Imposter Syndrome in the workplace


Imposter Syndrome is the fear of ultimately being revealed as a fraud.  Do you ever feel like you’re in over your head in the workplace?  That you aren’t good enough, or perhaps someone will discover that you aren’t really up to the job.  Do you think you got the job because of ‘lucky questions’, ones that you happened to know the answers to at the interview?  Don’t worry you’re not on your own.  It doesn’t matter how successful you are, imposter syndrome can affect anyone.  Stars such as Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Emma Watson have all spoken out about their imposter syndrome.  From doubting their own talent to feeling uninformed about world affairs, these stars have struggled to build self-confidence at some point in their lives. 

I will never forget the very first time I gave a motivational talk to a large UK business.  Before I went up to speak I thought someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and say “you shouldn’t be here.”  It didn’t happen, but it didn’t stop me from feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be there.

Tips for overcoming imposter syndrome.

1.   Make a list of your strengths and achievements.  Write down the skills that got you the job.  Write down what you see as your strengths.  Make a note of any positive feedback you’ve received on a job well done.  Looking at this evidence objectively will help you see where you’re really succeeding in your role and highlight any potential areas for improvement.  Work on the improvements to avoid imposter syndrome from taking over.  

2.   Keep a check on your emotions.  Your emotional state can affect how you perceive yourself.  If you have a tight deadline and find yourself panicking, you will be plagued by self doubt and anxiety.  This anxiousness could be adding to the list of things that make you feel like a fraud.  Recognise that these are emotions and not reality. 

3.   Improve your knowledge.  The more you learn about your job and it’s industry, the more confident you will feel.  Focus on developing yourself within the role.  Reach out to others and learn from them.  Identify a mentor who can offer support, encouragement and constructive criticism.  Remember, knowledge is power.

4.   Set reasonable expectations.  Stop setting unattainable standards and goals because you think you need to prove yourself.  The person who hired you isn’t an idiot.  They recognise that you have the skills for the job otherwise you wouldn’t be there, so don’t set yourself unrealistic goals.  You didn’t get the job because of luck.  You got it because you deserved it.  

5.   Improve your confidence outside of work.  Get involved in activities that challenge you, polish your leadership skills and improve your confidence.  These skills can be used in your work environment and you may have fun doing it.

6.   Stop comparing yourself to others.  There’s always going to be someone who is more experienced or knowledgable than yourself, no matter what you do.  Focus on your own learning path and don’t waste energy on what other people are doing or saying.

There’s no simple answer to overcoming imposter syndrome, but self-awareness will help.  Learn not to see success as good luck or the right place at the right time.  Instead of fearing it, enjoy it.  Just because you feel like an imposter, doesn’t mean you are one.  The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter!  

I’ve coached many clients through dealing with their own imposter syndrome and they now move positively forward in their lives.

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