Upbringing: Imposter syndrome can occur more frequently in professionals who were raised in a high-pressure environment as children. Parenting styles that were overly controlling or overprotective have been associated with an increased risk of imposter phenomenon in adults later on in life.
- New opportunities: Many people experience imposter syndrome when they first start a new job or embark on an unknown venture, but for some, these feelings can persist well into their career. This can make transitioning successfully into a new role very difficult when you fear you won’t belong, or are incapable of succeeding at new challenges.
- Personality: Professionals with low self-efficacy might inherently struggle to believe in themselves and their capabilities. Those who struggle with perfectionism and neuroticism can also be more likely to experience imposter phenomenon when they demand an unrealistic standard of performance for themselves at work.
- Mental health: Neurodivergent professionals who are dealing with conditions like ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, and dyslexia unfortunately experience imposter phenomenon at much higher rates since it can be particularly challenging to fit into a work environment designed for neurotypical workers. Pre-existing mental health issues like anxiety and depression have also been linked to imposter syndrome.
And this list is not conclusive! No matter what is causing your imposter syndrome at work – there are ways to mitigate that self-doubt and improve both your job satisfaction and wellness. Let’s take a look at 5 tips you can implement to overcome imposter syndrome.
How to overcome imposter syndrome
1. Facts over fear
The first step in addressing imposter syndrome is recognizing the problem for what it is. While you might feel like you aren’t good enough at your job or worry your team thinks you’re incompetent – identifying that these thoughts are just fears caused by imposter syndrome (and not truth) is key. Try to focus on facts vs. fear. Most of the time these feelings of self-doubt are invasive and unfounded, so realigning with reality can help you pivot your thinking.
Next time you start to spiral, feeling like a fake – stop what you’re doing and actually jot down evidence that proves you’re doing alright. This includes praise from coworkers or managers, feedback you’ve received on projects you excelled on, shoutouts on Slack, and anything else that shows you’re doing well (even if you don’t believe it!). You can even start a doc and/or a folder on your computer with notes or screenshots of affirming moments to look back on when you need to.
2. Ask for clarification vs. assuming
Imposter syndrome can show up as paranoid thoughts that your manager is going to fire you, that your coworkers think you’re daft, or that you totally failed an assignment you were trusted with – even with zero evidence to suggest any of that is true.
Instead of projecting these thoughts onto your team, practice asking for clarification on feedback and expectations. One-on-one meetings are a great opportunity to sync up with your coworkers and get a genuine review about how you’re doing. You don’t have to say “hey, I’ve been worrying that you’re going to lay me off because I’m a big fraud”, but consider trying check-in questions like:
- What areas do you think my performance is improving in?
- What are some things I have recently accomplished that stood out?
- What are your expectations for me in my role in this next week/sprint/month?
3. Get clear on expectations & priorities
Professionals who struggle with imposter syndrome often overwork to compensate and stretch themselves too thin every week. This doesn't just impact productivity and performance due to overload, but can quickly lead to mental exhaustion or even job burnout – affecting over half the workforce as of October 2022.
Getting clarification from your manager on expectations allows you to plan your available time accordingly - during actual working hours, not nights and weekends - so you can make sustainable progress. Once you have realistic expectations, you can prioritize your tasks and daily goals around them and actually know when you’re hitting the mark.
4. Tell someone about it
Dealing with imposter syndrome can bring about a lot of shame. And when you keep that bottled up and ruminate on your worries, you can end up feeling worse than you did in the first place.
It might not be easy to disclose your feelings of imposterhood to your boss when you’re already stressing over their perception of you – but try confiding in a friend or family member about your struggles. Voicing your fears aloud can shed some perspective on your thoughts, and probably offer some consolidation that you are, in fact, doing well.
5. Make time to rest
Note how this tip says to ‘make time’, and not just ‘try to find time’ to rest. When you’re struggling with anxiety around your performance at work, relaxing can feel like a colossal waste of precious time, or just downright impossible thanks to imposter syndrome. But the reality is, having sufficient rest is non-negotiable for you to actually be able to show up at your best.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep, but a shocking one-third of Americans are clocking less than 6 hours of shuteye a night according to the CDC. Working on too little sleep can perpetuate imposter syndrome, leaving you feeling irritable, angry, and vulnerable to stress.
It might take some practice to learn how to relax and rest as the chronic overworker, but prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries around your work-life balance, deprioritizing things you don’t have time for are essential to regenerative productivity and your job satisfaction.
10 positive affirmations to stop imposter syndrome
Here are 10 affirmations and imposter syndrome quotes to remind yourself of your value when those internal anxieties get too loud. Positive affirmations can redirect thought processes in the brain and reduce the negativity biases that keeps you stuck in the self-double spiral. So just go with it, even if it feels silly.
- The opportunities given to me aren’t a fluke. I’m here for a reason.
- I’ve worked hard and deserve all of the success that I have achieved.
- I am valued and respected by my team and superiors.
- No one does things exactly like me, and that is my power.
- I do not allow doubts to deter me. I am able to get out of my own way.
- I am worthy of my spot on the team.
- I am always learning and growing. So is everyone else.
- I don't have to be perfect to be valuable. I just have to show up, be open, and do my best.
- It’s safe to make mistakes.
- I do my best in any given moment, and that’s enough.
You are not an imposter - we promise! ❤️
Unless you are the world’s greatest con artist – there’s no way you’ve fooled a hiring manager, your whole team, and your superiors into thinking you’re someone you’re not (no offense).
You are where you are because you’ve worked hard and earned your successes. Imposter syndrome can make it hard to believe but, with some practice and effective tools in your back pocket, you can better trust your capabilities and recognize your achievements even when your fears tell you otherwise.
Have you dealt with imposter syndrome at work? What tips helped you get through the anxiety of not being good enough? Tweet us @reclaimai to share your story!