Do you often feel like a fraud in the workplace? Are you convinced that you’re actually not as qualified or skilled as your co-workers and peers? Do you dismiss or downplay your achievements and criticize any praise you receive? If this sounds like you, then you might have the dreaded imposter syndrome.
You may have heard the term imposter syndrome in the workplace before but are unsure what it really means and if it applies to what you’re experiencing. Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon where successful people doubt their competence. It is characterized by a sense of inadequacy, the inability to internalize achievements, downplaying accomplishments, a self-critical inner voice, a reluctance to ask for help, and the fear of being “found out” or being exposed as inexperienced or untalented. Many who suffer from imposter syndrome have a tendency to explain away their accomplishments as being attributed to luck or good timing, downplaying their own role in the achievement.
The term “imposter syndrome” was first described in the late 1970s by researchers Pauline Clance and Suzanne Ime, then referring to a pattern of inadequacy observed among female graduate students. In this original study, successful women reported feelings of “intellectual phoniness,” as if they “lucked out,” or tricked someone into believing they were smart and qualified.
In the years since this research, further studies have confirmed that imposter syndrome in the workplace and academic environments is more common than you may think. In 2014, a study found that imposter syndrome was the top fear of executives around the world. Additionally, it’s reported that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career.
The unfortunate irony is that the further you advance in your career, the more likely you’ll feel like a fraud. And dealing with imposter syndrome long-term can end up affecting your productivity and performance, giving fuel to those negative thoughts. Many who suffer with imposter syndrome end up turning down new opportunities out of fear of failure and they can fail to start or finish projects because they dread the negative feedback they believe they will receive. Some people will even avoid getting feedback all together or begin to doubt and second guess their decisions on projects. Others may also begin to overwork themselves to the point of burnout in an effort to “prove” their worth.
None of these outcomes are good, so what can you do to silence that negative voice in your head and overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace? The key is to rewire your mind.
You might be interested: Capable women suffer the impostor Syndrome, are you one of them?
5 Tips to overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace
It’s all in your head. No, literally. When it comes to dealing with imposter syndrome, mindset is everything. If you’re going to silence that negative little voice in your head, you need to start learning new ways to think and speak to yourself. If another voice is talking, then there’s no room for that negative one to get a word in, right?
Figure out what’s making you doubt – The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to figure out what’s making you doubt yourself. Is it new responsibilities? A promotion? A new, unfamiliar task or project? Once you identify the thing that’s making you doubt, you can begin to rethink your beliefs surrounding the topic. If you think your new promotion was undeserved or the result of luck, start listing your skills and rationalize all the different reasons you’re the right person for the job.
Reframe your story – Following the previous tip, once you start thinking about your skills, you can begin to reframe your story. Pay attention to the language you use to describe yourself, your journey, and accomplishments. Switch out negative or doubtful words for positive ones. Spend some time to sit down and write out your story. How did you get to where you are today? Pretend you’re writing the bio to a memoir or resume. Let all your achievements shine and build up your self confidence.
Seek outside reassurance – If you’re struggling to think positively about yourself and your skills, seek outside reassurance. Build a network and community of trusted individuals who know you personally and can vouch for your accomplishments. When you’re feeling down, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in that negative voice in your head. To bring you out of that gloomy mindset, it can help to just talk to someone else. Air out your feelings and remember you’re not alone. So many people struggle with imposter syndrome. My confiding in someone else, they can help you identify those negative, irrational feelings and reassure you of your strengths and skills.
Keep track of your accomplishments – Again, mindset is everything. When you get caught up in the negative spiral, all your accomplishments or successes become shadowed by doubt. It may be helpful in these moments to have a list or “bank” of your accomplishments handy to reel you in and bring you back out of that doubtful mentality. Some people create vision boards of their goals and keep track of their accomplishments and wins–both big and small. Celebrating your successes is a great way to remind yourself that you are skilled and capable. Others keep lists of their skills and accomplishments nearby to remind themselves that they are not a fraud. You can even keep a journal or document where you note positive feedback you have received from your boss, clients, or coworkers.
Build up your knowledge – Lastly, the best way to tune out the imposter’s voice of doubt is to build up your knowledge. The more you know about your field or industry, the more of an expert you become. If you’re feeling inadequate or unworthy of your success, keep learning! You can’t be a fraud or imposter if you’re an expert.
Imposter syndrome doesn’t have to rule your life. It’s time to tune out that negative voice in your head and be proud of your successes and achievements. You got this!