Diversity and Inclusion

7 Strategies for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome at Work

“It’s only a matter of time until they see that I am less than qualified for my job. Will they eventually see that hiring me was a mistake?”  

How often do these thoughts cross your mind? For many people, it can be a common occurrence triggering a whirlwind of unsettling emotions, such as feeling like a fraud, high levels of anxiety, and insecurity. What you’re currently reading or perhaps even experiencing is a phenomenon widely known as imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome at Work?

Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon) is a psychological phenomenon that often affects high-achievers. In other words, it’s when really successful people doubt their own intellect, abilities, and accomplishments. Despite impressive achievements and undeniable evidence of success, they struggle to fully embrace uniqueness. This self-doubt often leads to a rollercoaster of emotions, including insecurity, anxiety, depression, and a nagging fear that their so-called “fraudulent” facade will be exposed, even though that’s far from the truth.

Does Imposter Syndrome Affect Everyone?

The answer is, yes. Imposter syndrome in the workplace can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise. A recent survey found that one in three American workers reported that they often doubt their professional abilities or achievements. As a matter of fact, the feeling of self-doubt is especially common among young women: 43% report that this feeling describes them very well compared to the 36% of young men. But let’s not forget that imposter syndrome reaches across generations.

According to Forbes, a striking 75% of female executives from across various industries have experienced imposter syndrome at work and in their careers, where they still felt inadequate even with all their accomplishments.

Imposter syndrome can heavily affect a person’s mental health and well-being. While there’s no magical remedy for imposter syndrome at work, gaining a deeper understanding empowers us to identify its signs, therefore increasing the odds of overcoming it.

What are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?

  • Setting unrealistic expectations: The belief that our best isn’t good enough. To make up for this feeling of inadequacy, they end up setting impossibly high standards for themselves.

  • Fear of failing: Imposter syndrome makes people feel like they can’t reach their goals, even when they try really hard. They see these goals as something heavy and impossible to achieve.

  • Self-doubt: Persistent feelings of anxiety from a lack of self-confidence in their ability to succeed.

  • Sabotaging own success: Imposter syndrome instills a fear of success in people, convincing them that no matter how hard they work, success remains unattainable for them.

  • Burnout: People often push themselves hard to overcome feelings of not being good enough and they become mentally burnt out. They put in so much effort that work starts feeling like a burden instead of something that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose.

  • Not accepting recognition for achievements: When individuals struggle to embrace recognition for their part in the collective accomplishments of the organization, they often opt to credit their positive influence to luck, coincidence, or the collaborative efforts of their colleagues.

What are the five different types of imposter syndrome?

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